Film academy to consider CEO Dawn Hudson's contract

Film academy to consider CEO Dawn Hudson's contract
Dawn Hudson is the chief executive of the motion picture academy. (Donald Bowers / Getty Images)

In her nearly three years as chief executive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Dawn Hudson has earned her share of praise and criticism. On Tuesday night, the board of governors is expected to consider renewing her deal, which expires in June.

Since she joined the academy in 2011, Hudson has attempted a difficult high-wire act, opening the group to change without losing the support of a 51-member board devoted to preserving its historically prestigious image.


Hudson has played a key role in the development of the academy's new museum and pressed for more diversity among its membership and staff. But she has also faced disapproval over her spending and her willingness to dip into areas that previous administrators hadn't attempted to influence, such as the invitation of new members.

In her position, Hudson oversees the day-to-day operations of the academy, an organization that had $180.1 million in revenue in 2013, more than 50% of which (or $93.7 million) came from its Oscar telecast.

Hudson declined to speak to The Times on the eve of the vote, and a spokeswoman for the academy said, "We don't comment on our board meetings, which are closed, confidential sessions."

In a February interview with The Times alongside academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Hudson was upbeat about her tenure, saying the group was quicker to evolve than she had anticipated.

"What has surprised me is how nimble this academy has been," Hudson said earlier this year. "We have two new branches, a new museum. This board in three years committed to this museum after 20 years of talking around it. So they committed to this $300-million capital campaign. Committed to a member engagement beginning with online voting. It is a big organization and we guard those traditions very closely but, at the same time, it's been willing to take risks to keep the academy relevant, contemporary and moving forward in a very considered and very responsible way."

Under the leadership of Boone Isaacs, the board could opt to renew Hudson's contract while also making changes to it. They could splinter off some of her responsibilities, such as oversight of the new museum, for instance.

Construction on the 290,000-square-foot museum, designed by architects Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali, is scheduled to start later this year on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus. The academy has named Kerry Brougher, a veteran art museum curator who has worked at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, as its director and is aiming to open in 2017.

There are some cues that the board is aiming for consistency in its governance — after this year's Oscar telecast had the highest ratings in 10 years, the academy rehired producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan to helm the show for a third time.

The board of governors includes representatives from all 17 branches, including such high-profile members as Tom Hanks and Annette Bening, director Kathryn Bigelow and Sony Pictures Entertainment chief Amy Pascal, as well as lesser known veterans of the film trade, including costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, sound mixer Scott Millan and film editor Michael Tronick.

Hudson has supporters and detractors among the group, some of whom credit her with pushing the academy to make necessary shifts, while others have bristled at her forward style.

Hudson, 57, a native of Hot Springs, Ark., received her bachelor's degree from Harvard and did graduate work in political science at the Institut des Etudes Politiques in Grenoble, France, and at Washington University in St. Louis. Before joining the academy, Hudson ran Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

When she stepped into the newly created chief executive role at the academy, Hudson replaced retiring Executive Director Bruce Davis, who had worked there for 30 years, more than 20 of them in that position.