The organisation behind the Academy Awards has announceda suite of groundbreaking diversity requirements for future Best Picture nominees, in the hopes of fostering representation and equity for marginalised groups on- and offscreen.

The new standards promise to shape upcoming films vying for Hollywood’s top honour from 2024 onwards.

They fall into four categories, covering on-screen representation and story themes, the makeup of creative and production teams, the establishment of equitable training opportunities, and diversity at an executive level.

Any film hoping to contend for Best Picture must meet at least two of those four standards.

For The First Time Ever, The Oscars Have Revealed Diversity Standards For Best Pic Nominees
via Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

“We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry,” said Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson.

For audiences, the biggest change might come from that first category. Eligible films must ensure at least one of the following requirements is met:

  • “At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors” must be from an “underrepresented racial or ethnic group”;
  • “At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles” must come from a minimum of two underrepresented groups, including women, marginalised racial or ethnic groups, the LGBTQ+ community, those with a physical or cognitive disability, or actors who are deaf or hard of hearing;
  • The film’s storyline must substantively address themes or narratives relevant to the communities listed above.

The guidelines call for studios to ensure diversity at all levels of the production, from directors, producers, and writers, to hands-on crew members and technical staff.

The Academy’s new rules also require the companies behind future Best Picture nominees to establish paid apprenticeships or internships, with the explicit goal of opening the door to communities underrepresented in the film industry.

C-suite roles are addressed by the rules, too. Studios must have “multiple in-house senior executives” from underrepresented cohorts for their piccie to be eligible.

Studios will need to provide evidence they’ve strived for those targets for the 2022 and 2023 awards, but the threshold will only become mandatory for Best Picture eligibility from 2024 onwards.

The guidelines represent the most significant structural change to the Academy’s selection process in decades, but they come after an extended period of criticism levelled at the organisation for the diversity of its nominees.

The Academy announced an all-White roster of acting award nominees in 2015, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite movement, only to follow up in 2016 by doing the exact same thing.

More recently, stars have used their time on stage to publicly draw attention to the award night’s racial imbalances, while Black actors and filmmakers have taken a public stand against gatekeeping in the industry.

Parasite, the lauded thriller from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, became the first film in a language outside of English to ever win Best Picture when it scooped the award this year.

Image: Jennifer Graylock / PA Images