Academy Elections: Kerry Washington, Jason Reitman Challenge Incumbents

THR's awards analyst has the inside scoop on the most interesting of the 17 races and the candidates, which include incumbents Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Annette Bening, and challengers such as Geena Davis and Lee Daniels.
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(clockwise) Annette Bening, Geena Davis, Amy Madigan and Kerry Washington

As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science conducts its annual board of governors election, actresses Kerry Washington, Geena Davis and Amy Madigan have thrown their hats into the ring as potential governors of the actors branch, challenging incumbent Annette Bening.

Each of the Academy's 17 branches are represented by three governors, who in turn each serve three-year terms. The terms are staggered, so the members of each branch elect or re-elect one governor each year. Governors who are re-elected can serve up to three successive three-year terms, and then, after nine years on the board, are considered "termed out," as is the case this year with Disney-Pixar's John Lasseter, who has represented the short films and feature animation branch for the past nine years, and Robert Rehme of the executives branch.

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Among those currently up for re-election as governors are Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy's current president, who reps the public relations branch, and secretary Phil Alden Robinson, who reps the writers branch. Members of each branch of the 6,000-member Academy must turn in their ballots by 5 p.m. Friday. The results of the board elections will be announced next week. And when the new board meets in August, it will elect officers for the coming year. Boone Isaacs, who has completed just one one-year term as president, is eligible to be re-elected for three more one-year terms, provided she retains her seat on the board.

Traditionally, the Academy's board of governors elections are relatively low-key affairs. Candidates who chose to stand for re-election generally win second and third terms. However, per the Academy's bylaws, each branch must field four candidates -- chosen by a nominating committee comprised of 18 members of that branch, including the three incumbent governors -- so there is always the potential for an upset.

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This year, in the case of the public relations branch, Boone Isaacs, an independent marketing consultant who has served as EVP of worldwide publicity for Paramount (where she oversaw the Oscar campaigns for Forrest Gump and Braveheart) as well as president of theatrical marketing for New Line, is on the ballot with three others: Nancy Kirkpatrick, who ran publicity at Paramount until 2007, and then moved to Summit, where she oversaw the marketing efforts for the Twilight and Divergent franchises, leaving earlier this year when Lionsgate and Summit merged marketing operations; Terry Press, who headed up PR for DreamWorks (where she ran the Oscar campaigns for Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty and Gladiator) and who now serves as co-president of CBS Films; and Dawn Taubin, the chief marketing officer for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation, who previously served as president of domestic marketing at Warner Bros., where she oversaw the promotion of the Harry Potter and Oceans franchises and the marketing and Oscar campaigns for Million Dollar Baby and The Departed.

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Over at the producers branch, Gale Ann Hurd (The Terminator), who currently serves as branch chair, has decided not to seek re-election following the completion of her three-year term. Some had speculated that Hawk Koch, who preceded Boone Isaacs as Academy president, might seek to return to the board, but that is not the case. And so four producers are contending to join the board for the first time: Albert Berger, an Oscar nominee last year for producing Nebraska with his longtime producing partner Ron Yerxa (who has long served among the leadership of the Academy's foreign-language committee); Jennifer Fox (Michael Clayton); Jennifer Todd (Memento); and Gail Mutrux (Kinsey).

The candidates in the actors branch enjoy the highest name recognition: Bening, who is finishing up her second three-year term on the Board, is being challenged by Davis, an Oscar winner 26 years ago for The Accidental Tourist, who now runs the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Madigan, an Oscar nominee for 1985's Twice in a Lifetime, who may be best known for her work in Field of Dreams and who, along with her husband Ed Harris, has long championed actors' causes; and Washington, who has been an Academy member for the past two years.

For the writers branch governorship, Robinson, who received an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay of Field of Dreams and has served the Academy in numerous capacities -- he has produced the Governors Awards, served as vp and chaired the awards rules committee and international outreach committee -- is being challenged by Larry Karaszewski, a Golden Globe winner for The People vs. Larry Flynt who also co-wrote a film that is widely expected to be an Oscar contender this year, Big Eyes; the Oscar-winning Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise), who currently serves as the showrunner of ABC's Nashville; and John Logan, a Golden Globe winner (Sweeney Todd) and three-time Oscar nominee (Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo) whose Broadway show Red won the 2010 best play Tony and who created the acclaimed new Showtime series Penny Dreadful.

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As far as the directors branch goes, Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), who was elected to the board in 2012 to finish out the term started by Paul Mazursky (he stepped down at that time and passed away last month), is now vying for a full term of her own. Her competitors are Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (Lee Daniels' The Butler); Oscar nominee Jason Reitman (Juno), who, at the age of 36, would be one of the younger people to ever serve on the board; and Edward Zwick (Glory), who won an Oscar for producing Gladiator, and who previously served on the board from 2009 through 2012.

The candidates to rep the documentary branch are incumbent Michael Apted, who is best known for the Up docs that come along every seven years; Kate Amend, editor of the feature doc Oscar winners The Long Way Home and Into The Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport; Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp), who directs films with Rachel Grady, including the best doc feature Oscar nominee Jesus Camp; and Meghan Mylan, a best doc short Oscar winner for Smile Pinki.

Sound branch governor Don Hall, who has completed two consecutive term, is not running again.  He will be replaced by another sound editor, per the internal bylaws of the branch, which mandate that it split up its three seats amongst a sound editor, a sound mixer (currently Scott Millan) and a sound executive (currently Dolby's SVP of content solutions and industry relations Curt Behlmer) to ensure that the interests of all of these distinct crafts are advocated on the board. The four hopefuls this year are Teri E. Dorman (The Deer Hunter); three-time Oscar nominee Mark A. Mangini (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Aladdin and The Fifth Element); three-time Oscar nominee Mark P. Stoeckinger (Face/Off, Star Trek and Unstoppable); and Robert J. "R.J." Kizer (Inception).

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Among the governors who are not up for reelection and will continue on the 51-person Board include actors Ed Begley, Jr. and Tom Hanks; directors Kathryn Bigelow and Michael Mann; writers Bill Condon and Robin Swicord; documentarians Rob Epstein and Alex Gibney; producers Mark Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy; executives Dick Cook and Amy Pascal; and public relations practitioners Rob Friedman and Nancy Utley.

Board voting, like Oscar voting, is coordinated by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg