The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the organization behind the Oscars, has invited 842 people from 59 countries to join as members. According to the Academy’s website, 50 percent of the invitees are women and 29 percent are people of color. The ratio of women invitees has remained steady, compared to 2018’s 49 percent. However, the number of new members of color has dipped nine percentage points from last year.
Should all the invitees join, the Academy’s overall membership will be 32 percent female and 16 percent people of color. A lot of work obviously still needs to be done, but at least the numbers are moving in the right direction: in 2015, women represented 25 percent of members and people of color just eight percent.
Ten AMPAS branches — Directors, Writers, Documentary, Producers, Casting Directors, Costume Designers, Executives, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists, Marketing and Public Relations, and Production Design — invited more women than men to join their ranks.
Elisabeth Moss (“Us”), Gemma Chan (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”), Claire Foy (“The Girl in the Spider’s Web”), and Marina de Tavira (“Roma”) are among the new members of the Actors branch. Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”) was invited to both the Actors and Music categories.
“The Babadook” filmmaker Jennifer Kent received a double invite as well: she was asked to join the Writers and Directors branches. Nisha Ganatra (“Late Night”), Eva Husson (“Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)”), and Carol Morley (“Out of Blue”) are also among the Directors invitees. New Writers members include Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), Desiree Akhavan (“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”), Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”), Marti Noxon (“To the Bone”), and Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”).
Among the other new members are Domee Shi, who made history as the first woman director of a Pixar short (Short Films and Feature Animation), Adele and Annie Lennox (Music), “Mary Queen of Scots” producer Debra Hayward (Producers), and “Blowin’ Up” writer-director Stephanie Wang-Breal (Documentary).
Opening up the Academy to more women and more people of color allows us to expand our understanding of who makes art and whose art is worthy. For better or for worse, the Academy is the standard bearer of greatness — just as Cannes is the most prestigious film festival. While we try and change the rules so as to not be co-opted by the system, it is still important for us to infiltrate the system to remind the people who felt that their films were the narratives of our culture, that no, they never were. They just had access that no one else did.
But those days are over. And this fight to center visions of women and people of color will continue at the Academy, at Cannes, and all the way down to film schools.