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Film academy president on lack of Oscar diversity: 'We need to step this up'

FILE PHOTO - In this Jan. 14, 2016 file photo, John Krasinski, left, and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the Academy Awards nominations for best performance by an actor in a leading role at the 88th Academy Awards nomination ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Image Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File
January 23, 2016 - 6:00 AM

Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs says that despite the organization's internal efforts toward inclusion, a second year of all-white acting nominees made her think, "We need to step this up."

Isaacs announced Friday that the academy will double the number of female and minority members by 2020, and will immediately diversify its leadership by adding three new seats to its board of governors. The number of minorities currently serving as members of the academy has not been revealed.

"We all are aware that our membership is pretty closed, if you will," she said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. "However, life has changed. Things have changed."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 51-member board of governors unanimously approved a series of reforms late Thursday to "begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition," Isaacs said, following a weeklong storm of criticism and calls for an Oscar boycott because of the lack of diversity among nominees.

Several of Hollywood's most prominent African-Americans, including Will Smith and Spike Lee, have said they won't attend this year's Oscars, which is to be hosted by Chris Rock.

Other approved academy changes include limiting members' voting status to a period of 10 years, to be extended only if the individual remains active in film during that decade. Lifetime voting rights will be granted only to Academy Award nominees and winners, and to members after three ten-year voting terms. Previously, all active members received lifetime voting rights.

The organization also plans to diversify its leadership beyond the board of governors by adding new members to key decision-making committees, and further diversify its membership with a global campaign to identify and recruit diverse talent.

Reaction came swiftly. Ava DuVernay, director of last year's best picture-nominee "Selma," tweeted that the changes were "one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of colour and women artists." She added: "Shame is a helluva motivator."

"Marginalized artists have advocated for Academy change for DECADES," DuVernay wrote. "Actual campaigns. Calls voiced FROM THE STAGE. Deaf ears. Clòsed minds."

And director Rick Famuyiwa, whose films include "The Wood," ''Brown Sugar" and last year's "Dope" commented: "The devil is in the details."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/APSandy.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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