Locarno: AMPAS Amps Up Euro Presence (EXCLUSIVE)

Academy to host Paris event, Europe head Carola Ash attending Locarno

LOCARNO – The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) is launching its first membership event in Paris as it pushes to expand its operations in Europe, in synch with an ever more global movie industry.

In another instance of its hiked presence in Europe, Carola Ash, AMPAS director of membership and programming, Europe, will attend Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival this weekend to survey talent and put out the word about the advantages of AMPAS membership.

Taking place Oct. 16 at the Mona Bismarck American Center for Art and Culture, which is dedicated to enhance American-French relations, the Paris AMPAS event will target the second largest AMPAS national membership in Europe after the U.K., Ash told Variety.

Both AMPAS chief executive Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Isaacs are scheduled to attend. Event will be open to other AMPAS members in Europe. Ash said one objective of the meet is for Hudson and Bone Isaacs to update French Academy members, some of whom rarely get to L.A., about the state of play on the Academy’s multiple activities, such as the Academy Museum, designed by Renzo Piano, which AMPAS describes as the world’s leading movie museum, located at its historic Wilshire May Company building. Construction was approved by the Los Angeles City Council this June.

“We’re not necessarily looking to expand membership,” Ash said. “But we are looking for interesting filmmakers.”

And AMPAS, once seen as a highly American institution, is most certainly driving for more diversity, she added. That diversification is not only in race and gender but geography, recognizing more international talent: The Paris event and Ash’s Locarno attendance comes in a year when 37% of Oscar nominees, led by the U.K., came from Europe, Ash said.

“There is a misconception that you have to be an Oscar winner in order to join the Academy. Well, no. It’s a membership organization recognizing excellence in film. I’ve certainly met people with good enough credits for them to apply and a few whom I urged to apply got in this year, which is really great,” ash said, explaining that she does not choose members, AMPAS only recognizes work in film, and membership decisions are made by the AMPAS board.

As part of the international outreach, AMPAS is studying attending more festivals, Ash added. At Locarno, her aim is “to meet new filmmakers and be aware of their talent. At Cannes, you might see a film, but never get to meet the filmmakers. At Locarno, access is easier.”

Being an AMPAS member has “prestige,” Ash said. It can also open doors, and encourages “connectivity” with other Academy members, she added.

“Members also have the ability to vote on films and their fellow members and, from what I have seen in the U.K., take it very seriously, attending screenings whenever they can.”

Looking to expand AMPAS’ Europe operations, in London, Ash launched an Oscar night Oscar party, a nominees’ lunch and a welcome-new-members event. Held last Octobrr, a reception for new members and industry friends took place at 11 Downing Street and was attended by Chancellor George Osborne and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, Hudson, and thesps Lupita Nyong’o, Robert Duvall and Rosamund Pike.

This year, AMPAS will organize a new members reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence during the London Film Festival. “We are trying to connect and collaborate with other like-minded institutions such as the British Film Institute where AMPAS has its London base,” Ash said.

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