Longtime members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) are speaking out after the organizations’ Board of Governors voted unanimously Thursday to approve a dramatic overhaul of its voting rules and organizational structure in an effort to increase diversity at the Oscars and across the broader film industry.
In extensive interviews with the Hollywood Reporter, older members of the Academy blasted the organization’s leadership for the rule changes, which mandate that members must be “active” in filmmaking within ten years in order to cast a vote for Academy Awards nominations, unless they have previously been nominated for, or have won, an Oscar.
Many longtime members feel the new rules are an effort to push out older, white Academy voters in an effort to appease critics who have charged that the organization is racist after zero people of color were nominated in the top four acting categories at the Oscars for a second straight year.
THR reported that of the numerous Academy members it spoke to about the rule changes, “far more were displeased” than pleased with the decision.
Below, check out some of the most heated reactions to the rule changes, as told to the Hollywood Reporter.
Sam Weisman, 68, Directors Branch:
It’s trying to clear the decks so the show can go on in February without people screaming. As a member who has stepped partially away from the industry, it feels like someone like me is being victimized. I’m in the mentoring phase of my life — I teach — so I’m now supposed to not be relevant, even though I’m being as relevant, in working with young artists, as people who have current credits are. And, by the way, I’ve contributed a lot of time to the Academy as a judge for the Nicholl Fellowships and the Student Academy Awards. So basically they’re saying that I don’t matter anymore. It seems like this is a hastily put-together reaction to a firestorm.
Arnold Schwartzman, Documentary Branch, won Oscar for 1982’s Genocide:
I’m quite angry. I’m all right, I’ve got my Oscar. But what about all of those people that were elected to the Academy because they are skilled, but who never got an Oscar nomination? I just resent being characterized by some people as a racist. We judge films on the merits. There were some great films with white people that didn’t get in that I was upset about. Race had nothing to do with any of it.
Tab Hunter, 84, Actors Branch:
Obviously, it’s a thinly-veiled ploy to kick out older white contributors — the backbone of the industry — to make way for younger, “politically-correct” voters. The Academy should not cave in to media hype and change the rules without talking to or getting votes from all members first.
Unnamed “longtime” member:
Who calls Les Moonves when CBS [Films] goes down? Then Rich Ross and Gail Berman? They’re in TV! And what about Jeff Shell and Kevin Tsujihara? They’re not going to be active for 30 years going forward. Michael Lynton once he’s fired? Beyonce and J-Lo? Are they in the movie business? Is Jada Pinkett Smith in the movie business? And by the way, there are a lot of Academy board members who aren’t “active,” like Jon Bloom or Bill Kroyer, who teaches, or Charles Bernstein, who hasn’t done a movie in 30 years.
I have news for you: older people who lived through the struggles for civil rights are way more sensitive to minority issues than young people who don’t understand what it was all about in the first place. It’s f—ing knee-jerk liberalism without taking into consideration what is fair. Bill Mechanic should get a special shout-out for waging a 10-year struggle to kick out older people and bragging about it in the Times. What an idiot.
I imagine the NAACP’s film group [the Image Awards] is also racist for not choosing Ava DuVernay for best director for Selma?
Check out more reactions from longtime Academy members here.
The 88th Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 28 on ABC.