The Academy is walking the walk. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has issued invitations to nearly 800 prospective members, and reflected in the ranks is a greater embrace of diversity within the filmmaking community.
Industry-wide calls for more inclusion reached a fever pitch for the Academy in 2014, when the lack of people of color nominated in the major Oscar categories spawned the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite. When it happened again the next year, AMPAS took numerous internal governing steps (including the elimination of lifetime memberships) to find ways to expand the diversity of its organization.
With the announcement of the new member invitations, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, said, “We’re proud to invite our newest class to the Academy. The entire motion picture community is what we make of it. It’s up to all of us to ensure that new faces and voices are seen and heard, and to take a shot on the next generation the way someone took a shot on each of us.”
The Academy’s New Class
This year’s invitees represent a who’s who of Hollywood. Some are newcomers, some are established stars, and some will leave you scratching your head, thinking “How was this person not already a member?!” (Here’s looking at you, National Treasure Betty White.)
Here’s a sampling of some of the more notable names receiving AMPAS invites: Riz Ahmed, Gal Gadot, Betty White, John Cho, Elle Fanning, Priyanka Chopra, Chris Evans, Jon Hamm, Naomie Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Bonnie Hunt, Kate McKinnon, Wanda Sykes, Maya Rudolph, Zachary Quinto, Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Debbie Allen and sister(!) Phylicia Rashad, Tom Ford, Amy Poehler, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Justin Timberlake, and Joss Whedon.
(For the full list of new members broken down by branch, click here.)
Some of the new members are already celebrating:
How Does Membership Work in the Academy?
The 744 invitees this year is the largest such group in AMPAS history. Internally, the Academy is organized into 17 different branches, representing the various aspects of filmmaking, such as writing and directing. Each branch has requirements for its new members, and members must be sponsored to gain an invite. Any non-member who is nominated for an Oscar is “automatically considered” for entry into the Academy.
Voting for the annual Academy Awards is the splashiest benefit of AMPAS membership, and the organization’s recent internal changes affect the conditions for participation in ballot-casting. Now, members will be able to vote for a ten-year period. The only way to earn lifetime voting rights will be after completing three of those ten-year terms—or after actually being nominated. Inactive members will be downgraded to “emeritus status” and will no longer be able to vote.
Next year’s Oscars telecast is already shaping up, with Jimmy Kimmel slated to repeat as host, and with the Academy’s new rules and initiatives, the filmmaking community is hopeful that many more creative forces will get a seat at the table.