Academy President Hawk Koch Likes Current Best Picture Rules, Doesn't Want Oscars in January (Q&A)

Hawk Koch Headshot - P 2012
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Hawk Koch Headshot - P 2012

Ready to hit the ground running, the newly elected president of the Motion Picture Academy says, "The movie that I’ve wanted to make my whole life has just been greenlit."

Producer Hawk Koch, who elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts and Sciences by its board of governors Tuesday night, steps into his new role immediately. The son of the late producer Howard W. Koch, who served as Academy president from 1977-79, sounded ready to hit the ground running as he was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter.

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The Hollywood Reporter: What’s your first order of business?

Hawk Koch: First order of business is [lining up] the producer and host for the Oscars. Second order of business is making sure we have raised $100 million for the museum by the end of October so we can move forward with our museum. Third order of business is to make sure everybody in America and around the world knows what the Academy does, both in an educational way and what we do for the preservation of film -- and I don’t mean just film itself and digital itself, but the preservation of the art form of the motion picture. I want to continue [promoting the idea] that the Academy is the place for inspiration for the next generation of filmmakers. And that the Academy isn’t just the Oscars. There are 364 other days when we do so much for the community, for the world. I want to make sure everyone knows that.

THR: Has Tom Sherak, the outgoing president, begun the job of finding an Oscar show producer, and has he discussed that with you?

Koch: I just became the president. I know as an officer, we have been talking about things. Hopefully, a decision will come quickly. We will think it through, but it will become faster rather than more slowly.

THR: Having watched the past couple of shows, what direction would you like to see the Oscars take?

Koch: I’d like to see it longer (laughs). Seriously, I think the Oscar show is going to become more than just what’s on television. It’s going to be digital as well as the show itself. I hope, as we started last year, people will be watching the Oscars and doing all the other things with One of the things I want to do: The line “it’s great to be nominated.” I want all the nominees, by the time the Oscar show comes along, to be able to say to their significant other, their friends, to be able to say: “You know what? It was great to be nominated. If I win, terrific, but boy did I have a great time. And I felt the love and appreciation for the work I have done.”

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THR: The next Oscar show is set for Feb. 24. But there are some at the Academy who have talked about moving it up even earlier, maybe into January. Do you think future Oscar shows should move into January?

Koch: I don’t believe we’re going to move it up to January. I think the feeling of the board is that we’re the Super Bowl. I applaud all the other shows, and they’re great, but we’re the Oscars, and the Oscars are the ultimate. We’re the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

THR: Under the current rule, there can be five to 10 best picture nominees. Would you like to see that rule stay in place, or could it change in time for the next Oscars?

Koch: No, it won’t change before this year’s show. It worked well, and I think it’s going to continue. We believe if there are six or seven or eight movies that deserve it, that’s where we’re going to go. Movies shouldn’t be cut out because we can only have five.

THR: The media is so obsessed with the Oscars, how does the Academy go about promoting its other activities?

Koch: I think digital media is going to play a big part in that. There are people out there, who don’t just want to be George Clooney or Chris Nolan. They want to be a cinematographer or an animator or a sound technician. I want to make sure they know the Academy is doing things about all of that stuff.

THR: Turning to the museum. Exactly how much money do you have to raise?

Koch: Overall by the time it’s done, $250 million. But we need to raise $100 million by October, so we can move forward. The board has to vote in October. But if $100 million is raised, I feel confident, the board will want to move forward.

THR: How close are you to hitting that $100 million goal right now?

Koch: I would say we are in very good shape to reach our goal.

THR: Because you’ve already served eight years on the board, you can only serve a single one-year term as president. Does that put pressure on you to move quickly?

Koch: You know I’ve been around the Academy for so long and been on so many Academy committees, I believe I’m ready to do the job, so I’m just going to move on. The movie that I’ve wanted to make my whole life has just been greenlit. What do you do as a producer? You get going. So that’s what I’m going to do.

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THR: What do you recall about your father’s own time as president?

Koch: The first thing I remember: 1971 was the first year he produced the Oscars. That was the year of The French Connection, the great Shaft musical number. I got to be backstage, at the rehearsals. I was an assistant director at the time. At that time, I felt like, “Wow, the Academy is the ultimate.” It got in my blood then. He produced 10 Oscar shows. I was around for most of them. When he was president, I think I was off making a movie then, so I didn’t have a lot of time around him when he was president. But I can tell, and I’m going to get emotional here, one of the most proud moments that I ever had was when he won the Jean Hersholt [Humanitarian] Award, and he said, “One day, you’ll be up here.” And now I’m up here. I’m very fortunate.