The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences moves forward today with notification to all branches of the finalists in the 2016 Board Of Governors election, in most cases four final contenders in each of the 17 branches. As Deadline was first to report exclusively on April 7, the Academy made a major sea change in the way these elections are conducted, for the first time opening up the contest to every one of the 6,000-plus voting members of the organization.
Previously, it was generally a nominating committee within each branch that selected candidates to run for Board seats. Now, democracy has taken over, as the Academy encouraged all members to get involved, and many more did put their hat in the ring resulting in a vote from each branch for today’s finalists. The Academy elects one-third of its Board each year, with winners serving three-year terms and eligible to run three times before being termed out for a year.
Among notables on the list of candidates is the highest profile name, Steven Spielberg, who is running for Kathryn Bigelow’s seat in the Directors Branch (she is not going for re-election). He’ll compete against John Badham, Thomas Carter and Lisa Cholodenko. Past President Hawk Koch, who may have eyes on running again for President when Cheryl Boone Isaac’s presumed fourth term is up in 2017, is trying to return to the Board’s Producers Branch just as he attempted in last year’s election. He faces incumbent and chair of the Foreign Language Committee Mark Johnson, Paula Wagner and Stephanie Allain, the latter one of the very few African
Americans who made the cut despite the well-publicized diversity push by the Academy for more minority representation in the group. Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams, whose new film Life, Animated is a must see for anyone who cares about great documentaries, is another African American in the running, competing against past Documentary Branch board members Michael Apted and Rob Epstein along with one of this year’s Doc Feature nominees Liz Garbus (What Happened Miss Simone?). Williams became the first African American director to actually win an Oscar in 2010 for his doc short Music By Prudence. In an effort to increase diversity on the Board, the Academy’s current BOG voted to create three new Governor positions which were announced recently that went to African American Reginald Hudlin, Latino Gregory Nava and Asian Jennifer Yuh Nelson. It’s a good thing because this year’s group of candidates doesn’t promise to make a significant difference in that regard although there continues to be a significant influx of female candidates which can only be counted as some nice progress on the Acad’s part.
If there was an effort to mirror this year’s Presidential election where the establishment appears to be on the ropes, at least in the primary process, the Academy isn’t throwing out the incumbents – at least not yet. Ten incumbents are back in the running for the Board including Ed Begley Jr. (Actors), John Bailey (Cinematographers), Judianna Makovsky (Costume Designers), Jan Pascale (Production Designers), Amy Pascal (Executives), Bill Corso (Makeup and Hair Stylists), Mark Johnson (producers), Nancy Utley (Public Relations), Jon Bloom (Short Films And Feature Animation) and Robin Swicord ( Writers). The latter is competing with past Governor James L. Brooks, James Schamus and Larry Karaszweski (who narrowly lost a seat last year to Billy Ray in a rare run-off).
One of the most interesting races will be in the Public Relations branch where Fox Searchlight co-President Nancy Utley will be vying for a second three year term against former Board member and presidential candidate Rob Friedman , now co-Chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. He could also be vying to return to the BOG with presidential ambitions next year. Both Utley and Friedman are former marketers who made their way into the PR branch with those credentials but now run major film companies. They will be vying with PR veteran Tony Angellotti (among other clients he is the consultant for Universal live action and Pixar/Disney animation awards campaigns) who could become a first-timer to the BOG after serving many years on the PR Executive Committee. Finally there is Bruce Feldman, a PR veteran who now consults as well as runs a specialty gift business, perhaps the most outspoken candidate of all. He has aggressively run for this position, spelling out on a platform specific things he would do, and sometimes vocally opposing Board actions in the past. In a way he is the Trump card in the PR race, an anti-establishment candidate looking to shake things up. By making it this far (there were reportedly over 40 contenders in the PR branch alone) he is proving that making a little noise can have an effect. It got Feldman all the way to this point.
Voting among each branch for their new – or returning – Governor starts June 29 with ballots due on July 12. Final results will be announced on July 21. The election for Academy President where Boone Isaacs will be running for her fourth and final one-year term will be in August. Further, names of the first new batch of Academy members accepted since the organization launched an international search to significantly increase the numbers of minority and women members (following the latest #OscarsSoWhite controversy) is expected later this month.