The 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is this Sunday, February 26. Actors, directors, entertainment big wigs and fans alike, will soon be holding their collective breath waiting to hear which names will be read and deemed the best of the best on Oscar night. The reaction from the nominees is typically 50/50… proud elation or understated disappointment, often masked in the humility of “it was an honor just to be nominated”. But, the reaction from fans – the paying moviegoers – watching from home, can be much more dramatic, especially when their pick for winner does not get read. They gasp in disbelief, “how did he/she/movie X not win?” That begs the larger question of who is actually casting the Oscars’ votes? It may just surprise you.
There are 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but their full roster has never been published making it one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets… until now. The Los Angeles Times recently conducted a study and its reporters confirmed the identities of more than 5,100 Oscar voters – more than 89% of all active voting members – and found that they are: mostly white (94%) and mostly male (77%). Moreover, Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
With the LA Times study revealing that “academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public”, it may be a clue as to why some of us don’t always agree with the woman, man or movie that gets to take home the golden statue on Oscar night.
The good news is that the Academy leaders say they want to diversify. But, the not so great news, as far as we see it, is that the academy’s demographics mirror the industry’s. According to the same Times article that reported their voter study, other independent studies of certain film crafts show the same lack of diversity in the film industry as a whole. “Women make up 19% of the academy’s screenwriting branch, and a 2011 analysis by the Writers Guild of America, West found that women accounted for 17% of film writers employment. The academy’s producers branch is about 18% female, and the directors branch is 9% female, figures comparable to those in a study by San Diego State University’s Martha Lauzen. She examined the 250 top-grossing movies of 2011 and found that women accounted for 25% of all of the films’ producers, and 5% of all their directors.”
The bottom line… no matter who you are rooting for this Sunday, we can all agree that Hollywood clearly needs more women behind the scenes.