New AMPAS chief in role of a lifetime

Tom Sherak has an eye for change at the Academy

As he steps into his new post as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, longtime film executive Tom Sherak already is looking to the future.

Sid Ganis, his predecessor, encouraged the sometimes tradition-bound Academy to re-examine how it conducts its annual Oscar show while also steering the organization toward a bigger presence on the global film stage with Academy-sponsored trips to Vietnam and Iran.

Sherak, who was elected Tuesday night by the Academy's board of governors, appears ready to urge the 5,800-member organization to continue to reassess its role.

Asked whether he has yet to formulate goals for his tenure -- Academy officers are elected to one-year terms, though they can serve as many as four years consecutively -- Sherak said, "Long range, the world has changed and is changing. The Academy needs to plan for the next five to 10 years -- where are we going, what our we doing. That's the major thing."

More immediately, he will first "start to think about who will produce the awards this year. I've never done that before, but I've watched how it's done, and I want to get involved in that right away," he said.

As chair of the Academy's awards review committee, Sherak was involved in the decision to expand the best picture category to 10 nominees, a proposal that Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, who produced February's Oscar show, first suggested in the annual postshow discussion.

"Hopefully, it will work," Sherak said. "You guys are always telling us that the times are changing, so maybe this will help us accomplish that."

Sherak does draw the line when it comes to one tradition, though: Several people have urged the Academy to move some of its technical and short film awards out of its primetime broadcast -- similar to the streamlining that the television academy just attempted and then, in the midst of a storm of criticism, rescinded.

Sherak doesn't see the Academy adopting a similar tactic. "I don't think that would ever happen," he said.

"The show serves two purposes," he added. "It's a show, and it's about awarding statues to people. The two things have to happen. It is very important that we honor our peers."

Meanwhile, one major initiative that might have to remain on hold until the economy recovers is the proposed Academy Museum, planned for a Hollywood site. Sherak endorses the idea and said, "If it wasn't for what happened economically around the world, we would be seeing shovels in the ground this November." He said the Academy will have to decide how to proceed over the next couple of years.

Sherak, a former exec at 20th Century Fox and partner at Revolution Studios, is working as a consultant for Marvel Studios and said he's ready to take over whatever duties the Academy requires.

After meeting Wednesday with executive director Bruce Davis, executive administrator Ric Robertson and the rest of the top Academy administration, he said, "I told them, you want me somewhere, just tell me where to be. You want me to talk about something, let me bone up on it, and I'll do it. I want to be part of their team. That's my job."
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