Change Television, Change the World – A Look at the Television Academy’s New Destination
Face lifts in Los Angeles come a dime a dozen. When an individual has the procedure done, the attention is usually paid only to the exterior. But when a building goes under the knife, although it may occur like it’s all about concrete and steel, in certain instances, it’s about so much more. One instance is in the case of the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre, the iconic staple on the grounds of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ headquarters, and the focus of the Television Academy’s “New Destination” campaign.
Anyone who’s passed by the corner of Lankershim and Magnolia Boulevard in the last nine months has probably noticed the upheaval of construction taking place, but to really get a sense of the kind of impact the dust and debris will have on the television industry, you first have to understand the distinction between a building and an organization. You see, the Television Academy isn’t a building at all, but a collective of individuals, all holding the space and taking actions towards the shared goal of “being more inclusionary and inclusive” according to Chief Financial Officer and EVP of Business Operations Heather Cochran, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with about this new venture.
“The way I see it, and I don’t know that I’m specifically speaking for the organization, but television is one of the most powerful media ever created, and it speaks to our entire population,” she commented. “The United State’s is this increasingly wonderful polyglotpopulation. And there’s inequity when you look at the stories we are pumping out to this very diverse group of people because we’re essentially pumping out the same stories with the same faces.”
Yes, you realize how big a game the Academy is actually up to once you get that they are not only interested in satisfying their members; they’re about actually shifting the world, shifting the way we think and elevating our conversations and experiences by giving weight to those voices whom often times go unheard. And this is where the Television Academy Foundation, supported by the New Destination Campaign’s fundraising efforts, comes into play. “With representatives throughout the industry, we really see ourselves as the model for any organization that’s really interested in hearing from more diverse and underrepresented voices and then actually placing those voices within the industry because that’s what our Foundation does,” she said. “The Academy represents the industry as it is. Our Foundation represents the industry the way we hope it will be in the future.”
The Television Academy Foundation
The Television Academy Foundation is one of the most noteworthy agendas the industry has seen. It’s responsible for several game-changing programs: the Visiting Professionals Program and Faculty Seminar, which is designed to work with educators and school faculty to impact what’s taught in the classroom; the Archive of American Television, designed to archive remarkable programming throughout history, creating research material; the College Television Awards, which celebrates content-creating college students; and the legendary internship program.
And the internship program has been particularly impactful, having already matched hundreds of college students with paid internships throughout the industry in areas like development, directing and marketing to name a few.
“It’s very much our goal to expand the internship program because we want to double how many interns we bring in,” she commented. “And it’s a very competitive program, so the ability to expand on that and potentially even provide housing for our interns would be a major addition because it’s all well and good if you’re getting paid for your work, but if you don’t have any place to live… Los Angeles is a very expensive city, so we don’t want someone who is incredibly talented unable to take an internship because they don’t have the financial means to do so.”
And so the structure the Academy put in place to handle such financial quandaries is their endowment, a result of the New Destination Campaign’s 40 million dollar fundraising efforts. And in addition to the internship and philanthropic programs, the money is also going towards replacing the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre with a 30,000 square foot theater and event space that seats 600, complete with a conference room, office space and production facilities. And this will not only impact the Foundation’s initiative, but it will create the space needed for the Academy’s larger scale events, which the Goldenson never really had.
Yes, this new, soon-to-be creative hub will be a multi-purpose Media Center, named in honor of a yet to be announced supporter, and it will boast some very impressive technological advances as well, introducing streaming capabilities that will make Academy events like the Television Academy Honors available to members in and outside of Los Angeles. And with more and more of the 1800 members moving outside of Los Angeles due to much of the work moving outside of Los Angeles, the more the Academy can do to keep their members grounded and connected to them, the better.
Click HERE for a time lapse of the construction.
The actual construction work began middle of last year when key members of the Academy began to notice that the Goldenson Theater was not able to accommodate the Academy’s steady growth in membership. And this also affected the highly popular Academy events because, obviously, the more members, the more members attending events. So the space was growing too small, and it lacked the tech acumen to keep up with the changing times as well.
So the work began, and in May 2014, Heather Cochran, most recently known for her work at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science- where she was accountable for their 400 million dollar film museum- joined the team as CFO and EVP of Business Operations.
“I haven’t been here very long,” she remarked, “and I point to that to say that one of the reasons why I was so excited to take this position was because of the sense that the Television Academy is in a very interesting moment in time not only because of the evolving technology, but also because I got the sense that the Academy wanted to build a conversation around supporting new and underrepresented voices, therefore, fostering a real dialogue between the industry establishment and the rising storytellers about what is the responsibility of the industry and how we are moving forward.”
Cochran accepted the position, and she’s been instrumental in the finalization of the design, the budget and through the permit process. Part of her challenge was making sure that the building would encompass the vision that the board had come up with while also making sure they were responsible in terms of what they could afford. “And that can sometimes lead to some difficult edits, but I feel that it also leads to a better building because you really hone in on what’s important to you,” she said.
As scheduled, the construction will be complete in early 2016. In the meantime, the members and staff are making due, renting event space in different venues around the city and building new relationships as a result. But the real goal is to create a home for members where they can interact with one another as a community and see the Academy as the leader and the bridge between them and accomplishing whatever big game they choose to take on. And it’s not solely about the members or the industry either because the “New Destination” campaign is creating a new future for the NoHo Arts District as well. At the very least, the new Media Center will attract a lot of attention from industry veterans as well as industry hopefuls, and more people equals more business for the surrounding entrepreneurs as well.
“We’re really excited to be a part of the NoHo Arts District,” Cochran remarked. “I’m the new kid on the block, and I didn’t have as much time to spend in this neighborhood before starting here, but it has just been a joy for me to walk around and see the vitality of the people here, and to see how much is changing and expanding and growing. So it’s just a really exciting part of town. And I think I can speak for the Academy when I say that we are thrilled to be here.”
Writer Chavonny Tillotson can be reached on Twitter @Chavonny
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