The board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will soon be joined by three new members: DeVon Franklin (a member of its executives branch), Rodrigo García (directors branch) and Janet Yang (producers branch) are about to be announced by the Academy as governors-at-large who will serve on the organization’s 54-person board, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Franklin, García and Yang were appointed by outgoing Academy president John Bailey and confirmed by the full board at its April meeting.
The three governor-at-large seats were added to the board in January 2016, in the immediate aftermath of a second consecutive year of Oscar nominations without a nonwhite acting nominee — a situation quickly labeled #OscarsSoWhite — to make sure that the board would always include at least three not-white-males tasked with looking out for the cause of inclusion in all actions undertaken by the board.
The original three governors-at-large, who were appointed by then-president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and confirmed by the board in March 2016, were Reginald Hudlin (directors branch), Gregory Nava (writers branch) and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (short films and feature animation branch). Their three-year terms will expire, along with one-third of the other governors’ terms, this summer; Hudlin, Nava and Nelson are all seeking to be returned to the board as representatives of their actual respective branches.
The Academy’s push for greater diversity within its ranks — which predated the #OscarsSoWhite uproar, and which Boone Isaacs and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson coined the Academy’s “A2020 initiative” — has resulted in meaningful changes to the structure and operations of the organization. At the same time that governors-at-large were added to the board, the board also added additional seats to each branch’s executive committee to be filled by diverse members and issued a mandate to each executive committee to seek out female, non-white and internationally based members of the film community and invite them to join their branch.
Three waves of people have been invited to join the Academy since then, each larger than the one before, and they have collectively shifted the Academy’s demographics — indeed, the organization has gone from 25 percent to 31 percent female and 8 percent to 16 percent nonwhite. (In the most recent wave, nine of the Academy’s 17 branches invited more women than men.) The membership, in turn, has elected board members of unprecedented diversity — not counting the addition of the new governors-at-large (who will take office on July 1, by which time competitive board seats will also have shifted as a result of the ongoing election process), the 54-person board now includes more female (22) and nonwhite (nine) governors than ever before.
Franklin, 41, is an African-American executive turned producer. A USC alum, he got his start interning for Will Smith before working as a junior exec for Tracey Edmonds and a creative exec at MGM. Following Sony’s acquisition of MGM, he served as director of development at Columbia, where he oversaw Smith collaborations The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Hancock and Seven Pounds (both 2008). Not yet 35, he rose to vp and later senior vp production at Columbia, focusing on urban films, such as a diversified Annie (2014), and faith-based films, such as Heaven Is for Real (2014), which proved a blockbuster. Franklin left the studio in 2014 to establish Franklin Entertainment, a production company with a first-look deal at 20th Century Fox; the company’s biggest hit has been another faith-based film, 2016’s Miracles From Heaven. Franklin, who has been married to the actress Meagan Good since 2012 and is also a New York Times best-selling author, already serves on the Academy’s A2020 committee.
García, 59, is a Colombia-born cinematographer turned writer-director whose film credits include 2005’s Nine Lives, 2009’s Mother and Child and 2011’s Albert Nobbs, the last of which is but one of three collaborations with Oscar nominated actress Glenn Close, and whose TV credits include HBO’s oughts series Six Feet Under, Big Love and In Treatment, the last of which he also developed and produced. García, whose father was the Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel García Márquez, has been heavily involved with the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowships ceremonies.
Yang, 62, is an American producer of Asian descent. With degrees from Brown and Columbia, she began her career as a distributor of Hong Kong films in America, later expanding into exhibition and garnering exclusive rights to represent Chinese films in North America; she also later brokered the first sales in decades of American films in China. Transitioning into production, she served as a liaison between Steven Spielberg and the Chinese government during the making of 1987’s Empire of the Sun and was an executive producer of 1993’s The Joy Luck Club, Hollywood’s first nationally released, contemporary-set film with a principal cast comprised entirely of Asians since Flower Drum Song 32 years earlier, and until Crazy Rich Asians 25 years later. She subsequently partnered on production companies with Oliver Stone (Ixtlan), producing 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Lisa Henson (Manifest Film Company), before becoming managing director of Tang Media Partners, which she recently left. Over the past three years, Yang has been actively involved in building relations between the Academy and its Asian members.