Thanks to a quiet change in enforcement protocols, feature films entered in this year’s Academy Awards contest will be able to avoid reporting gender, race and disability data required by new inclusion standards governing Best Picture contenders simply by opting out of contention for the top Oscar.
The policy shift—which became apparent in recent changes to the “Frequently Asked Questions” addendum to the Academy’s Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry platform—could free dozens or even hundreds of films vying for Oscars other than Best Picture from a previously declared requirement all three hundred or so awards contenders submit identity data regardless of their Best Picture prospects.
Until recently, the Academy’s FAQ advisory noted that all features submitted for Oscar consideration were required to report detailed identity data on the platform, because the Academy was unable to say in advance which films might actually wind up in the Best Picture race, the only category for which inclusion standards will be enforced.
By this week, however, that provision had been replaced with a new answer to Question 13, which asks: “Am I required to create a RAISE submission for a film that I don’t want to be considered for Best Picture?”
The new answer says: “You will have the option to opt-in or opt-out for Best Picture consideration. If you do decide to opt-out, then you do not need to fill out a RAISE form.”
Academy officials had no comment on the change. But people familiar with the revision said the prior policy remained in force only through a two-year soft-rollout during which filmmakers were required to report on the platform, while the standards weren’t yet jenforced. Industry feedback and experience during the rollout led to the current policy. In a further substantial change, these people said, producers and distributors are no longer asked to identify cast and crew members by name when reporting on sex, race and disability issues. In its past form, the platform asked for for such personal identification.
With those changes, the Academy appears to have abandoned its previously described intent to collect identity data on a broad range of films across the industry; even a modest number of “opt-outs” would create obvious holes in any database, making it a less-than-reliable foundation for promised reports and policy suggestions.
The policy shift may reduce the administrative burden of monitoring a large number of films that have no real Best Picture prospects, and could limit the need to disqualify films that don’t meet inclusion standards by allowing at least some of those pictures to take themselves out of the running.
At the same time, Oscar voters may find themselves selecting from a reduced field of Best Picture contenders—dark horse contenders and late season “discoveries” would have a shot only if they haven’t removed themselves from contention in order to avoid the burden of identity reporting.
In a related policy refinement, the FAQs now specify that any British film that has met inclusion standards set by the British Film Institute’s diversity standards, which are used for BAFTA’s “Outstanding British Film” category, will be deemed to have met the Hollywood Academy’s diversity requirements. Similarly, the advisory noted, non-British films which have met the U. S. Academy’s standards should report that information in seeking to qualify for BAFTA awards.