Irish nominees among list of new Oscar members as diversity sought
Several of this year's Irish Oscar nominees, including director Lenny Abrahamson and author Emma Donohue, are among nearly 700 people who have been invited to become members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Scientists.
Every year following the awards, the Oscar board sits down to consider new talent it wishes to include to join the 6,000-strong membership. This year, following the dearth of non-white nominees and winners, and the bitter 'OscarSoWhite' campaign, the organisation faced fierce criticism for its lack of diversity. In an effort to confront this, the list of new invitees is the longest in history. Usually, there are about 100 invitees annually.
Other Irish film makers included in this week's list were directors John Crowley, Nora Twomey and Benjamin Cleary, who won an Oscar this year for his short movie 'Stutterer', which he also wrote. Producer Ed Guiney, nominated this year for 'Room', was also on the list, as was Abrahamson's long-time editor Nathan Nugent.
The Academy has several Irish members, all of whom get to vote and attend the Oscars, including Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Fassbender and Cillian Murphy.
The president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is herself African American, made a commitment earlier this year to increase the representation of women and minorities in the Academy, which historically has been largely older, white men. Some 46pc of this year's list are women and 41pc are people of colour.
"The fact that this organisation in the 21st Century has not been inclusive has driven us for a number of years to address the issue. And as we learned how to engage our members more, we are now seeing the results," she said.
While the Academy and its annual Oscar show - next year's takes place on February 26th - have been a lightning rod for discussions about the lack of opportunities for women and non-whites in the film business, Ms Boone Isaacs said that conversation, rather than just being the subject of awards season controversy, had become an ongoing discussion. "Our members represent all aspects of filmmaking and so the conversation is everywhere. You read about it every day, and it's a really, really good thing for the business," she said.
While the Academy cast an unprecedented and wide net that included 283 international filmmakers, representing 59 countries, Ms Boone Isaacs said she was confident that it would be able to continue the same effort over the next few years. "It might be a challenge," she said, "but we are continuing to keep that pedal to the metal."