Cheryl Boone Isaacs—the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—has been named the new director for The Sidney Poitier New American Film School at Arizona State University.
Boone Isaacs‘ tenure as director of the three-campus film school will begin on Jan. 1, 2022, and she will head the university’s center in Los Angeles, along with its Tempe and Mesa locations.
“Cheryl Boone Isaacs has built her extraordinary career championing—and exemplifying—two of the primary things The Sidney Poitier New American Film School stands for: inclusion and excellence,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU. “Boone Isaacs is one of the most respected leaders in Hollywood and she fully understands its operating system, making her the perfect person to build a school that can help disrupt both film education and the industries it serves.”
ASU’s focus on “representation, and the idea of inclusion, not exclusion,” was the reason for Boone Isaacs’ interest in the position. As a highly respected executive and the first Black person elected as president of the Academy, she has been known to place an emphasis on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, as well as providing younger people with the confidence to pursue a career in the film industry.
“What young folks usually know is actor, director, writer,” Boone Isaacs said. “It’s important to understand the industry and how many career possibilities there are inside of it—and then the support group that surrounds it. Depending on your attitude, your aptitude, your desire, the range is wide.”
Earlier this year, ASU renamed its film school after Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Ironically, Boone Isaacs’ connection to the legend began long before her hiring as the film school’s director. She met Poitier in person in the late 60’s through her brother Ashley, former president of distribution and marketing at 20th Century Fox in 1972.
“He was such a striking figure,” Boone Isaacs spoke of her first meeting with Poitier. “And he was very kind and sincere.”
The Sidney Poitier New American Film School is one of five schools in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU. The school’s Tempe campus is 118,000 square feet and contains nearly 700 students.
Currently, Boone Isaacs is adjunct professor at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, in Orange, California, and she is enthusiastic about her future as director of ASU’s film school.
“Sidney Poitier—the man, the icon, the legend—is my North Star who exemplifies determination, passion, professionalism and excellence,” Boone Isaacs said. “I am honored to be part of his legacy and to impart his ethos to future generations of storytellers.