New Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences CEO Bill Kramer has been a quick study. He had been working with the Academy, for better or worse, when he was running the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, so he already had a good sense of who he liked dealing with and not. He’s been promoting from within, brought over his Museum chief of staff, and is reaching out to members, booking countless meetings over the past weeks.
For years many in the Academy, which is a member-run organization, have felt that it lacks transparency. Some have described the Academy and its CEO, president, and 54-member Board of Governors as dealing with the membership from an Ivory Tower.
Having reached 10,000 members, Kramer’s task is to find ways to communicate better with them. While each of the 17 branches of the Academy elects three representatives to the Board of Governors, many do not feel like their wishes and grievances are being heard. Kramer is listening. Even Oscar-winning producer and Academy gadfly Michael Shamberg (“Erin Brockovich,” “The Big Chill”), who sued AMPAS in July 2020 for not allowing a membership vote (the suit was tossed by a judge), gets his emails promptly returned.
Friday, the Academy sent an email invite to its 10,000 members to attend an all-member meeting “to discuss the future of the organization” on September 17 at the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum. Now the members, who all have opinions about what the Academy is doing right or wrong, from the five categories shunted to the pre-show at this year’s Oscars, to the hosts, length of show, future of the ABC telecast, and more, will have a forum.
Kramer, whose background is in fine arts and museum curation, is now overseeing the entire Academy organization: global membership, the Oscars, education and emerging talent initiatives, and the Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive — plus the Academy Museum which is now under new director Jacqueline Stewart’s leadership. Kramer emerged as a hero during the museum’s fraught run-up to opening, proving to be a decisive leader and efficient administrator. Under Kramer’s direction, the museum developed five floors of exhibitions celebrating the arts and sciences of moviemaking. The museum has become a tourist attraction and sold more than 550,000 tickets in its first nine months of operation.
Now Kramer is seeking to apply sound, professional corporate governance to AMPAS, which has never been easy to run. He’s invested in its philanthropic and archival missions, as well as the hugely profitable Oscar show that pays for everything else. As Hollywood gets back on its feet, every Academy member knows that keeping that Oscar show culturally relevant is vital. Kramer needs to unify the film community and remind them of their mission to share their love of movies with the world.
This long overdue meeting — there have only been two in the history of the Academy — is step one in that process. Next up: the Board of Governors vote for the next president on August 2. Veteran producer and Governor-at-large Janet Yang is the frontrunner, although some would argue it’s her fellow Governor-at -large DeVon Franklin; both were recently renewed for three-year terms.