And the Oscar goes to…

By Taneal Lockstadt

Movies and tv shows play a significant role in our lives, making it important to recognize the people that bring these stories to the big screen. At the end of every film, when the credits roll, you’ll find the names of many people that have diverse skills and talent that contribute to the making of that movie. Women have filled many of these roles since the beginning of cinema; however, they continue to be misrepresented – especially when it comes to the Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards, more commonly known as The Oscars recognizes the work of individuals for artistic and technical merit within the film industry.

The 94th Academy Awards was held on March 27, 2022, honouring movies that were released in 2021. This year’s data from non-acting category nominations shows women continue to be underrepresented despite the call for more inclusion.

“Films tell us stories that help us to understand the world. When they don’t reflect real demographics, they give us an inaccurate picture.” Abigail E. Disney, Filmmaker, Activist and Philanthropist

Hollywood: Her Story, An Illustrated History of Women and the Movies by Jill Tietjen, Barbara Bridges

The University of California, Los Angeles, released its annual Hollywood Diversity Report earlier this year to address the gender and racial gaps in an effort to close them. Women made gains with on-screen representation making up 47% of film leads and 42% of actors. Behind the camera, women make up less than 22% of directors and 33% of film writers. The study also found that films with a significantly more diverse cast were written or directed by a woman compared to films written by white men. As well, the study also showed that women and people of colour have a hard time getting financing for a film and if they are able to it’s usually within a budget of less than $20 million. These findings show that while women bring a lot to the table they aren’t given the funds or opportunity to push the boundaries of filmmaking. The lack of diversity causes a ripple effect throughout the entertainment industry.

While the numbers show representation declined, there were some landmark moments at the 2022 Oscars. ‘The Power of the Dog’ director, Jane Campion, became the first women to receive a second career nomination for Best Director and won. She was previously recognized for ‘The Piano’ in 1993. The composer for ‘Encanto’, Germaine Franco, is the first Latina woman to be nominated for an original score. Best Adapted Screenplay nominations included ‘The Power of the Dog’, ‘CODA’ and ‘The Lost Daughter’ which were all written by women. 

In 2020, the Academy Awards announced new representation and inclusion standards for eligibility in the ‘Best Picture’ category as a part of their Academy Aperture 2025. These standards were designed to increase representation and diversity on screen and off screen. For the 96th Oscars (2024) a film must meet 2 out of 4 of the requirements to be deemed eligible. This is one small improvement that film studios are making to become more inclusive. Small steps are being made towards a more diverse and inclusive industry but more needs to be done.