Tom Sherak, formerly a partner at Revolution Studios and a top executive at Twentieth Century Fox, was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in August 2009. The proud New Yorker talks about Oscar Night® and the City, being held at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on March 7; great New York City filmmakers; and returning to his childhood haunts in Brooklyn.
Why did the Academy bring Oscar Night® America—a nationwide evening of Oscar-viewing fundraising galas—to New York through Oscar Night and the City?
Tom Sherak: One of the things that I spoke about with my predecessor, Sid Ganis, after I was elected was how to bring our membership in New York closer to us here [in Los Angeles]. Sometimes the 2,877 miles becomes a divide, and it shouldn’t be.
What makes New York City such a good fit for an event like this one?
TS: The second-largest number of Academy members lives in New York. New York has a great film history, and that history should not be forgotten and needs to be shared. It’s my home, and it’s time to connect the Academy with the home of so many creative people.
What’s your advice for Oscar watchers?
TS: See the movies. Get invested in them. One thing that’s great about the movie business is it’s not whether you like the movie or don’t like the movie. I would love for people to see the foreign-language movies and the documentaries before the results come out, so when something wins, they can either say, "Wow, I loved that" or "How did that win?"
As a native New Yorker from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, what are some of your favorite places in the City?
TS: Every couple of years, my friends and I visit our roots. We go to Coney Island; we go to the Little League field that we helped build; we play stoopball. We go on the Cyclone, to the batting cages and to Nathan’s—which feels a lot different than it did when we were kids. We’ve also gone to the new stadium [MCU Park], which wasn’t built, of course, when we were there. It was a lot of fun.
OK, back to the big questions: who’s going to win Best Picture?
TS: [Laughs] The Best Picture is going to be what the 5,777 voters feel should be the Best Picture. This year, I don’t know that you can pick a clear-cut winner, and I think that’s a good thing for the show. We have 10 really good nominees, and I hope that the winner will stand the test of time.
Who are some of your favorite New York filmmakers?
TS: I love the Coen brothers. I started with them right after their first movie, Blood Simple, when I was at Fox. They are New Yorkers’ New Yorkers. Woody Allen is a New Yorker and proud of it. People who have lived or worked in New York, they’re always so proud of where they come from.
What will be the City’s role in the future of the film industry?
TS: As we try to come out of this horrible recession, the City needs to continue looking for productions. New York should be New York—other cities shouldn’t play New York. I think the City has done and will continue to do a good job bringing productions that need New York as a backdrop, so that the City stays a vibrant part of our business.