Oscars: Academy Announces New Standards for Best Picture Eligibility

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has announced a new initiative designed to broaden diversity and inclusion across the industry. Beginning in 2025, all films submitted for Best Picture consideration must meet certain standards onscreen and behind the scenes. Read the full statement from the Academy here.

In July, AMPAS announced Academy Aperture 2025, a phased initiative aimed at increasing participation from traditionally represented groups. Among the previously announced plans are the expansion of the Best Picture lineup from a sliding scale to a set number of ten nominees; Academy Governors would be introduced to unconscious bias training; AMPAS would host a series of panels entitled “Academy Dialogue: It Starts With Us”; and the academy would establish the Office of Representation, Inclusion, and Equity.

At the time of that announcement, Academy President David Rubin also promised there would be more to come. Today comes the next phase, which outlines new standards for all films submitted for Best Picture.

In a joint statement, Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said:

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them. The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Beginning with the 96th Academy Awards, to be held in 2025, all films considered for Best Picture must meet two of four standards:

  • Standard A: On-Screen Representation, Themes, and Narratives
  • Standard B: Creative Leadership and Project Team
  • Standard C: Industry Access and Opportunities
  • Standard D: Audience Development

These standards represent the different aspects of a film’s journey from development to the Oscars, including the makeup of cast and crew, the distributors, and the marketing teams. In most cases, teams must include a minimum of 30% of their membership from traditionally underrepresented groups. These groups are defined by race, ethnicity, gender, and disability.

These rule changes are likely to draw groans and complaints from a certain segment of the Academy and awards fans. For years, the common defense of Oscar nominees has been that there weren’t any “worthy” films from women, or from Black filmmakers, or starring people of color. After all, if those films aren’t made, they can’t be considered. Of course, this is a subjective and easily refuted excuse.

In his piece for Variety, Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis explained:

“In 2016, after they failed to nominate any person of color among their 20 acting nominees, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who was Academy President at the time, took historic action by committing to doubling the number of women and diverse members by 2020, which they have achieved.”

In the years since, the Academy has continued the work Cheryl Boone Isaacs started. In order for the industry to change, it has to start somewhere. And we are glad to see the Academy taking the lead.

It is important to note that these standards currently only apply to the Best Picture category. Submission requirements for Animated Feature, Documentary, and International Feature Film will remain as they are currently written. Films deemed ineligible for Best Picture will still be eligible in other categories.

The 93rd Academy Awards are currently scheduled for April 25, 2021.

What do you think of the Academy’s new standards for Best Picture consideration? Share your thoughts!

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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