The Academy of Motion Pictures will cull a number of irrelevant members from its ranks in a bid to diversify membership following the all-white controversy of this year’s awards.
In their first interview since the issue that spawned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and prompted prominent black actors to boycott this year’s Oscars ceremony, the heads of the Academy have announced sweeping changes to the traditionally white and male voting membership.
“It’s not about political correctness, it’s about building the best team, the best institution, the best artists,” president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.
“Because unless you have the best artists as members, unless you have the best artists voting on the Academy Awards, you don’t have a real reflection of the best of our film culture.”
“The Academy hasn’t had the reputation of being the most welcoming institution for anyone of any colour.”
Boone Isaacs and chief executive Dawn Hudson said the membership no longer represented the contemporary film industry, and changes needed to be made to reflect that.
“There have been people … selected as members of the Academy, they were working in the film industry at that time … and they’ve moved on to a completely different field,” said Ms Hudson of the lifetime voting rights that have caused controversy over the years.
“That’s how we’re culling the members. They will still be members, they just will lose the ability to vote on a community that they are not really a part of.”
The organisers touched on the new memberships of young talent such as Girls’ Lena Dunham and Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin, neither who have won Oscars themselves.
“It’s about their voices. And their voices are loud and heard, and they have a following, therefore they’re relevant and need to be part of the conversation,” said Boone Isaacs.
Both Boone Isaacs and Hudson agreed they would welcome boycotters Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee back to the ceremony with “open arms” should they choose to attend.
The current breakdown of the Academy’s membership is seven per cent people of colour and 24 per cent women.