Guest Blog by Kevin Sharpley: Cheryl Boone Isaacs and The Oscars

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Cheryl Boone Isaacs

The Academy Awards, the biggest event in film is coming soon, and so is my favorite event in film, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, and I’m truly as excited as I’ve ever been! Although I have accomplished quite a bit in my career, including a film that features Daryl Hannah, Michael Chiklis, and Tommy Flanagan (some of my favorite actors), which was an official selection at the 2012 Miami International Film Festival; a documentary narrated by Danny Glover (one of my favorite actors growing up); and being inducted into Miami Dade College’s Hall of Fame last year. But what I am most proud of is coming on Tuesday, March 10th at Miami International Film Festival. One of my personal heroes, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, will be conducting a master class at O Cinema Miami Beach at 7:00 PM—and I helped make it happen! As the current President of the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the first African American to hold that position, Cheryl will be discussing her illustrious career, providing an insider’s view of Hollywood. As Paramount’s executive vice president of worldwide publicity, she orchestrated the marketing campaigns for Best Picture winners Forrest Gump and Braveheart, then served as president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema, and now heads her own company, CBI Enterprises, Inc. She has consulted on several films, including Best Picture winners The King’s Speech and The Artist.

Oscar winners: 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and actress Lupita Nyong’o

Last year was Boone Isaacs’ first as the head of the Academy, and was a banner year for diversity. 12 Years A Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role—which earned him an Oscar nomination—won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film, directed by Steve McQueen, was the first time a black person took home a Best Director Oscar. Best Supporting Actress was also won by a person of color, African actress Lupita Nyong’o for the same film. There was also a nomination for first-time actor Barkhad Abdi of the film Captain Phillips, a black man of Ethiopian descent, and now one of my favorite actors. This year, there has been an outcry about the lack of diversity in the nominations for the Academy Awards. Although Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the President of the Academy, she has no voting capability. That is left to the over 6,000 members of the organization, many current and former film industry professionals. Nevertheless, she has instituted measures that will provide more diversity in the future.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs recently stated “We are very active about increasing diversity throughout the Academy and recognition of talent, and it will increase. I think what is important, and what we cannot lose sight of, is the fact that the discussion of motion pictures and filmmaking has gotten broader, and we are very happy to be involved in that discussion.” Last year the Academy inducted 271 new members, including 12 Years A Slave supporting-actress winner Lupita Nyong’o and comedian Chris Rock. I believe that Mrs. Boone Isaacs has taken important steps toward ensuring increased diversity in the future. To have an African American woman at the head of the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is an indication of the change that’s already happening. Substantive change takes time, but having a person of color at the helm making changes will help to provide more diverse opportunities in the future.

I’m truly excited to hear from Mrs. Boone Isaacs about what’s happening for the Academy Awards, now and for the future, and to hear insights from her remarkable career. As a person of color, the pride I feel to have Cheryl Boone Isaacs as the President of one of the biggest organizations in the film world can’t be measured. And to have her here in Miami for an in-person conversation is a treasure I will long remember. I look forward to being there, front and center. You’ll find me on stage making introductions, and when I leave the stage, I’ll be glued to my seat waiting to experience the wealth of knowledge Mrs. Boone Isaacs has to offer!

Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.