Netflix Disruptor Ted Sarandos Chases Slot on Academy Board of Governors

Changing times: Academy head Cheryl Boone Isaacs will step down, and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos wants to be a board member.
Ted Sarandos
Ted Sarandos

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, will step down in August. Nor is she seeking a third three-year term on the 54-member Academy Board of Governors. And with that, let the games begin.

The question of who will replace Isaacs is on the table. You have to be on the board in order to run for Academy president, who serves at the pleasure of the board for no more than four one-year terms.

And among those who are eyeing an active role on the board is none other than Ted Sarandos, content czar of Netflix — the same organization that spent the week shaking its fist at the Cannes Film Festival for “closing ranks” with a new ruling that only films that commit to French theatrical distribution may participate in future festivals.

Sarandos is the fox in the Academy henhouse, the disruptor who is threatening the Hollywood studios in both television and movies. While the Academy is fighting to save the theatrical motion picture model against online streaming, Sarandos doesn’t want to book movies in theaters at all. While Sarandos is an old friend of AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson from her Film Independent days, it’s very unlikely that Hollywood executives would vote him in.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Dawn HudsonOscar Nominee Luncheon, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 6 Feb 2017
Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Dawn HudsonChelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

Among the writers branch candidates, more likely to be voted into board contention are Larry Karaszewski (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”), Aline Brosh McKenna (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), and John Ridley (Oscar-winner for “12 Years a Slave” and show-runner of ABC’s “American Crime”), who have put in the majority of their time on television of late. This is a reality of the entertainment industry today.

Also vying to be selected by their branch to run for the board are Sony Pictures Classics and CBS Films executives Michael Barker and Terry Press, Weta VFX master Joe Letteri, 19 producers including Jason Blum, Paula Wagner, Marcia Nasitir, and Michael De Luca (who co-produced the Oscars), directors Kimberly Peirce, Kasi Lemmons, and Brett Ratner, cinematographer Mandy Walker, documentary filmmakers Lucy Walker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and Morgan Spurlock, and actors Whoopi Goldberg, Geena Davis, Queen Latifah, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Rita Wilson (husband Tom Hanks already reps the branch on the board).

Former officers Rob Friedman (who ran against Isaacs in 2013), Dick Cook, and past president Hawk Koch are also seeking a board return. On the other hand, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland and publicist branch member Sid Ganis, a former president, are not seeking board slots, and writer Phil Alden Robinson has termed out.

The field of contenders for 17 open seats on the board will be culled down to just four candidates for each branch. Nine incumbents are seeking reelection, and there are eight open races with no incumbent. Nominations voting opens Monday, May 15 and runs through Friday, May 19. For the Board of Governors finals election, each branch selects one person to serve a three-year term. Finals voting opens Monday, June 19 and runs through Friday, June 23.

Officers of the Board of Governors serve one-year terms, for a maximum of four consecutive years. They are elected by the board at their first meeting in early August.

Big Little Lies Season 1 Laura Dern
Among the names being circulated as likely presidential candidates are board secretary David Rubin of the casting directors branch, and actress Laura Dern — herself the daughter of Oscar-nominated actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd.

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