After making a pledge in January to improve diversity in its ranks, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made its first big step today in announcing its 2016 class. A grand total of 683 invitations were sent to actors, filmmakers, executives, and behind-the-scenes talent from around the world this year, including many notable women and people of color from within the industry. The decision comes as a welcome move after the lengthy backlash Hollywood faced earlier this year.
"This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today," wrote Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. "We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry."
"Welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today."
Among those invited were Creed director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, who were both snubbed at this year's awards in the directing and acting categories, respectively. Actors America Ferrera, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson, as well as the Wachowskis, both trans directors and significant additions to the Academy's voting pool, all got invites.
Today's announcement is great news for the Academy and for Hollywood at large. After nominations were announced for this year's Oscars, observers cried out against the lack of people of color in the acting categories and the paucity of diverse nominees beyond the screen. #OscarsSoWhite became a focal point in the campaign for more diversity at the awards for the second year in a row, and host Chris Rock attacked the issue head-on (though not without making missteps of his own.)
However, there's still a long way to go. Though the Academy is making a big diversity push this year, it will take time before it can achieve real equality. Women still make up 27 percent of overall membership, while people of color make up only 11 percent.
The organization is currently committed to doubling its diverse voting members by 2020. It's safe to say it's officially on its way.