Why John Bailey Is the Academy’s New President

The cinematographer brings experience and will fight for the interests of the below the line crafts at the Academy.
John Bailey and Lawrence KasdanAmerican Society of Cinematographers 29th Annual Outstanding Achievement Awards, Los Angeles, America - 15 Feb 2015
John Bailey
Picture Perfect/REX/Shutterstock

When the Academy Board of Governors convened Tuesday night to pick the 34th AMPAS president, all eyes were on Laura Dern as the frontrunner. Instead, the outcome was a surprise: While three potential candidates had emerged from the 54-member body, including popular actors branch governor Dern, with her career in full-throttle she declined her nomination and supported casting director David Rubin, who was eventually elected Treasurer. Documentarian Rory Kennedy did not get an expected nomination; instead cinematographer John Bailey ran against Rubin.

Finally the board voted for Bailey, who represents the 7000-member Academy’s still-dominant constituents: older white men. At age 74, Bailey replaces publicity executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs (the third woman and first African American to hold the post) who leaves the board after a tumultuous four-year term.

During that time, she and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson spearheaded a concerted drive to add more diversity to the Academy, urging the 17 branches to actively recruit a younger and more inclusive membership from all over the world. Isaacs also presided over the infamous last Oscar show, with its viral Pricewaterhousecoopers snafu with the Best Picture envelope. Otherwise, the show was deemed enough of a success to bring back both producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd and host Jimmy Kimmel for the 90th Academy Awards March 4, 2018.

Why did Bailey win? Solid experience. As he begins his first term as president, he’s in his fourteenth year as a governor representing the Cinematographers Branch. Many on the board have worked and served with him since he first joined in 1996. (He has two more years on the board before term limits require that he take a year off.) His credits include “Ordinary People,” “American Gigolo,” “The Big Chill,” “Groundhog Day,” “As Good as It Gets,” “The Anniversary Party,” “The Way Way Back” and “A Walk in the Woods.” In 2014, he received the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the end, Bailey and Rubin’s below-the-line board faction won the day. They will seek to protect the crafts at the Academy. Where Hudson’s cherished inclusion initiatives go from here remains to be seen.

With Dern turning down the chance to run for president, the Academy CEO lost an ally. She has one in Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy, who is running the museum committee. After six years, Hudson had to fight to be reinstated as CEO until 2020, as her efforts to build the $400 million Academy museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art faced considerable controversy. That is the most important project ahead for Hudson, Bailey and the board.

Also elected to officer positions by the Board:

Lois Burwell, First Vice President (chair, Awards and Events Committee)
Kathleen Kennedy, Vice President (chair, Museum Committee)
Michael Tronick, Vice President (chair, Preservation and History Committee)
Nancy Utley, Vice President (chair, Education and Outreach Committee)
Jim Gianopulos, Treasurer (chair, Finance Committee)
David Rubin, Secretary (chair, Membership and Administration Committee)

Gianopulos, Kennedy, Rubin, Utley were re-elected to their posts. This will be the first officer stint for Burwell and Tronick.

Academy board members may serve up to three consecutive three-year terms, while officers serve one-year terms, with a maximum of four consecutive years in any one office.

A full listing of the Academy’s 2016-17 Board of Governors is here.

Read more: 2018 Oscar Predictions.

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