EXCLUSIVE: Few things in Hollywood are more secret than the Board Of Governors meetings of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In fact, an insider tells me that, at one of the most recent conclaves, AMPAS President Hawk Koch ”went around the room asking if ‘anybody is friends with Nikki Finke?’ before beginning.” (Related: Hey, Academy, I Was Hiding Under The Rug) So let me tell you what was discussed at a recent session:
— Governors argued pro and con instituting a so-called ‘conflict of interest’ clause for themselves. At the present time, they do not have one. “This was specifically related to Academy Board Members receiving lucrative contracts from the Academy for things like behind-the-scenes footage, Oscars documentaries, etc. And they’re having first dibs on these contracts,” my insider tells me, clarifying, “The argument for adding a conflict of interest clause was that ‘it looks bad that we don’t have one’ and ‘would be bad publicity if it got out’. The argument against a conflict of interest clause was this: that although it may look bad, every member on the board is talented and should be allowed to work for the Academy if the Academy deems them worthy and fit to do so.” The suggested solution was allowing governors to take a leave of absence from the board to work on projects which the Academy directly underwrites. I’m told one Governor in particular is shooting a behind-the-Oscars TV documentary for the Turner Classic Movies cable channel to air during the next awards season “and the board unanimously voted to allow him to be grandfathered in,” according to my source. No final decision was made.
— Governors at the board meeting discussed the failure by the 2013 Academy Awards’ In Memoriam segment to mention prominent Latina actress Lupe Ontiveros and how that snub “may have damaged their appeal to Latin Americans,” my insider says. The governors decided “that they need to reach out to minorities more often. And they joked about the Academy being an old white guy club and how that appears to other demographics.” Outrage erupted after the Mexican-American star with a career spanning four decades in movies/TV died in July at age 69 but was omitted from the tribute sequence. Latino viewers took their protests to Twitter and an open letter addressed to the Academy was written by Alex Nogales, CEO/president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. He noted that Ontiveros had applied for AMPAS membership and been denied, despite the support of Miguel Sandoval and Edward James Olmos. In April, members of the National Latino Media Council met with AMPAS bigwigs to discuss the dustup and find ways to increase Latino representation among Academy membership. Ontiveros is best known for Selena, As Good As It Gets, Real Women Have Curves and The Goonies but she made hundreds of films and TV shows.
— The Governors also debated allowing other mediums to be nominated for Academy Awards, not just theatrical releases but also New Media films. Michael Moore, who’s on the AMPAS Board, strenuously objected. He held up his iPhone and said, “If I’m watching Spartacus on this, I’m watching something. But it’s not a movie. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s not a movie.” Moore did suggest the Academy create a fund to financially help small market theaters transition from print to digital. Many disagreed inside the meeting, saying “This shouldn’t be the Academy’s responsibility”. Moore argued that less people seeing movies in the theater, and especially in mom and Pop venues, isn’t good for anybody.