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Cheryl Boone Issacs Set To Lead ASU’s Sidney Poitier New American Film School

Cheryl Boone Issacs Set To Lead ASU’s Sidney Poitier New American Film School

She’s committed to broadening inclusion in the film industry!

Veteran film executive Cheryl Boone Issacs has been tapped to lead Arizona State University’s (ASU) Sidney Poitier New American Film School, AZCentral reports. 

Earlier this year, ASU announced that it would be naming its new film school after legendary actor Sidney Poitier. The new school boasts flexible learning options and a new expansive filmmaking curriculum as well as a new state of the art complex located in downtown Mesa, Arizona. 

Now, the Sidney Poitier New American Film School has named its founding director, veteran film executive Cheryl Boone Issacs. Boone Issacs began her career in film as a marketer, working for several major studios on the rollout campaigns for films like “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart.” By 2000, she had started her own company, CBI Enterprises Inc., continuing the work of publicity for major film releases. 

For 24 years she served on the board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making history as the first Black person and third woman to serve as president of the Academy from 2013 to 2017. In 2014, she was inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. During her time at the Academy, she championed diversity and inclusion, leading the institution to make broad changes to its female and minority membership during the #OscarsSoWhite movement. Now Boone Issacs will be taking that same mission and bringing it to her work with ASU, leading the Film School across its campuses in Los Angeles, Tempe and Mesa with the focus of diversifying Hollywood and increasing representation for women and people of color. 

“It’s wonderful to be able to be involved and help shape the minds and focus them on what it is they feel they would like to learn, what they do learn and what they do with whatever it is that they learn with their career,” said Boone Issacs. 

In her new role she will make sure that ASU film school students are prepared for the opportunities in the film industry and exposed to a wide range of careers, exposing them to an array of technologies and various behind-the-scenes careers that students may not have considered, cultivating a new generation of “experts in their field.”

She is also focused on creating a more inclusive environment for everyone which she feels is engrained in the new school mission and naming since Poitier, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor, embodied so much of that philosophy. 

“I’ve always thought it’s sort of a silly concept to leave money on the table, if you will. Why? There are men, women, members of the spectrum, all of which have passion, ideas, dreams. Why not encourage them in their passions, whatever it may be, and help the younger generations to grow?...What you don’t want to have is exclusion. You don’t want the next generation to feel that for whatever reason, they cannot participate. We have to get rid of that,” Boone Issacs said. 

“Sidney Poitier - the man, the icon, the legend - is my North Star who exemplified determination, passion, professionalism and excellence. I am honored to be part of his legacy and to impart his ethos to future generations of storytellers,” she added. 

Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the umbrella arm of ASU’s film school, spoke about the significance of Boone Issacs’ appointment. 

“Boone Issacs 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,” said Tepper. 

Beginning January 1st, Boone Issacs will assume her new role, gearing up for the fall 2022 semester when the new Mesa campus is scheduled to open. Currently, there are 700 students enrolled at the film school, a number the university hopes to double within the next three to five years. Boone Issacs said she’s ecstatic to begin cultivating the next generation and passing down all she’s learned. 

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of [my career] and so I’m very, very pleased that I will continue to be able to pass it along, to move it forward,” she said. 

Congratulations Cheryl! Because of you, we can!

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