Two Graduate School of Journalism alumni, acclaimed filmmakers Dan Krauss (’04) and Pete Nicks (’99), have been selected to be members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Their lifetime memberships were awarded In recognition of their “exceptional achievement in the field of theatrical motion pictures,” according to the Academy, and authorize Krauss and Nicks to help judge Academy Awards entries in the Documentary category.

Both honorees agreed it is a particularly meaningful time to be admitted, as the Academy has sought to diversify both its membership and its selections in the past several years. Much of that increased diversity is a result of activist April Reign’s powerful 2015 campaign #OscarsSoWhite, which drew public attention to the scarcity of people of color among the artists nominated for the 2015 Academy Awards. From 2015 to 2017, there has been a 331% increase in people of color and a 359% increase in women invited to join the Academy.

Pete Nicks, producer and director of The Waiting Room (2012) and the forthcoming documentary The Force (2017), said it was especially encouraging to see the Academy emphasize broader outreach. “This year in particular, with Moonlight winning, we saw there are voices that have gone unrecognized for a long time. They’ve always been there, but they’re now getting the attention they deserve,” Nicks said.

As an Academy member, he intends to support work that encourages viewers to look at themselves and the world differently. “To be a gatekeeper of the voices that matter in our culture is an incredible honor and a responsibility I take seriously,” Nicks said.

Dan Krauss, a J-School lecturer who received Oscar nominations for his films The Death of Kevin Carter (2005) and Extremis (2016), echoed Nicks’ comments. “One of the great honors of being a member of the Academy is you get to voice your support for the kind of film you think the world needs to pay attention to,” Krauss said. He said filmmakers are increasingly moving away from a straightforward retelling of the facts and experimenting with the documentary form in new ways. “I feel really lucky to cast my vote for the films I feel represent this vigorous new wave of nonfiction filmmaking,” Krauss said.

Nicks and Krauss join UC Berkeley J-School faculty members Orlando Bagwell and Jon Else, advisor Spencer Nakasako, and alum Megan Mylan (’97), as members of the Academy.

“These two remarkable filmmakers are a natural fit for the Academy,” said J-School Dean Ed Wasserman. “Their films push the envelope of nonfiction filmmaking and are inspiring a new generation of documentary producers. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

“We’re proud to invite our newest class to the Academy,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. “It’s up to all of us to ensure that new faces and voices are seen and heard, and to take a shot on the next generation the way someone took a shot on each of us.”

By Melissa Batchelor Warnke (’17)