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

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.

DEADLINE: What was it like when you learned you had been elected?
CHERYL BOONE ISAACS: It was very exciting and a little bit of an out-of-body experience. I wished I had a camera to watch myself. I am so honored. You know I have been part of this organization for such a long time and I have great respect for it. I am beyond thrilled and just grateful that I am going to be part of it even in a bigger way than I have been through the years. There will always be new challenges but I do have an understanding of this organization and its tradition and certainly with that tradition of moving the organization into the future.

DEADLINE: The Academy has been moving at a faster pace recently than in the past. Is continuing that part of your agenda?
CBI: Certainly I will be involved in the movement forward. It’s only been 12 hours so far for me to really get immersed. It’s like everything. We evolve and keep moving forward. Member engagement is at the forefront of our agenda, and the museum. And of course the next generation of filmmakers. All of those things propel this organization forward.

DEADLINE: How important is the museum for the Academy in your view?
CBI: It’s very important. We really need to have a world famous museum. I don’t think anybody can think of a better organization to be at the forefront of building, producing and opening a museum. It’s perfect for the Academy and I have been involved obviously but now even more. It’s a great thing. It’s great for our industry, our city, the state, the country and for the world. I think we all believe it will be a tremendous hit right off the bat. We have a great story to tell, in fact many stories to tell as it relates to our members and the branches and the skill and the expertise that it takes to mount a motion picture. It is a part of our legacy and the motion picture business, and its impact on culture around the world.

DEADLINE: The media is making a lot of the fact you are the first African-American and only the third woman to lead the Academy. And the Academy has been very visible leading a movement for diversity within its ranks. How important has that been to you?
CBI: It’s a great thing. I certainly applaud our past presidents and Dawn in their efforts to diversify our members and our leadership. It’s been successful. We will always look for the cream of the crop, the very best and the folks at the top of their profession. What has been terrific is how many women have come in. We need to really pump up the diversity of minorities that continue to make movies and welcome as many as possible into the Academy. It is really the advancement of women and minorities within the industry across the board and that’s what great. It’s about making opportunities and leadership throughout our industry which then would impact the involvement here within the Academy.

DEADLINE: The Presidency of the Academy in recent years has evolved into almost a full-time position. Will you follow that?
CBI: I am going to be extremely active and I will be here most of the time. Although I have held most of the positions here it is not the same as being President. I am on a learning curve about my day-to-day right now. We’ll see. There’s  so much and we have made tremendous strides in the last couple of years and we will continue to. I am here 100% as we go through changes and evolution of this great organization.

DEADLINE: Do you plan to make the membership meeting that took place in LA, NY and SF in May an annual event?
CBI: It was very successful. It was terrific. It is on my list of things to get to and figure out if, and when (we do it again).

DEADLINE: And what about the Oscar show? What are your plans on involvement in that. You already have the producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron returning. You don’t have to worry about that part of it.
CBI: Yes, isn’t that wonderful? As you well know that train is moving. I am probably meeting with them today and we’ll be on that train, down those tracks together.

DEADLINE: There was some criticism from different quarters about bringing them back to produce the show again. Are you supportive of the decision and how heavily will you be involved?
CBI: Fully supportive. Yes. I know they will deliver a terrific show. The Oscar show is being produced by Craig and Neil. As President of the Academy we will be in constant communication with the producers of the show. I haven’t sat down yet with them  but I will be brought up to speed as to what they’ve been doing and how they are proceeding and I am looking forward to it.

DEADLINE: Any ideas for a host?
CBI: Well we’ll see. I will find out what they’ve been up to and we will announce it when it’s ready.

DEADLINE: Would you support any change in the structure of the show such as taking certain categories off the actual telecast?
CBI: No. That’s a simple no.

DEADLINE: The Board also made news by creating a brand new branch of the Academy for Casting Directors  and that will mean three new Governors as well. Is this a good thing?
CBI: It’s a terrific move. The casting directors play an essential role in the filmmaking process. They are very valuable. It’s absolutely terrific.

  1. Congratulation to Miss Isaacs for earning her place at the helm of one of Hollywood’s most prestigious vessels! (Hoping this post of accolades will get me invited to Elton John’s Oscar party.)

  2. AN interesting choice for the Academy. And while it might seem progressive, she doesn’t seem to have much in the way of actual credit history on projects. IMDB lists her as “miscellaneous crew” on 3 titles, and “thanks” in 2 others. Not that much.

    But what Ms. Boone-Isaacs seems to have is experience in a variety of Association positions. In many professional associations, some members often work their way through the ranks of elected association positions, without a lot of actual work experience in that industry. It happens all the time. And when these folks end up running that association, there are often concerns about that association’s direction, given the lack of practical experience at the top.

    I’m not saying this will happen at the Academy. But it would be interesting to see a survey of past presidents to see if anyone had less industry experience than her.

    1. You are deeply ignorant of this business and our community. You have no justifiable reason to post anything on an industry forum.

    2. She was a marketing executive at two major studios. Marketing executives don’t get IMDb credits since those are for creatives. Take the Hollywood 101 course before your next post.

  3. This woman’s film publicity, studio marketing and such go back deep and profound to marquee successes like Forrest Gump and beyond.

    Just say you’re picking her apart because she looks suspicious to you, because you just can’t see how a black woman got to where she is.

    There’s no other logical reason for your comment. Not even plain old stupidity covers that.

    Read her freakin bio at the Oscars site at least before trashing someone’s background because YOU don’t know of her. There’s obviously a whole lot you don’t know. Pathetic.

    Glad it’s a qualified person.

  4. Sly, you have no concept about the industry or how things work! Cheryl has over 30 years of solid hands-on experience in the industry including heading World Wide Publicity for Paramount Pictures and being president of Marketing for New Line Cinema. She has guided several films to best picture wins and numerous others to dozens of Oscar wins. She has worked with just about every major star, and director in the business. She produced last years Governors Awards show as well, not to mention serving as a board member for 21 years. What more does one need to do?

  5. Bravo to the previous posters. And let me add that virtually all the studios forbid their executives from taking screen credit in any movie (unless they appear on-camera). And I know this from first-hand experience, because I co-produced three movies and received no billing for any of them.

  6. Yes, but the real question is can ANY Academy president reign in the bloated 3-plus hour annual event that is the Oscars telecast? What used to be something to look forward to has become an almost unwatchable broadcast. It needs a serious re-formatting.

  7. More than a color, or gender we would love to see, someone come up some fresh creative and stimulating ideas and progressive action. How ones mind is going to function os our concern. Are major, and unprecedented changes going to happen? That isthe question. So we are grabbing front row seats, popcorn and its lights, camera, action.:-)

  8. Hello, Cheryl!! Greetings and congratulations from me and your hometown of Springfield, Mass.!!! And us graduates of Classical High School in Springfield are certainly proud and in awe of all your accomplishments!!! The story of your appointment to the Academy was featured on the front page of the springfield Republican this morning!! It’s all so thrilling for all of us to read about you!! Congratulations again! Sincerely, David Potter

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