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A year ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended invitations to just about every qualified woman and person of color they could think of, in a massive outreach designed to increase the diversity of the Academy’s very male, very white, very old membership.
Can the organization do it again?
That’s the question that faced membership committees from each of the Academy’s 17 branches over the last two months, as they looked at applications and compiled lists of prospective members.
And it’s the question that will face the AMPAS Board of Governors on Tuesday evening, when one of the main articles of business at the final meeting of the current board will be to approve or reject the branch lists.
For the most part, the board will trust the branches, reviewing and voting to accept the submitted lists one branch at a time. Occasionally, a governor will object to a specific name, which will then get a separate discussion and vote.
But with a record-breaking 683 people invited to join last year, including unprecedented numbers of women and minorities, it’s hard to imagine that the Academy can come up with a class of 2017 that can compare with its predecessor in size or diversity.
Those who have an inkling of how things may go told TheWrap that no, the Academy can’t possibly cast as wide a net — but that hasn’t halted the AMPAS initiative to make the organization more inclusive.
“The number of new members is probably going to be a lot less,” said one member of the board who will vote on Tuesday night. “But I think you’re going to see strong diversity again.”
Another Academy member who has frequently served on the branch committee that invites new members said that just as it did last year, AMPAS leadership pushed branches to come up with as diverse a list as possible, particularly with respect to women.
The goal, as stated by the Academy in January 2016, is to double the number of women and non-whites in the organization by 2020. To accomplish that, last year’s record membership outreach was a good start, but only a start — and a smaller group in 2017 will make it harder to reach the organization’s ambitious goals, particularly when it comes to female members.
According to AMPAS figures, doubling the number of women would require adding about 1,700 women between 2016 and 2020. The Academy added more than 300 last year — but needs to average closer to 350 female members every year for the next four years to hit that 1,700 figure. That figure that will be almost impossible to reach if significantly fewer members are invited.
It’ll be easier to hit the goal with non-white members, though, largely because the Academy was 92 percent white before the outreach began in earnest. Doubling the number of members of color would only require it to add about 500 over the next five years; more than half of that number, about 280, got invites last year.
That means the Academy needs to add about 55 non-white members every year for the next four years, a goal that won’t be easy but won’t be as difficult as adding 350 women each year.
Still, we’re only 12 months removed from last year’s concerted outreach in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, when every branch tried to identify and invite as many qualified women and non-white film professionals as possible, ignoring previous limits on the number of new members.
Given the size of that class, it may be harder to identify deserving candidates who haven’t already been invited. Still, no doubt the Academy can start with “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, co-writer Terell Alvin McCraney and actors Naomie Harris and Janelle Monae, as well as 2016 nominee Ruth Negga and documentary-feature winner Ezra Edelman. (None are currently listed on the Academy Members Project, the most exhaustive list of AMPAS members.)
We’ll know how big, and how diverse, the Academy’s class of 2017 is on Wednesday.