As Tuesday Board Meeting Nears, The Film Academy’s Soap Opera Continues

When the Daytime Emmys next come around, they should save one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; after all, AMPAS has become one of the best soap operas in town. Infighting. Executive churn. Diversity wars. Legal action. Even an Oscar for the wrong movie. Hollywood’s film academy has seen it all.

On Tuesday, the Academy’s 54-member board of governors will meet for another round of drama, before replacing almost a third of its members from a slate of candidates that includes Hawk Koch, a former Academy president; Rob Friedman, who once ran for president against the now-retiring president Cheryl Boone Isaacs; Michael De Luca, who helped produce the Oscar show that erroneously crowned La La Land as Best Picture; Geena Davis, a prominent diversity hawk; John Ridley, who won an Oscar for writing 12 Years a Slave back when the Academy was reputedly a white man’s club; and Whoopi Goldberg, who already has two Daytime Emmys, one for talking it up on The View, the other for a special about a fellow black Oscar winner, Hattie McDaniel.

The new board, whose makeup will be disclosed after July 4 (assuming PricewaterhouseCoopers doesn’t mix up the envelopes again), should have lots of dramatic potential. The old one, meanwhile, will be tying up plot lines, more than a few of which were spun around the tense relationship between Boone Isaacs during her four-year presidency — she now is termed out as president and has decided not to stand for re-election to her board seat, though she is still eligible — and Dawn Hudson, who has been the Academy’s paid chief executive since 2011.

Dawn Hudson Academy

By all accounts, Hudson’s contract for a third three-year term, running until 2020, is set. But that didn’t happen without some good, soapy turmoil. According to people briefed on the matter, Hudson’s renewal was slow to materialize, threatening the sort of Sturm und Drang that wracked the Academy in 2014, when Boone Isaacs and other governors questioned renewal. Hudson narrowly prevailed, but not without some politicking that raised eyebrows when her emails with a supporter, then-governor Amy Pascal, surfaced in the Sony hack.

An Academy spokeswoman declined to comment. But this time around, according to people briefed on the matter, Hudson insisted that she was entitled to a professional job review, not simply an assessment by the elected officers, as has happened in the past. The board, which had been casting a worried eye on  the growing expense and stalled fund-raising for the Academy’s yet-to-be-seen movie museum, complied. So recent weeks found Academy insiders pouring their opinions about Hudson into a hopper overseen by PSI Services, a Glendale-based assessment firm that has worked with Verizon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology, among others.

Needless to say, the review — of whose results we are blissfully ignorant — generated still more plot lines within the Academy. Hudson knew the names of at least some who were participating in her evaluation. She suggested others who might contribute. Not all were without presumably helpful criticism.

The review already has gone to the officers. Whether the full board will consider it on Tuesday or what its impact might be remains unclear; the contract renewal is said to be a done deal, so any conclusions would appear to be purely advisory. Still, according to several people, Hudson’s involvement with the ever-expanding museum will change, and perhaps diminish, when the project soon gets a much-delayed governing board of its own.

As if that weren’t drama enough, the Academy governors also will make decisions  Tuesday about the annual new-member invitations. Word has it that this year’s list, in keeping with an ongoing diversity push, again will be a large one. The publicity branch alone has been talking about adding 40-60 new members, an expansion of as much as 15 percent. “You won’t be disappointed,” said one person briefed on the process, offering assurance for those who seek more growth in an institution that currently has about 6,700 members.

Indeed. With another 50 publicists in the mix — plus, just possibly, the vibrant Ms. Goldberg — more drama is a given.

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