October 27, 2016

Cheryl Boone Isaacs Visits SCA

President of the Academy is First Visitor in Diversity Council Speaker Series

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and the USC School of CInematic Arts (SCA) are united in a mission to improve the diversity of the entertainment industry. On October 24th, Boone Isaacs was the keynote speaker at “Our Voices - An Evening with Cheryl Boone Isaacs” hosted by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at SCA.

Boone Isaacs began the evening by talking about her current focus on diversity as President of AMPAS and the changes she’s seen during her time in the challenging role.

“The Board of Governors --  which when we started this journey a couple of years ago only had one other person of color -- has been very much in front of diversity issues,” said Boone Isaacs. “There’s been committees that have been working and coming up with strategies in which to increase the diversity of our industry. Primarily the inclusion and diversity of the Academy’s membership and our governance. That's the core of what we have been doing. I feel very strongly, and I know I’m not alone, that the Academy can't go out and tell other people what to do if our own house isn't right so we've been working on our own house first.”

The capacity crowd in SCI 106 listened to Boone Isaacs’ stories about leading the Academy, her long career as a publicist and consultant, and how she envisions the more diverse future of the entertainment industry. The discussion was led by Christine Acham, the Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and was hosted by Sam Shaib, a Production Graduate Student who heads up the Council’s events committee. Boone Isaacs spoke on many topics including the nuts and bolts of how the Academy works, how the recent push for inclusion over the last eighteen months has started to reshape the membership of the Academy, and how Academy members are being encouraged to look outside of their “bubble” to find new members that more reflect the diversity needed in film.

“For our members, part of their job now is to be an ambassador for the organization,” said Boone Isaacs. “We need our members to look outside of the bubble of their life. It's very easy to only consider the people in your circle. I have a friend and academy member and I asked about a person of color and if they were in this person’s branch. They said, ‘No,’ and I asked, ‘Why not?’ and they told me, ‘I don’t know them.’”

“This is why you've got to get out of your own bubble. Look around. What does your [film] set look like? Is this the way that the set should look? We need to be active about bringing in new people of all backgrounds.”

The evening concluded with questions from the audience which ranged from how the Academy plans to pivot in the future to make sure gains in diversity aren’t temporary to if the success of Boo!: A Madea Halloween having an amazing weekend at the box office represented a shift in race relations in the media industry at large. Boone Isaacs concluded by saying that all talent needs to be nurtured, and that inclusion and nurturing of talent is simply one part of the Academy’s overall mission.

“The Academy is an organization about creative talent,” said Boone Isaacs. “And you want to nurture that talent. Wherever it comes from. It's our obligation in every area of the arts to nurture. I’m not being Pollyanna and saying that it means everyone's gonna work. But what we need is for an artist to not feel that there's a blockage before they can have a chance to express themselves. That's a detriment to all of us.”