Dawn Hudson Takes Over Motion Picture Academy as CEO; Ric Robertson Reports to Her as COO

by Anne Thompson
April 8, 2011 7:05 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood
With executive director Bruce Davis on his way out, the Academy Board of Governors met on Thursday to vote on who should succeed him. The heir apparent inside the Academy was 30-year veteran exec Ric Robertson, who had been lobbying for the job. The Academy had been interviewing prospective candidates, with an eye on finding new blood and not going with a senior industry player. They wanted someone who could serve in this key administrative job over the long haul. As of June 1, Robertson will be reporting to Hudson, who will be CEO to his COO.

The surprise is that rather than awarding Robertson the job solo, the Academy has added Hudson to the mix. She has run Film Independent for 20 years, which mounts the alternative Spirit Awards the day before the Oscars every year. Hudson is leaving Film Independent, having just scored a New York Times-backed fllm series at the Los Angeles County Museum. She was heading the search for a new curator for the film series.

Why was the Academy so impressed with Hudson? For the same reason LACMA's Michael Govan was: to them she represents someone who is connected to rising talent-- hip, young, vital-- able to put on a live show and film festival and raise and keep major sponsors. For the Academy and the creaky Oscar Show to survive, it seems, they need a touch of indie spirit.

Hudson grew Film Independent from a small non-profit into a nationally recognized arts institution mounting both the 26-year-old Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, held in June, programmed by director Rebecca Yeldham and Newsweek critic David Ansen. A search for Hudson's successor at Film Independent will now be under way.

“The Academy is the gold standard for the world’s most influential art form, and I am humbled by what the Board of Governors, the Academy members, and the staff have accomplished under Bruce Davis's leadership,” said Hudson. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Ric, and to carry the Academy's mission forward into the future.”

Following a stint at FILMEX, Robertson joined the Academy in 1981 and eventually worked his way to the organization’s second-in-command in 1989, as executive administrator under Davis. He oversaw the Academy’s public programming, library and film archive as well as public relations, marketing, legal affairs, and numerous awards-related events and activities.

It remains to be seen if Hudson will be able to keep Robertson at the Academy. He wanted the top job. On the other hand, he may bide his time in the hopes of eventually succeeding her.

“Having Bruce as a mentor has been tremendously valuable to me,” said Robertson. “It will serve me well as I move into this new management position and partnership with Dawn, as we help to write the Academy’s next chapter.”

A reorganization of the Academy management structure became inevitable to Academy president Tom Sherak and other officers of the organization, he said. “We’re a different organization than we used to be, with a range of activities that couldn’t have been conceived of when the present structure came into place. Now, with the leadership team of Dawn as our CEO and Ric as our COO, we have the ideal combination of new vision and institutional continuity to move us forward.”

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More: Awards, Hollywood, Independents, Oscars

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