Tom Sherak, elected late Tuesday night to a third one-year term as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, spoke with Variety about the prospects for his final stint, including online voting, new rules for Oscar parties and what the end of his tenure will mean for the former studio executive.
You’re term-limited by your number of years as a governor. Would you have gone for a fourth term as president?
Well, I’ll just say that this is the best non-paying job in Hollywood (laughs).
You’ve overseen lots of change in those first two years, between the expansion of Best Picture nominees, the departure of Bruce Davis and the separation of the Governors Awards from the Oscar telecast. What other changes are in store?
We did the ABC contract, which was a good thing for us. I think that in any organization, especially one the size we are now, which is basically a philanthropic organization … you’re going to see some changes. You have to change. It can’t be static. I think that Dawn Hudson’s leadership will help us do that. … One of the things about the Academy, is that because it’s about movies, you fall in love with your job. I’ll bet you couldn’t find a person at the Academy who didn’t want to come to work very day. I said to Dawn, “I know you might not see that at this moment, but you’re going to love what you do.” And you can see form that spark that she’s fallen in love with it already.
We’ve read that AMPAS is considering cracking down on Oscar parties, but it didn’t make Tuesday night’s agenda. Will it be on the agenda anytime soon?
The answer to that question is that those kinds of articles appear all the time. We are constantly trying to fix the rules that don’t work, in every single area, and every single branch has its own rules. We are constantly changing and updating those rules. The rules you’re talking about have been looked at, and we’re trying to create a level playing field.
What about online voting? Will we see that happen in your time?
That’s going to get done in my time. Well … let me clarify. Here’s what’s going to happen in my mind: We are getting closer and closer to being able to test it. Hopefully we’ll be able to test it in the fall or first quarter of next year. And everything will hopefully be in place to institute it for the 2013 show.
Will your role change or evolve in the new structure, with Christina Kounelias, Ric Robertson & Dawn Hudson taking newly created positions?
Nope, not at all. My job is non-paid. My job is to help. I’m a helper. Dawn runs the Academy as the CEO with Ric as her COO. … my job is that if she needs help, I’m there for there. And that the will of the board is followed. So if I see that’s not happening, I’ll step in. But other than that, Dawn runs the place.
What’s the biggest challenge the AMPAS leadership will tackle in the coming year?
I think there’s a couple of things. Outreach is our biggest challenge. Letting the members and the world know exactly what we do. Anywhere I go, I want people to know who we are. We do so many philanthropic things. Yes, the Oscars pays for our existence. But our job is to promote the movie industry; to promote the art of movies. And to promote the science and technology of movies. I don’t think people really understand that we’re not just that one night. … it’s a 365-day-a-year organization. We have one of the largest collections of posters in the world, and the film we help restore is unbelieveable. The money that we spend to restore film … there’s so much stuff that we do, and one of our jobs is to let the people know that. We’re going to go on a college tour with myself and Dawn and Ric and Sid Ganis, going around the country. We just came back from Africa … we have so many great minds and talent in our industry who want to give back.
And where does the museum stand?
The museum stands with two-and-a-half blocks of land on Vine … and right now we’re still spending time thinking about it. Put a pin in it.
Once you’ve left the Academy, will you be able to stay involved in any way?
One of my favorite movies was “MacArthur.” And I’ll never forget Gregory Peck standing in front of a corp of cadets, saying, “Old soldiers don’t die; they just fade away (laughs).”