Today’s announcement revealing the results of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences‘ annual Board Of Governors election was a historic one, at least as far as women and their power position in the organization is concerned. That is something that makes outgoing President Hawk Koch very happy. He particularly praised the increased numbers of female members when we spoke earlier today. “We have the first female Executive branch Governor since Mary Pickford (a founding member in 1927) in (Sony Co-Chairman) Amy Pascal. Amy is only the second female executive (branch governor) in our history and I want to tell you that we are all excited about that. That’s big. We never had more than 9 women before , now we have 14. 30% of our Board is now women. It really reflects our industry, and I think members have been hearing the mantra that Dawn (CEO Hudson) and I have been talking about. Equal representation. We should be reflecting the industry,” he said adding he thinks the makeup of the new Board is anything but status quo and should continue all the forward movement. Certainly with 14 women on the Board it will be harder for critics to continue calling the Academy “an old white man’s club”. Pascal replaces Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos, who was termed out after nine years on the Board. One major studio head stepping in for another. Koch said he and Hudson had been talking to Pascal for a long while and she was “very excited to run” but he noted that the Academy leadership does not “recruit” industry heavyweights. It is up to them to jump into the election.
Koch, who is also termed out and can’t run for re-election when a new President will be selected on July 30th (by this new Board), says it is important that there is a BOG that’s completely engaged at a crucial time for the Academy. “I think this Board will continue what Dawn and I have tried to do this last year with more engagement, working on the Museum, working to diversify,” he said and that includes the gender gap.
Speaking of that, among other notable developments on the new BOG was the election of first-time Governor Nancy Utley in the Public Relations Branch which also includes Lionsgate head Rob Friedman and Marketing consultant Cheryl Boone Isaacs, neither up for re-election this time. Both are expected to be put in nomination for the next Academy President. With Friedman, and now Fox Searchlight Co-President Utley, the PR branch is top heavy with top execs. How did that happen? Koch says they both started out in the PR area and never switched their branch. Obviously the PR Branch members who voted them in do not think it’s a problem having studio heads repping their interests on the Board. Former President Sid Ganis, a producer, also came out of the PR Branch as it appears will happen again this year with frontrunners Friedman and Boone Isaacs duking it out to replace Koch. The Academy has had only two female Presidents in their past, Bette Davis (very briefly) in the 30′s and the late Fay Kanin who will be the subject of a memorial tribute tonight produced by the Academy and the Writers Guild. By the way Koch points out that voter turnout in this Governors election was the highest in the history of the Academy, another encouraging trend he says in getting rank and file members involved in the Academy’s activities.
Also of note Documentary branch member Michael Moore ran for re-election but lost to another Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. Was Moore just too controversial for the Board? Koch says no. “I don’t think so at all. He was a big plus in Board meetings and he was great. There’s a lot more new members of the documentary branch… I bet Michael will be back on the Board one day,” he said.
As for Koch himself he told me he may also do the same thing. “Do I hope to come back one day as a Board member? Sure. I have given a lot to the Academy and I love it,” he said.