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Interview: DeVon Franklin Talks Academy Diversity Standards, Why Christians Should Lead on Inclusion

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The Christian filmmaker behind Breakthrough and The Star played a big role in drafting diversity standards that will apply to future Best Picture contenders at the Oscars.

It’s an impassioned dialogue reaching to the highest echelons of cultural power—and a longtime producer of faith-based films is right at the center of it.

On September 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new standards for Oscar nominees for Best Picture “to encourage equitable representation on and off screen, in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.” Set to be implemented in 2024, the standards come in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite social movement started by April Reign and which called out the lack of ethnic diversity among Oscar nominees.

Reactions have been polarized to the standards, called “woke quotas” on the right and dismissed as “tepid” by Reign. Yet, the African American man who co-chaired the Academy task force behind the new standards has spent decades as a bridge-builder, particularly between nonreligious Hollywood and communities of faith.

“On the task force, we knew it would be impossible to put out standards like this that didn’t receive criticism from both sides,” said DeVon Franklin, 42, in a phone interview. “But we didn’t want perfection to get in the way of progress and creating change.” In his 24-year Hollywood career, Franklin has developed and produced a dozen films including The Star, Breakthrough, and Heaven Is for Real, which earned over $100 million worldwide.

Speaking from his Los Angeles-area office, Franklin discussed his role with the Academy, illuminated the process behind the new standards, and addressed current criticisms. The transcript has been lightly edited for length.

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Josh M. Shepherd
Josh M. Shepherd
Josh M. Shepherd writes on culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream, Religion & Politics, The Federalist, and Christianity Today. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. You can find him on Twitter @joshmshep. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C., area with their son.

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