A word to wise film producers: Start tracking the racial, gender and disability status of your employees now. The film Academy’s Aperture 2025 inclusion program is closer than you think.
Because once again, an important point is tucked in the fine print.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its plan to require that Best Picture contenders meet at least two of four inclusion standards aimed at increasing screen depictions or employment of underrepresented groups—women, specified racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with cognitive and physical disabilities, and those hard of hearing—it was careful to put full implementation far in the future. New standards will be imposed for the 96th Academy Awards. Those occur in 2024. Given more immediate concerns with the Covid-delayed 2021 Oscar show, it all seems very distant.
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But Paragraph Three of the Sept. 8 announcement had some interesting words of caution: “For the 94th Oscars (2022) and 95th Oscars (2023), submitting a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form will be required.”
Queried this week about the required form, an Academy spokesperson declined to comment. So, much about it remains unclear.
Will the form be a simple check-off? E.g., does your production employ at least two creative leaders or department heads from the following categories with at least one from these specified racial or ethnic groups, yes or no?
Or will it ask for details, for instance by requiring a breakdown of the crew positions held by various underrepresented groups to meet a 30 percent threshold under Standard B3?
Also unclear is the exact meaning of “confidential.” Will individual forms be viewed by awards staff? Academy executives? PricewaterhouseCoopers? The Board of Governors? Committee members? All of the above?
Nor has a deadline for submission yet been mentioned, though it will presumably come within about ten months after the current round of Best Picture contenders is complete with the close of their required distribution window on Feb. 28. In any case, films now being prepped, produced, or finished for viewing next year will need an Academy Inclusion Standards form for awards consideration.
By delaying full implementation for three years, the Academy has obviously given pandemic-stricken companies and filmmakers time to adjust. By requiring information more immediately, however, it creates pressure conform quickly: Confidentiality promises notwithstanding, no smart producer would care to submit a form declaring that an awards contender doesn’t meet inclusion standards. One leak, and that becomes a factor in next year’s race.
Still, depending on how the questions are asked, the inclusion form may give producers a relatively easy out. If a film’s distributor or financing company has a qualifying internship or apprenticeship program under Standard C and if its supporting studio or film company has “multiple senior executives” from qualifying groups on its “marketing, publicity and/or distribution teams” under Standard D, then the production head-counting and content review under Standard A and Standard B would seem to be moot.
Either way, it looks like more fun than income tax, and it’s coming soon.