The Oscars ceremony is the motion picture industry's biggest night. No one knows that better than Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes and administers the annual competition.
Just three nights after the awards, Sherak trekked to Naples at the invitation of PNC Wealth Management to speak at its private event as part of its "Pathfinders" program.
"Even as big as Oscar night is, it's just one night in the mission of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences," said Sherak. "Education encompasses a huge part of our mission at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and if you think about it, you can go anywhere in the world and all you have to do to strike up a conversation is start talking about a movie."
The talk was at Silverspot Cinema at Mercato, a backdrop apropos for the special guest. There, surrounded by movie posters and people scurrying to make a show, Sherak talked with attendees and posed for numerous photos with an actual Oscar statue, which people clamored to hold as they posed for pictures with Sherak.
Oscar is no shrinking violet — at 13½ inches tall and weighing 8½ pounds, he is crafted from nickel, copper and 24-karat gold, and each one costs $1,850 to create.
After the social hour, Sherak led a question-and-answer session, responding on topics from the future of movies, to Sherak's own favorite films ("The Godfather" and "The Godfather II") to how the process works behind the scenes.
In an era when people are increasingly streaming video, he shared why it's important for people to keep going to the movies.
"Movies are meant to tell stories on a big screen, and are about culture," he said.
"It's about keeping the integrity to make movies for the big screen — the lights go out, you're next to a stranger about to see a film and chances are neither of you know how it's going to come out, but you each have that experience and can form your own opinions on it."
In a time when people can watch movies on a smartphone, Sherak responded that the future will have to deal with such viewing habits.
"Change is like a train, and when you find out that the train has left the station, you have to figure out how to get on it," he said.
Sherak spoke of some of the other programs the Academy supports:
The Margaret Herrick Library, which contains one of the top motion pictures research collections in existence
The Academy Film Archive, which collects, restores and documents films
The Science and Technology Council
Public programming that includes film retrospectives, lectures and exhibits
"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work around the world promoting arts and science in movies — which promotes the art and science of filmmaking and all the crafts that go into making a film," he said.
Its educational and outreach activities include financial grants to film-related organizations and institutions and outreach to high school students on the craft of filmmaking and encouraging future filmmakers.
Sherak is excited about a permanent Academy museum in the planning stages that would have interactive installations and public programming. He also looks forward to a planned Academy outdoor theater.
In sharing his passion for movies, Sherak gave attendees a glimpse into why he loves films so much.
"Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart," he said. "Movies are also about what they've done to us, and for us. For example, 'The Godfather' taught us about power, while 'Forrest Gump' taught us about humanity. Some movies will stand the test of time and only time will tell."”
Sherak will step down from his presidency in August when his term expires.
For more information on the Oscars and other Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences programs, go to www.oscars.org.