When Steven Spielberg hails your passion for cinema and calls you a pioneer, chances are your night is going well.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, enjoyed just such an evening recently when she was honored as Pioneer of the Year. The occasion was the 76th annual Will Rogers Motion Picture Foundation Dinner, at which Isaacs, a faculty member in Chapman’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, became the first African-American and fourth woman to receive the Pioneer of the Year honor.
“Cheryl, you have become a pioneer in your own right because you are the face and the voice of the Academy, and in these wildly unpredictable times you do it with such grace and such passion for movies that protects the Academy … for all of us,” Spielberg said in a taped tribute during the event, an annual highlight of CinemaCon, the convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners.
In accepting the honor, Isaacs said she was privileged to learn from previous honorees such as Jeffrey Katzenberg, Frank Mancuso “and none more so than Sherry Lansing.” The two worked together on a number of hugely successful films at Paramount, including Oscar winners Forrest Gump and Braveheart.
“As Academy president, I wanted to make sure our industry saw the value of diversity and inclusion,” Isaacs added. “Yes, it is a personal thing for me as a woman, and as a woman of color. After all, the heart of moviegoing is perspective – whose point of view is being represented, what do you see through the camera lens, who is behind the camera itself? We’re not growing if we’re not gaining perspective. We’re all stronger. Our art is more alive, our industry more innovative to fresh perspective, when we widen the lens.”