With academy elections, Hollywood hopes to address diversity problems

Posted July 13

The movie industry took its first official step forward in addressing diversity the industry has been hotly criticized for in recent years.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences greatly expanded and diversified its board, inviting 683 new members to join its ranks — 46 and 41 percent of which are women and minorities, respectively, the New York Times reported.

The elections, usually a behind-the-scenes affair, became a hot ticket this year amid the #OscarsSoWhite controversy the past two years. The academy announced in January it would inject more diversity into its board amid the threat of a boycott when this year's Oscar nominations included zero actors of color.

A blistering study from the University of Southern California in 2014 also dealt the industry a blow when it reported that Hispanics were the least portrayed in Hollywood, with only 4.9 percent of speaking parts in 2013 films. Seventeen percent of films in the same year had no speaking roles for black actors.

In response, the academy pledged publicly to double its minority and female membership by 2020 — a tall order, the Times reported, even with the new arrivals that include players who felt snubbed by the awards, like actor Idris Elba and "Creed" director Ryan Coogler.

"Even if all of the new invitees join, minority membership would rise to 11 percent from 8 percent, and the percentage of women would increase to 27 percent from 25 percent," the Times reported.

Despite the academy's best efforts, other problems belie the lack of Hollywood diversity, including hiring practices among white directors and even talent agencies that don't represent many minority performers.

"The root problem lies not with the academy, but with the film industry at large and the lack of opportunities it provides for women and minorities," the Times said.

"Minority actors and creators tend to be represented by smaller agencies, whose clients find less high-profile work," Time Magazine's Lily Rotham wrote. "The talent getting through the gate, then, are largely non-minority directors, writers and actors."


Twitter: ChandraMJohnson


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