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OSCARS: Dawn Hudson Gets New Three-Year Contract; Is Cheryl Boone Isaacs Re-Election Next?

Pete Hammond

The Board Of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Tuesday night renewed, as expected, CEO Dawn Hudson‘s contract 2013 Governors Awards: Dawn Hudsonfor another three years.  The fact that it was a three-year renewal is seen as a real vote of confidence on the part of the Board. There were rumors that some only wanted to re-up her for a year, but this never panned out. She’s in for the long haul. Her predecessor, Bruce Davis, served for 30 years. This new contract will take Hudson through the planned opening of the Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures, which is scheduled to be unveiled in 2017. It’s only appropriate since she has been a main mover and shaker in the drive to make the long-dreamed-of museum a reality.

Under Hudson’s tenure, ratings for the Oscar show have consistently gone up, and there has been stability in the selection of producers — a long-desired Academy goal — with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron re-upping for a third year to produce the show in 2015.Oscar_badge__140302212232 This is the longest tenure for Academy Award show producers since Gil Cates did it three times in a row 1995-97.  She also has been a leading voice for diversity in all aspects of the Academy since signing on for her gig in April 2011. And for the first time last year there was a general Academy membership meeting in May which also re-emphasized her goal of making the notoriously closed organization a little more democratic. Plans for a similar meeting this year have yet to be announced. Also for the first time this year, all 24 Oscar categories were open to all members and a mailing was sent with screeners including nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, Short and Feature Documentaries, Live Action and Animated shorts. Previously most of these categories were limited to members who attended special screenings.

Hudson got off to a shaky start in 2011 as staff shakeups and private complaints about her management style threatened to disrupt the normally quiet and conservative institution. All that has settled as the Academy membership started embracing change which was not always easy with this group. One example was the introduction of online voting in 2012. The first year was rocky indeed, but things were smoothed out in the last season and there were few complaints about its implementation. Learning curves can sometimes be difficult but Hudson and the Academy leadership weathered the storm. Read More »

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Academy Thanks Members For “Record” Oscar Voting Turnout

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 11:40am PST
Pete Hammond

Just as the final phase of Oscar voting begins today with specially selected uber committees in Los Angeles andOscars 2014 New York picking the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film (out of 9 finalists), Academy CEO Dawn Hudson has announced to her membership that the Academy broke their own voter turnout record. At one point it had seemed to me there might be a smaller turnout since many members told me they hadn’t voted until earlier this week. In fact several mentioned getting frequent phone messages and emails in the last few days urging them to vote. Apparently it had an effect because in a emailed letter this morning that Deadline has acquired Hudson told a different story. “Thank you for voting for the Oscars nominations. Because of you, our polls closed on Wednesday with record voter turnout,” it read. After urging them to watch the nominations announcement next Thursday by President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and actor Chris Hemsworth she concluded, ” It’s been an incredible year of movies, and thanks again for taking the time to watch and vote”.

Dawn Hudson Ric Robertson PortraitsThe Academy isn’t revealing just exactly what percentage of the 6028 eligible members actually cast ballots, but it’s good to know in a very competitive year that they turned out in larger numbers. Last year, the first year of online voting, then-President Hawk Koch told me … Read More »

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Academy CEO Dawn Hudson On Ric Robertson Departure

By | Friday September 6, 2013 @ 3:48pm PDT

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson sent this letter to staff today informing them that Ric Robertson has stepped down as COO.

Dear Staff,

Many of you have asked me about Ric and what’s happening after his time off, and now I have your answer: After 32 years of dedicated service, and three months of rest and reflection, Ric has decided to transition from COO to a consulting role for the Academy.

In his new role, Ric will focus on our show, and the Academy Awards rules and categories. The existing Academy leadership will continue to absorb Ric’s other responsibilities.

It’s always hard when such a valued colleague takes a step back—especially Ric, who is so much a part of the fabric of this organization, and who helped build the Academy to be the great institution that it is.

Ric has been a wonderful friend and partner to me these last couple of years. I know many of you share my feelings, and so I am delighted that he will continue to be involved day-to-day in a number of key areas.

Please see Ric’s letter below.

All best,


Related: Ric Robertson Memo On Academy Exit

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New Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs: “We Are Moving Forward And Evolving” – First Interview

Pete Hammond

In the end it probably was not too surprising that Cheryl Boone Isaacs was elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at last night’s Board of Governors meeting. As I pointed out in my election preview last week, she is the only one in Academy history to have served in every elected office the Academy has – VP, Treasurer, Secretary, Academy Foundation President, First Vice President most recently, and even produced last year’s Governors Awards. That the Board essentially elevated her up one notch to President after her 21 years of service seems a natural. Then again it doesn’t always go down the “natural” way in show business.

Related: Cheryl Boone Isaacs Elected Academy President

But of course her election is historic for another reason. She becomes only the third woman (after Fay Kanin and a combative two-week stint in 1941 for Bette Davis) and first African-American to become Academy President. Much is being made in the media  of the latter distinction, but Boone Isaacs just shrugs it off. With Dawn Hudson as CEO and now Boone Isaacs as President, plus a record 14 women on the Board Of Governors and a meaningful drive toward diversity in the overall membership, it is going to be harder than ever for critics to haul out the usual ‘It’s just an old white man’s club’ description when talking about this new age Academy, even though it is a long way from completely changing its image. But I think more than anything Boone Isaac’s election is a vote for stability in an organization trying to come to grips with a changing business and world. She’s a familiar face, and well-liked within the Academy and that goes a long way in this prestigious position she has now inherited from outgoing one-term President Hawk Koch. When I spoke to Boone Isaacs this morning she was basking in the glory of her election, but definitely looking to the future. Read More »

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Ric Robertson Taking Paid Summer Hiatus From Movie Academy In Financial Crunch

EXCLUSIVE: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences COO Ric Robertson is  taking what’s being internally Ric Robertson paid leave AMPAScalled a “sabbatical” from June through August. I have learned this is an unusual paid leave even though the Academy is complaining about a financial crunch. Normally, its staff are restricted to 30 days of unpaid leave (and then only with approval). “He has worked here for 31 years. Doesn’t he deserve it?” an insider told me. “He didn’t tell us what he’ll do. Maybe work on his golf game.” Robertson’s upcoming sabbatical has prompted AMPAS staff to wonder whether he will be pushed out and/or look for another job. In April 2011, he was passed over for Bruce Davis’ executive directorship and now reports to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, who was brought in over him. Insiders tell me that Robertson was primarily responsible for this year’s online voting debacle, which Hudson dumped in his lap when the Academy finally decided to implement Oscar balloting electronically — something Robertson and Davis resisted for prior years. (Grumbles one insider: “Dawn gives him anything messy that she doesn’t want to deal with or anything that means a lot of real work or anything that has a potential for failure, like the electronic voting.”) Read More »

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Motion Picture Academy Email To Members: ‘We Want You To Be Advocates And Evangelists’

By | Wednesday May 8, 2013 @ 12:07am PDT
Pete Hammond

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is still basking in the glow of its successful Academy general membership meeting on Saturday in LA and NY. So Academy President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson sent out a letter summarizing the event to the Acad’s nearly 6,000-person membership Tuesday night. They noted it was a ”first” in the Academy’s 85 years and indicated the “positive response” may indeed make this an “annual event”. The email recounted some of the “highlights” of the meeting  for ”those of you unable to attend”. This included the decision to send DVDs of nominated Foreign Films and Doc Shorts  to all members, an unprecedented move enabling everyone in the Academy to vote on all 24 categories for the first time ever. It also detailed  lifting numerical quotas for bringing in new members  while not relaxing critieria for membership. And it recounted numerous activities at the Academy including (in just ”the last two weeks”)  film festival grants, fresh collections for its archives, and seminars on new technology and educational programs “to inspire our next generation of filmmakers”. Oddly, the email made no mention of the Academy’s most ambitious activity: the building of a museum, which was a major point of discussion (by Governor Kathleen Kennedy) at the weekend meeting.

Also not mentioned at all in the letter – which came on the eve of the opening of the Cannes Film Festival – was the contentious exchange about the way the Foreign Language film Read More »

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Academy Meeting A Hit Say Hudson, Hawk – But What Did Members Think?

Pete Hammond

Today’s first-ever Academy membership meeting was deemed a success by both Acad President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson, as well as a random sampling of several members with whom I spoke immediately following. Certainly the turnout was stellar with the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre (which has about 1000 seats) nearly full with members only (no guests) which Koch told me was the first time since it was built that the audience was near-SRO with only Academy members. Koch says New York and Bay Area venues were also well-attended which bodes well for continuing this as an annual event. “On a scale from one to ten, I give it a twelve”, said Koch who according to several attendees I talked to got lots of plaudits from those who asked questions in the audience. ”We’ll hear from our members. But in that room there was a lot of love for this event. I don’t think there has ever been an occasion where we just invited members. It was historic in that way. This kind of came out of the branch mixers we have done, and people asked about doing something cross-branches which was sort of the impetus for this meeting”, Hudson told me in a joint call with Koch shortly after the 12:35PM (PT) conclusion of the event. Read More »

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Academy Announces New Rule Changes At Membership Meeting; All Members Can Now Vote On Foreign Language Films

Pete Hammond

The Academy announced rule changes that will allow  all  members for the first time to vote in all 24 categories including Foreign Language and Documentary Shorts, either via theatrical screenings or DVD.  Previously members had to attend special screenings for those two categories. The Academy used the occasion of their membership meeting today to announce the changes. In years past Academy members had to prove attendance to vote in Live Action and Animated shorts as well as Documentary Feature but that was changed last year. Now, as President Hawk Koch just announced at the meeting, all members will have an opportunity to participate in the final vote in Foreign Language and Doc Shorts as well and will be sent DVDs in order to facilitate that. Nomination processes will not change though.

The big news is for Foreign Language films and it could be controversial.  When I proposed this as a possible rule change to one of the major distributors of Foreign Films in February, Sony Pictures Classics Co-President Tom Bernard told me he was adamantly opposed and told me the Foreign Language voting process should only be open to those members who are really passionately involved, arguing that it is a true specialty area that shouldn’t be tampered with.  “I still think it’s important that the process not be frivolous. I still think you need to make sure the people who are going to do this are people that are acclimated to … Read More »

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Academy Gives Details Of Its May Membership Meeting

By | Thursday April 4, 2013 @ 1:03pm PDT
Pete Hammond

As reported here Sunday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is having an unprecedented membership meeting and sent out a save-the-date notice for Saturday, May 4th for Los Angeles-, New York- and Bay Area-based members to attend, have conversations and ask questions about “The Future Of Our Academy”. Today the official invite goes out (check it out below) and lifts the veil on exactly what topics will be covered and why the organization is attempting to do this. As Academy CEO Dawn Hudson explained to me this morning, it is an idea whose time has come. “It’s an idea that many members have talked about to me and to the board. The board has brought it up too. We just felt the time was right now. We talked about doing it I guess since last fall,” she said, adding that the Academy has been hosting individual branch get-togethers and, because of positive reaction, members told her they would like to do something across all branches. So this larger meeting idea was hatched.

Hudson said they needed to wait until the Oscars were over and that no subject is off the table. But on the invite highlighted topics include the new museum, programming, new collections, new technology and other areas like the controversial introduction to e-voting initiated for the first time this past Oscar season. “E-voting was quite successful and we will do a little recap for our members. But really this is to give an overview of what’s coming up in the future”, she said. “This is my mantra. It is what the Academy is doing the other 364 days of the year, and when you talk about those things directly it is quite impressive. Read More »

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Oscars: What Is The Academy’s Unprecedented Membership Meeting Really All About?

Pete Hammond

Speculation has been swirling this Easter holiday weekend in the media and among Academy types just exactly what the Save The Date for the “special event”  the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just sent out to their members (in an email from President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson) actually means. In a highly unusual move for the Acad the organization is holding a general membership meeting for its approximately 6000 members on May 4. The bi-coastal event taking place simultaneously in L.A., NY and San Francisco at 10AM (PT) and 1PM (ET) is titled “The Future Of Our Academy” and will include questions and conversation among those attending  either in L.A. or likely via satellite hookups in the other two cities from what I understand. The actual specifics are being worked out and will be detailed later but clearly the Academy wanted to get this on the out there now for planning purposes. Officially the Acad is mum on any of this except to acknowledge it is happening.

Since the Academy is prominently using the word “future” in promoting this fairly unprecedented event to its elite membership we can probably assume it will not be a post-mortem on the recent – and controversial - Oscar show hosted by Seth MacFarlane which drew strong ratings but a highly mixed response inside and out of the Academy. One member who showed me his “save the date” on his iphone yesterday described … Read More »

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Future Oscar Winners? Academy Celebrates 2012 Nicholl Fellowships In Screenwriting

By | Friday November 9, 2012 @ 5:01pm PST
Pete Hammond

Thursday night one of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ most important events, the 27th Annual Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting named five 2012 fellows to an impressive honor roll that has included writers who eventually penned such films as Little Miss Sunshine, Children Of Men, Twilight, The Bourne Identity, Butter and many television shows including this year’s Emmy winner Homeland. The ceremony at the Regent Beverly Wilshire was opened by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson who announced that these finalists came from a massive 7,197 submissions. “I hope this is the last time you go up against that many people in your career”, she said before introducing producer Gale Anne Hurd, an Academy Governor who heads the Nicholl selection committee.

When the Nicholl fellowships started in 1986 there were only 99 entries but obviously word has gotten out that it’s a good place to be seen if you want a screenwriting career. Hurd pointed out that some 80 feature films written by these writers the Academy program has discovered over the past 27 years have earned $5.37 billion theatrically. She thanked the 173 volunteers from the Academy membership who judged the scripts. Read More »

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Ruby Slippers Are The “Holy Grail” For Academy’s Planned Museum

By | Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 1:11pm PST

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is banking on ruby-red slipper magic to rally support for its proposed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — 70 years after the iconic shoes’ debut in The Wizard Of Oz. Dorothy’s vibrant Technicolor footwear was acquired Wednesday by a group of angel investors led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel and is one of only four pair known to exist. They are primed to be both a centerpiece and rallying cry for the planned museum, located adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  ”(Academy CEO) Dawn Hudson spearheaded the effort to get the shoes, and DiCaprio, Spielberg and Semel stepped in to help,” an Academy spokesperson tells Deadline. “The slippers were a passion for Dawn because she knows the significance they have with the moviegoing public.”

If a price tag can be attributed to sentimental value, then the slippers — known as “The Witch’s Shoes,” considered the finest of the known surviving samples — have cemented their place over the decades. The pair, given their name because they’re the ones the Wicked Witch of the East wore when Dorothy’s house fell on her, sold at auction in 1981 for $12,000, and another surviving pair fetched a cool $666,000 in 2000. In December, said the shoes were set to go under the gavel with an estimated value between $2 million-$3 million. Asked about what DiCaprio, Spielberg and the others ponied up, the Academy … Read More »

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Film Independent Taps Sean McManus And Josh Welsh As Co-Presidents

By | Tuesday January 10, 2012 @ 12:59pm PST

Film Independent said that senior director Sean McManus and director of artist development Josh Welsh have been appointed co-presidents, a new position. That fills the hole left when longtime executive director Dawn Hudson departed in April to take the CEO role at the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. Chairman Bill Condon made the announcement today. The appointments seem to address both the administrative and artist sides of the organization. McManus joined up in 1998 and became senior director in 2006, in which capacity he oversees staff, fund development, marketing and communications, and technology. Since then, the group’s annual budget has grown from $1.6 million to more than $8.5 million. Welsh has overseen and designed the programs for Film Independent’s Filmmaker Labs for Directors, Screenwriters, Producers and Documentarians, Fast Track and the Grants Program, and administers the diversity program Project Involve. He serves as the liaison for filmmakers in the programs and maintains alumni relationships. “We found ourselves uniquely inspired by Sean and Josh’s complimentary talents, their complete dedication, and their combined potential to strengthen Film Independent’s existing programs while developing new initiatives to serve filmmakers’ needs,” said search committee co-chair and board member Alan Poul. “It became clear to the Search Committee that creating a shared leadership position was the best possible way to expand the organization’s reach and carry it into the future.” The indie film organization puts on more than 250 … Read More »

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