As president of the Motion Picture Academy, Tom Sherak was very much the guiding force behind presenting Dawn Hudson to the board of governors before their ratifying vote Thursday night. The meeting lasted more than five hours before they brought new CEO Dawn Hudson and her COO partner Ric Robertson in to meet their applause some time before midnight.
Governors James L. Brooks, Sid Ganis, Howard Koch, Phil Robinson and Annette Bening were among the 36 out of 43 members on hand to vote for the new executive director to replace outgoing Bruce Davis. Hudson “has the spirit, passion, determination, smarts and ability to communicate to be a great CEO of that organization,” says Sherak, who is voted into his unpaid part-time position by the Academy governors to make sure that the Academy officers run the organization as they should. “And Ric Robertson will be a great part of guiding that organization with her.”
Outside headhunter Spencer Stuart vetted about 100 people; Sherak and others met with a much smaller number. By the time they got to the board meeting, Sherak had already convinced 30-year Academy vet Robertson to work under Hudson, should it go that way. “The board and the officers thought the time had come to look outside,” Sherak says. “Maybe we needed someone who could be part of what we are and take us where we’ll be going as the business changes. We need more outreach in the technology area, to be more aggressive than we have been.”
Adds Ganis, a board member at Film Independent and former Academy president who pushed for Hudson: “It’s a great move for us: two powerful people running the day-to-day world of the Academy, both of them bonafide card-carrying film lovers. One of them is devoted and conversant with everything Academy, that’s Ric Robertson, the other, Dawn Hudson, is this incredible woman who has done a stellar job making Film Independent the great institution it is today.”
Hudson will be administrating the Academy and its 250 staffers at the library, main offices on Wilshire, and small offices in New York and London, but they won’t be making policy. “She’ll be able to put all the right pegs in the right holes,” says Sherak.
As for the Academy’s goal to improve the Oscars (the largest non-sports show on TV with 38 million viewers last year), that is Sherak’s job. He hires the producers who in turn choose the hosts. Hudson and Robertson are certainly involved. “Every year you learn something about how to make the show more appetizing,” says Sherak, who remains determined to improve and experiment as they try to bring more young viewers to the show. “That younger audience is going to get older.”
Hudson will have to become acquainted, with Robertson’s help, with the myriad rules and regulations of all the committees of the various Academy branches. Changing the controversial rules of the foreign, music and documentary branches, especially, is always on the table. Hudson and Robertson can express their views at each of the meetings, but the Board of Governors make the last determination on any changes.