Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg has posted five suggestions for the Academy to consider when they have their “unprecedented, all-members meeting” on Saturday, May 4th. The one I agree with the most is about reducing deadwood and expanding the membership:
“(3) Address the demographics of the membership. The Academy should address widespread and not unmerited concern about the diversity of its membership, or lack thereof: a recent LA Times study revealed it is 94% white, 77% male and 86% over the age of 50). This has a lot to do with why more conservative films triumph over more daring films (Crash d. Brokeback Mountain, The King’s Speech d. The Social Network, etc.), some films of questionable merit get nominated at all (schmaltz like The Blind Side and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and some eminently worthy films do not (The Dark Knight, Blue Valentine, etc.).
“There are only two realistic ways for the Academy to fix this anytime soon. It could purge from its rolls members who have long been inactive or retired, the strategy employed by former Academy president Gregory Peck in the 1960s. Or, to avoid hurting those members’ feelings but still dilute their influence, while also endearing itself to younger and active people in the industry, the Academy could markedly expand its membership, which now numbers around 6,000. This would not be unprecedented. Membership swelled to around 12,000 from 1938 to 1945 when the members of the Screen Extras Guild were invited to join and had full voting privileges.”
In a 4.4.13 HE piece called “Reduce Deadwood Influence,” I suggested a scaled voting system that would give more weight to votes from Academy members who’ve contributed to a film within the last five years than to those who’ve more or less been out of the game a decade or two or longer.
“If the Academy wants to be part of the world as it is right now and have the Oscar winners reflect this, it has to reduce the influence of people whose professional peaks happened 15 or 20 or 25 or more years ago. These people will retain membership and all the priveleges that go with that, but their votes won’t count as much as those who are actively working and contributing to the films of today. Simple.
“Every year Academy members will be asked online ‘how recently have you worked on a feature film destined for theatrical or a film or series destined for cable or streaming?’ If the last film you worked on was released ten or more years ago, you get a single vote and become a C-grade voter. If the last film you have worked on was released between five and ten years ago, you get two votes and become a B-grade voter. And if you’ve worked on a film made and released within the last five years, you get three votes and becomes an A-grade voter.
“How would this system be unfair? What could possibly be the downside? If this system had been in place seven years ago, Brokeback Mountain would have won the Best Picture Oscar.”