"Everything Everywhere All at Once" won seemingly everything at the Oscars. Here's the Best Picture win
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Awards What do the Academy’s inclusion standards for Best Picture really mean?

What do the Academy’s inclusion standards for Best Picture really mean?

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" won seemingly everything at the Oscars. Here's the Best Picture win

As unfortunate as that is why Academy inclusion standards are back in the news (because of a response Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss recently gave in an interview that ultimately led to his defense of blackface), it’s worth taking a closer look at them before they officially take effect in the upcoming film awards season.

While a more detailed description can be found on the Academy’s website, the organization has listed standards A through D with a requirement that a film meet at least two to qualify for Best Picture (the only category standards applied).

Standard A focuses on screen portrayal, themes and narratives, meaning that the film could either center on an underrepresented group (women included) or have some level of significant diversity among its actors (even a significant support for a color count actor).

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Standard B focuses on creative leadership and the project team, meaning a film with a diverse crew or several crew members from underrepresented backgrounds in key roles such as a department head or script supervisor would qualify.

The C standard focuses on industry access and opportunity, so if the production company or distributor has a DEI program like the Universal Directors Initiative, count.

Standard D focuses on audience development, so a studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives among the following underrepresented groups.

The technical aspect of the process would be that while a film prepares to apply for consideration for Best Picture, the production company and/or studio would have to separately fill out an application on the Academy’s RAISE platform (RAISE is an acronym which stands for Representation and Inclusion Standards Item). The submission form will have an ID that can be added to the standard Oscar submission form, so that data from the two applications can be merged on the backend.

It is important to note this once again only two standards have to be met to qualify for Best Picture, so if a film is distributed by a large company like Warner Bros. Discovery, which has several DEI ventures and a studio co-run by Pamela Abdy, it probably just needs its distributor to complete the form to qualify via Standards C and D. That said, the cost of the pandemic has been partially paid for by the loss of many diversity and inclusion initiatives that were part of cost-cutting measures, so Standard C has become more difficult qualify.

If a film’s path to qualifying for Best Picture goes through Standards A and B, its production company has resources like Crewvie or Free the Work to organize a project’s demographic information. A hypothetical concern when the standards are implemented is that it’s probably more difficult to gather demographic information after the fact, than it is when production is hiring, so a service like Crewvie is likely to become part of the onboarding process for more and more productions. These services also offer a tool that organizes all the information a film would need to qualify for inclusion standards in one document.

If the topic is how a film qualifies for Standard A, the RAISE module also has an option to allow the filmmaker to explain why, which is especially useful for international filmmakers who may need to shed some light on something like a country’s caste system, which may not be common knowledge to Americans.

While Academy members expect the organization to help drive the conversation around equity, inclusion and accessibility in the film industry, Jeanell English, Academy Executive Vice President for Impact and Inclusion, recently declared a The Hollywood Reporter, “It is important to note that we are not an analytical institute. We rely heavily on data from great places, whether it’s USC or UCLA, to help demonstrate trends.”

Last August, Academy CEO Bill Kramer also said of industry standards: “We want this to be collaborative. And again, seeing that all of last year’s Best Picture nominees qualified has given us great hope that our conversations and partnerships with studios, distributors, and filmmakers are working and not creating a challenge.

While change is often met with resistance, the overall result in the two years that filmmakers have been sharing inclusion data with their Oscar nominations has been that many movies qualify for inclusion standards without even knowing it, so those standards are unlikely to be the attack on creativity that critics, like Dreyfuss, claim they are.

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