Oscars committed to culturally diversifying its membership: chief

October 6, 2015
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, speaks to reporters at Dongseo University's Centum Campus in Busan on Oct. 6, 2015, as part of the Busan International Film Festival. (Yonhap)

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, speaks to reporters at Dongseo University’s Centum Campus in Busan on Oct. 6, 2015, as part of the Busan International Film Festival. (Yonhap)

BUSAN (Yonhap) — The organization that gives out Academy Awards has “really begun” diversifying its membership, an issue it has faced for decades, its chief said Wednesday.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has frequently been accused of over-representing male, white and older filmmakers.

But all of that is about to change, if slowly, said Cheryl Boone Isaacs at the Busan International Film Festival.

“Recently, we’ve really stepped up the effort to recognize talent from around the world,” she told reporters at Dongseo University’s Centum Campus in this southern port city. “This last year, in particular, we had the largest number of new members we’ve ever had.”

Isaacs, however, expressed her frustration at the slow pace at which change is happening, but she reaffirmed her commitment to see through the issue.

“It’s impossible to happen overnight because we bring in new members only once a year,” she said. “But the organization is committed to keeping our eyes open and recognizing talent.”

Isaacs is the first African-American and third woman to head the Academy. Previously, she has led the Public Relations Branch of the Academy and publicity at Paramount Pictures.

As a film marketing expert, Isaacs also gave two pieces of advice to aspiring film marketers in South Korea where a single conglomerate, CGV, controls more than half of the screens.

The first advice: utilize social media.

“One thing that has changed over the last 15, 10, five years is the Internet and social media. That has changed marketing strategies not just for motion pictures but in a very big way,” she said. “The power of social media cannot be denied. It is growing exponentially. It’s a terrific way of reaching the broadest audience in the quickest time,” she said.

The second is to ask yourself: who is your audience?

“I’ve taught film marketing for many years in the U.S. and one thing I believe to my heart and soul about marketing movies is No. 1: you need to know who you’re making the movie for,” she said. “The next big question to be answered is: where are they? Can you reach them?”

The 20th Busan International Film Festival, the largest of its kind in Asia, opened Thursday for a 10-day run. It has invited 304 films from 75 countries.

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