Thanks to movements like #OscarsSoWhite, conversations around the topics of “diversity” and “inclusion” have been on the tip of Hollywood’s tongue for the past two years.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, has been attempting to increase the diversity in its ranks, but, as of June, its members were still only 11% people of color and 27% women. Nobody seems to have come up with a good solution to address Hollywood’s tendency to mostly just give opportunities and awards to white men. There have been lots and lots and lots of panels and roundtables about the subject, though—even one with all white men!
One answer to this is coming from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which runs the UK equivalent to the Oscars. BAFTA recently announced that, by 2019, films that do not meet the British Film Institute’s official diversity standards won’t be eligible for the “outstanding British film” and “outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer” categories. This means a film must have proved to be inclusive to underrepresented groups (people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and disabled people) in two of four categories: “On-screen characters and themes, senior roles and crew, industry training and career progression, and audience access and appeal to underrepresented audiences.”
BAFTA also said that it will make a more immediate change to its membership rules. Starting next year, it will no longer abide by the rule that new members must be recommended by existing ones, which, the group said, “widens the pool of potential members and ensures that it’s only talent, and not also who you know, that enables BAFTA membership.”
While this is a significant step forward—and one that the Oscars should emulate—there’s still a risk that filmmakers will just begin checking off boxes (we have a black person, we have a woman) to make their films eligible. We need more than that from our movies. That’s why things like the Bechdel Test exist to judge whether women in movies actually talk about something other than men on screen. And there’s now the DuVernay test (named after Ava DuVernay) to see whether people of color in films “have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories.” That’s how we’ll get beyond the statistics and finally realize the dream of a fully inclusive film industry.