Oscars to set minimum diversity rules for Best Picture award: 'A catalyst for essential change in Hollywood'

Films will have to hire a minimum number of cast and crew from under-represented backgrounds to qualify for the prize

Bong Joon-ho’s 'Parasite' (2019) won Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards. IMDb
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Hollywood's motion picture academy announced strict new eligibility rules to boost diversity among best picture Oscar nominees and the wider movie industry in a milestone announcement on Tuesday.

From 2024, all films hoping to win Tinseltown's most coveted prize will need to either employ a minimum number of cast, crew and administrative employees from under-represented backgrounds, or directly tackle themes affecting those communities.

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The new rules are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience

The groundbreaking move comes after years of criticism about a lack of diversity among the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' members, and among the Oscar nominees and winners they select.

Although the Academy has already taken steps to diversify its membership, Tuesday's new rules mark a more aggressive bid to re-shape Hollywood's broader performance on diversity.

"We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry," said Academy president David Rubin and chief executive Dawn Hudson.

Under the new rules, films vying for best picture will need to comply with at least two of four criteria designed to improve hiring practices and representation on and off screen.

The first criterion requires the movie to feature either a prominent actor from an underrepresented group, 30 per cent of its smaller roles from minorities, or to address issues surrounding these communities as its main theme.

At the 2017 Oscars there was major controversy when 'La La Land' was announced as the Best Picture winner, not 'Moonlight' (pictured). IMDb

The second stipulates that behind-the-scenes senior leadership or technical crew members must be drawn from historically disadvantaged groups, which also include women, LGBT and disabled communities.

The final two measures concern offering internships and training to underrepresented workers, and diversity in the movie's marketing and distribution teams.

Push for diversity 

Since 2015 and the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign, the Academy has made concerted efforts to broaden its membership.

The board of governors vowed to double the number of women and non-white members by 2020, following calls to boycott the glitzy Oscars.

The Academy surpassed those membership goals, with 45 percent of this year's intake being women, and 36 percent from minority groups.

The latest move is the product of a new diversity task force announced in June, weeks after mass anti-racism protests swept the US following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

The standards are based on those already employed by Britain's Bafta, and "are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience," Rubin and Hudson said.

Films contending for the best picture Oscar in 2022 and 2023 will not be bound by the rules, but will need to submit to the Academy confidential data on the movies' diversity based on the new criteria.

The Academy also recently began hosting a series of panel discussions on racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood films.