After unveiling a four-year plan to amend the face of its membership, the Academy, on Monday, updated its website with a slew of FAQs aimed at further elucidating its forthcoming changes. First reported on by the Wrap, the questions and answers range in topic from the trivial (screeners) to the significant (recruitment); they also stress that the goal of the voter overhaul is not to unfairly cut older associates, but to maintain credibility. “These new measures are meant to uphold our longstanding mission that Oscars are voted on by active members in the motion picture industry,” reads part of an Academy-wide email, according to the trade. “They are also meant to be fair and inclusive in their definition of an active member of our community.”
The FAQs and FAQ responses focus primarily on what was first teased as the most contentious switch-to-be: The decision to alter the voting privileges of inactive constituents. The moves, of course, come on the heels of the ever-growing #OscarsSoWhite fallout, calls for an awards-show boycott, and a heartbroken statement from the organization’s president.
Here are the most relevant FAQs (and answers) concerning the Academy’s updates:
Why is the Academy excluding older members from voting?
We’re not excluding older members. Everyone will retain membership.
I thought you had to work in the last ten years in order to vote.
Working in the last ten years is one way to ensure you have voting privileges. Another way is to have been nominated for an Oscar. And a third way is to show that since you were admitted as a member you’ve worked in motion pictures during three ten-year periods.
So we have to have worked for thirty years to keep the vote?
No. Let’s say you were admitted to the Academy in 1980 and you worked on one film in 1989. That covers you for your first ten years. Then you worked once in the ’90s, which covers you for your second ten-year term, and once again in 2001 for your third ten-year term. That’s only a twelve-year period, but you have worked in the three [non-consecutive] ten-year terms of your membership, so you’d qualify as an active member with voting status.
How do you define “active in motion pictures”?
You must be employed in the same kinds of quality films that got you into the Academy in the first place. Your status will be assessed by your peers in your branch — the people who best understand the intricacies of the motion picture industry and your field.
What happens if I don’t qualify?
You move to emeritus status, which means you have all the benefits of membership except voting. You continue to receive screeners and you are still invited to Academy membership screenings and programs, but you no longer pay dues.
So why make these changes at all?
We want the Oscars to be voted on by people who are currently working in motion pictures, or who have been active for a long time. There are a number of Academy members, however, who had brief careers and left the business. We want to strengthen, uphold, and maintain the credibility of the Oscars with these new criteria. Voting for the Oscars is a privilege of membership, not a right.
What about all the other changes you announced?
The other changes are aimed at increasing diversity in our membership and governance. Under our bylaws, the board is required to continuously review our criteria for voting status and membership. This has happened in the past and this is one of those times. Diversity has been an ongoing discussion for many years.
What about the changes on the board?
We’ve created three new governor seats, to be nominated by the president, and voted on by the board. These three seats will be filled by women and people of color, and the changes will take place in February.
What is the plan for new recruitment?
We will be actively recruiting new members. We’re also adding non-governor seats to the six board committees that oversee all Academy activity. And we’re reforming the executive committees by which each branch conducts its business; these are the committees that decide whom to invite for membership. We will maintain high standards and continue to admit only those with substantial achievements. The concern has been that a lot of highly qualified potential members were falling outside our radar. Many thought they had to wait to be invited, and didn’t know they could apply for membership, through a sponsorship process.