Here’s a wish for Tuesday:
Sometime during the day, the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will meet to elect new officials, including a president to replace David Rubin. I wish they would choose a great communicator for the top job.
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The film academy already employs a Great Operator in the person of the recently appointed Bill Kramer. Less than a month into the job, Kramer has already restructured management (a new 14-strong “masthead” on the Oscars.org website integrates Academy and Museum officials), reordered priorities (appointing an executive vice president for revenue and business development points toward fiscal rigour), and paved the way for a potential Oscar ceremony repositioning (the Academy has quietly phased out about four years of a long-term commitment to the Dolby Theater, perhaps in exchange for forgoing a one-off which might have made it ditch the Dolby altogether after the 2024 show).
There is every reason to believe that Kramer, who is articulate and not shy, could also serve as the Academy’s chief spokesperson in his role as general manager.
But its members, currently about 10,000, deserve to have a president elected, one of them, who serves as their collective voice – to be their Communicator.
It’s a position that has declined significantly in the past decade, as a string of presidents — Rubin, John Bailey, Cheryl Boone-Isaacs — withdrew from the more free-spirited public stance of previous top officials — Hawk Koch, Tom Sherak, Sidney Ganis.
Partly it was a matter of professional background. Rubin, a casting director, and Bailey, a cinematographer, were clearly rooted in a Hollywood tradition that has limited most communication to public relations professionals. Neither spoke much in public, and when they spoke, it was cautious, often in tandem with Kramer’s predecessor, Dawn Hudson.
Likewise, although a marketing and PR professional, Boone-Isaacs kept tight-lipped. An old-fashioned executive, she seemed to believe that Hollywood’s business was Hollywood’s business, and mostly none of yours—unlike the previous three presidents, who were markedly outgoing.
But Tuesday brings an inflection point. The next president, who will be elected by and from a 54-member board of directors, will be in the hot spot eight months from now when the Academy finally implements a comprehensive, long-promised system of racial, gender, and disability standards and quotas. .
The Identity Oscars will require a lot of explanation, both for the contenders and the general public.
Questions are already bubbling up in the platform’s comprehensive FAQ section for entering representation and inclusion standards, which requires Oscar candidates to enter data about their artists, filmmakers, crew, distributors, and content.
Yes, the platform says, it is necessary for all of the hundreds of Oscar photos submitted to make a RAISE entry, even if they don’t want to be considered for Best Picture, “because we can’t distinguish a Best Picture entry at the time of submission.”
No, says the platform, you can’t rate your own submission until you’ve entered information for all of many standards. (And if you check a box that says you can’t provide information on a particular point, you’ll need a at least 10 words explanation of your failure. “It’s none of your business” or “I was held back by privacy issues” won’t quite do it.)
Of course, the bigger questions will arise when the Academy inevitably reveals its list of films that qualify for the shooting standards — leaving the unqualified, if any, to explain their exclusion. Are they racist? Are they sexist? Are they just movies born into a national culture that is less multi-ethnic or diversity conscious than ours?
And if no movies are disqualified, why are we doing this at all?
According to current whispers (where it comes from, I have no idea), Janet Yang and DeVon Franklin are the frontrunners in the closed-door presidential race, both of whom were appointed as governors in general — which is no specific industry — under of the Council’s diversity initiative.
In reality, their origin is less important than their persuasiveness. Because the next president, Yang, or Franklin, or whoever, will finally have to sell this new system as the best for the Academy and for the industry it serves.
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