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Producer Janet Yang has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy’s Board of Governors announced on Tuesday.
She was elected at a virtual meeting of the 54-member board, which was selecting a successor to casting director David Rubin. While presidents can serve four consecutive one-year terms, Rubin had to leave the board because of term limits after serving three terms.
Yang is a member of the Academy’s Producers Branch and for the past year had served as a vice president of the board and chair of the Membership Committee.
Yang is a producer of “The Joy Luck Club,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and the recent Oscar-nominated animated feature “Over the Moon.” Born in New York City, she will be the Academy’s first president of Asian descent, and the fourth woman after Bette Davis (who resigned after two months in 1941), Fay Kanin (1979-1983) and Cheryl Boone Isaacs (2013-2017). Thirty-one men have served in the position.
Yang is also the first Academy president who was not elected to the board by the members of her branch. In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry in 2016, the Academy added three Governors at Large positions to its board, to be appointed by the AMPAS president and filled by people of color. Yang, DeVon Franklin and Rodrigo Garcia were appointed to the board in 2019 by then-president John Bailey and reappointed by Rubin this year. Her fellow at-large governor Franklin was considered her chief challenger in the presidential election.
(The fact that she is now in the first year of her second three-year term means that Yang can only serve three one-year terms as Academy president before term limits will force her, too, off the board.)
Yang has had lengthy working relationships with Steven Spielberg, for whom she served as a representative in China on “Empire of the Sun,” and Oliver Stone. She helped reintroduce Chinese cinema to the American marketplace in the 1980s and is a co-founder of Gold House, a nonprofit collective of Asian cultural leaders.
Six weeks before being elected president, Yang was honored by the Academy Museum with the unveiling of one of the museum’s pillars in her honor. Others who have been recognized on the pillars include Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Barbra Streisand, Bob Iger and Willow Bay and Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas.
Yang is also taking the position at a time when Asian cinema has been embraced by the Academy in a way unseen since the success of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000. The South Korean film “Parasite” became the first film not in English to win Best Picture in 2020, and since then “Minari” and “Drive My Car” have scored multiple nominations and won Oscars. The main way in which the Academy has become more diverse since 2016 is by becoming significantly more international, making a president with strong ties to non-English cinema a sensible choice for today’s Academy.
Other officers were also chosen by the board on Tuesday:
Teri E. Dorman, Vice President (chair, Membership Committee)
Donna Gigliotti, Vice President/Secretary (chair, Governance Committee)
Lynette Howell Taylor, Vice President (chair, Awards Committee)
Larry Karaszewski, Vice President (chair, History and Preservation Committee)
David Linde, Vice President/Treasurer (chair, Finance Committee)
Isis Mussenden, Vice President (chair, Museum Committee)
Kim Taylor-Coleman, Vice President (chair, Equity and Inclusion Committee)
Wynn P. Thomas, Vice President (chair, Education and Outreach Committee)
Tightened term limits helped made this year’s presidential election an unpredictable one. With the limits forcing obvious candidates like Laura Dern and Nancy Utley off the board, Yang and Franklin emerged as the two top contenders at a stormy time for the Academy.
Between declining Oscar ratings and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on theatrical exhibition, the Academy is facing significant challenges. The organization is also trying to recover from a widely-panned Oscar show that was marred by Will Smith’s onstage assault on Chris Rock, and then by the perceived inaction of David Rubin and then-CEO Dawn Hudson afterwards. Hudson has since been replaced by Bill Kramer well in advance of her contract expiration in May 2023, while Rubin couldn’t remain in his position regardless of what happened at the Oscars.