When the news landed two days ago that a meeting of the entire AMPAS membership had been scheduled in May, with "the future of the Academy" as its theme, Kris speculated that it likely wasn't as dramatic as it sounds. "One should not expect major issues like the number of Best Picture nominees or the Academy's calendar to be on the table in any significant way," he reminded us. "Those decisions are left to the elected Board of Governors."
Now that Deadline's Pete Hammond has passed on more details of the planned agenda for the "unprecedented" event, it seems Kris' instincts were correct -- though it should still be an interesting and potentially productive gathering. According to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, the principal focus of the event will be on the Academy's activities away from the Oscar scene:
"Really this is to give an overview of what’s coming up in the future ... It is what the Academy is doing the other 364 days of the year, and when you talk about those things directly it is quite impressive. Having a face to face conversation about all the programs the Academy is doing, all the institutions we support, all the new designs for the museum. It is an impressive spectrum of activities and support in the middle of our film community.”
That's not to say the subject of the Oscars won't come up at all. E-voting, which was somewhat contentiously introduced in the last awards season, will be a key discussion topic, though don't necessarily expect a debate about its future: Hudson says there will be a "recap" of the procedure for members. And while she expects reactions to the most recent, rather coolly received Oscar ceremony will come up in the conversation, she insists "that's not why we called this meeting."
More than anything, however, it seems the event is being positioned as a professional mixer on a large scale, allowing fellow members to meet and interact, and to open avenues of communication between general members and higher Academy brass. Individual branches have apparently had such meetings in the past, but this is the first time the Academy has attempted to engineer a membership-wide gathering, and across three locations to boot: Los Angeles, New York and the Bay Area. (If it's a success and others follow, Hudson says, they may expand it to the Academy's UK contingent in London too.)
And while this innovation reflects well on newly elected Academy president Hawk Koch, suggesting his desire to freshen up Academy practices during his one-term-only reign, it's apparently an idea that has been on the table for some time -- one was mooted for last autumn, though perhaps the Oscar off-season is a better time to discuss the Academy's other facets. Anyway, we'll surely hear some interesting tidbits after the meeting is held on April 22.