The would-be candidates for 17 open slots on the 54-member Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be off and running, come 9:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday.
On Friday, the Academy notified members that so-called “opt-in” voting for the board seats will be active through what used to be called the “work week,” until coronavirus muddled such distinctions.
The voting period closes at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. Until then, contenders from among 9,000 or so active or lifetime members can propose themselves for a spot representing their individual professional branches, in what might be the most consequential election in modern Academy history. Oscar ratings and income are down. Debt is up. The pandemic has already forced a temporary restructuring of the Academy Awards process, and may compel deeper revisions before the next show on Feb. 28.
The moment certainly calls for leadership.
Under the Academy’s prior three-step voting process, self-proposed contenders were weeded out in a qualifying round that allowed up to four official candidates for each spot. Under a revised process this year, as the Academy told members earlier this month, the opt-in candidates will go directly to a round of preferential voting on June 1. (Three governors are appointed, not elected, to fill special diversity slots; those are not currently up for grabs.)
Governors may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms. So this time around, three current governors will be termed out. Those are Kathryn L. Blondell of the makeup artists and hairstylists branch, Lora Kennedy of the casting directors, and Michael Tronick from the film editors.
Eligible for re-election are another 14 current governors whose terms are expiring: Kate Amend (documentary branch), Albert Berger (producers), Charles Bernstein (music), Teri E. Dorman (sound), Richard Edlund (visual effects), Whoopi Goldberg (actors), Larry Karaszewski (writers), Christina Kounelias (marketing and public relations), David Linde (executives), Isis Mussenden (costume designers), Kimberly Peirce (directors), Tom Sito (short films and animation), Wynn P. Thomas (production design), and Mandy Walker (cinematographers).
For those who have a hard time following the Academy’s increasingly complex governing structure (myself included), here’s a simple recap:
The Board of Governors oversees a professional staff of about 350 employees under the supervision of chief executive officer Dawn Hudson. It also elects a nine-member board of trustees to oversee the Academy Foundation, which in turn elects or ratifies boards for the Academy Museum Foundation (which had around 90 employees at year’s end), the Archival Foundation, and the Vine Street Archive Foundation.
While the big issues will undoubtedly be debt, completion of the Academy museum, and preservation of the faltering Oscars, other questions are very much in the air. Will leaders, as some have asked, become more transparent, or will they preserve confidentiality strictures that often conceal decision-making from the members? Will membership, now approaching 10,000 when associates and at-large members are counted, continue to grow at the recent, very rapid clip? Will an expanding contingent of international members—who helped make South Korea’s Parasite this year’s Best Picture—finally claim a place on a board that remains almost entirely domestic, and mostly Los Angeles-based?
The Academy’s annual exercise in (somewhat lumbering) institutional democracy should tell.