Arts & Entertainment

The Motion Picture Academy invites 744 new members as part of diversity campaign

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs helped launch the organization's efforts to diversify its membership.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs helped launch the organization's efforts to diversify its membership.
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued a record number of invitations to potential new members.

The 744 invitations top last year’s list and serves as another step in the Academy's campaign to promote diversity and inclusion within its ranks.

This year's class is composed of 39% women and 30% people of color, with a list that includes Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Naomie Harris, Riz Ahmed, Jordan Peele, Barry Jenkins and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The new class will change the Academy's current demographics to about 87% white and 72% male, a dramatic improvement from its numbers five years ago when the Academy was 94% white and 77% male.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who will soon be stepping down from her role as Academy president, spoke with The Frame to discuss the importance of diversifying Academy membership:

The world of film has expanded quite a bit. There are a lot of new stories to be told from different voices and we wanted all of that talent to be part of our organization. What's important to us is ... because our leadership comes from members, the gateway then is to increase inclusion throughout all of our 17 branches that will then rise to the top with regard to the board of governors and the leadership of the organization.

Boone Isaacs says various changes in the film industry also factored into the decision to diversify:

There's many more production companies that have sprung up and done extremely well, a number of independent distribution companies, the weaving of talent from around the world coupled with what I would call maybe a backlog of talent that had not been members. And then of course there's a period of time where those folks that were qualified to become members for whatever reason weren't applying. I think in these last few years that we have put forth a welcome mat, if you will, and we have been out there with regard to this conversation of inclusion and the fact that we want to invite more people who maybe thought they, for whatever reason, could never become an Academy member now realize that there is the possibility that then can.

Some of the new members include established members of the film industry, as well as newer faces such as "Hamilton" creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who received an Academy Award nomination last year for Best Original Song for the Disney animated musical, "Moana."

Despite his relatively brief film career, Boone Isaacs says Miranda has made great contributions to the industry that warranted an invite to the Academy:

First of all, he did meet criteria. ... Heaven knows [Lin-Manuel Miranda] is a talent. This is a star and we all recognize that. He has burst onto the scene in a very bright light and we know that he is at the beginning ... but his future is secure and we want him part of this conversation.

Ultimately, Boone Isaacs says that diversifying the membership isn't just a numbers game:

The ultimate goal is representation. That is the goal. The goal is not about just having a bigger Academy. That's not a goal. The goal is inclusion. The goal is that men and women of color, of skill sets, understand that they have the opportunity to apply and possibly become members of the Academy.

Boone Isaacs is serving her fourth and last term as Academy president. The post will be voted on by the Board of Governors in August. Boone-Isaacs says her leadership role involved everyone around the table:

The thread continues, if you will, with the leadership. The one thing however is that my one [directive] is, You must realize the world is watching. There's a lot of interest in our organization, we're happy about that. Some days not as happy as others for me, but generally it's a good thing. And I'm very proud of the fact that an organization that will be celebrating its 90th anniversary next year is incredibly relevant and has been representative of an art form that we are all very, very proud of.

To hear John Horn's conversation with Cheryl Boone Isaacs, click on the player above.