Sherak sees AMPAS reaching out to new members, ideas

With new leadership running the org, “there’s a fundamental shift going on” at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, said prexy Tom Sherak, referring to the April hiring of Dawn Hudson as CEO and promotion of Ric Robertson as chief operating officer of the nonprofit.

Addressing an audience during the keynote of Variety and Stradella Road’s Film Marketing Summit at the Hilton Los Angeles, Sherak spoke of the need for AMPAS to recruit younger members and reach out to burgeoning filmmakers at colleges across the country to educate them on the Academy.

“A lot of people think (AMPAS’ membership is) very old, but it’s getting younger,” Sherak said. “It’s not easy to get into the Academy; it’s not supposed to be. But we want younger members, people of color.”

Sherak and AMPAS boardmember Sid Ganis will hit the road Oct. 16 to discuss the various activities of the org with students at Boston U., Emerson College and Harvard U., in Boston; and New York City’s NYU and Columbia U., among others.

Similarly, “we need to take this organization into the next decade,” by embracing new media and launching a new website, while also considering moves like whether to allow AMPAS’ more than 6,000 members to submit their Oscar votes electronically, Sherak said.

Even with digital streaming, AMPAS won’t eliminate the distribution of DVDs to Acad members, although it prefers members to see films in theaters. “If today I said there will be no more DVDs, I’d be in the witness protection program. You can’t do that. It’s something you have to live with,” Sherak said.

Sherak stressed it was important for members not to consider AMPAS as just “an org that sends out tapes when you become a member. That really gets in my craw.”

Instead, he stressed the org’s role in restoring films like the 1927 silent “Wings,” the first best picture winner, which will eventually unspool in theaters. “To go forward, you need the past,” Sherak said.

Despite demands to change up the Oscar telecast, “the most important thing we do is give Oscars out to 24 categories,” Sherak said. “That will never change.”

Hiring Brett Ratner as producer of the upcoming Oscar telecast continues AMPAS’ move to court a younger audience for the show that attracted 39 million viewers in the U.S. this year, Sherak said.

But the org does admit it needs to make the show appeal more to teens and twentysomethings. It’s one reason “marketing has gotten more aggressive over the past three years,” he said. “How do we get them interested? It’s not easy.”

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