Hollywood A-listers honored the leaders among them and spoke of positive change — and laughed, a lot
Words by MARIE LOOK
On Wednesday, June 12, the organization Women in Film held at the Beverly Hilton its largest fundraiser of the year, to support initiatives that advance women’s careers in the screen industries and foster community. Among those in attendance were Jaime King, Toni Trucks and Katie Cassidy. As the crowd looked on, the evening’s emcee, actor Xosha Roquemore of The Mindy Project fame, got the program underway.
WIF board president Amy Baer communicated one of the night’s enduring messages, saying, “The actor, producer, director and writer are not the sole creators. No film or series happens without a grip, a gaffer, a costumer or a post-supervisor.” She continued, “Women in Film must — and will — evolve into more expansive and inclusive advocacy. We’re all on the same team.”
Highlights of the awards ceremony included Issa Rae’s acceptance of the first-ever Women in Film Emerging Entrepreneur Award, during which she gave a speech that had everyone in stitches. “Thank you so much for this wonderful honor,” she said at the start. “To be the first to receive this among so many women that I admire, it makes me super proud.”
Rae continued, “Sometimes I feel like, as women, we tend to downplay ourselves, we tend to dim our light, and we’re conditioned socially to be humble.” Rae then joked that none of the musical artists she considers to be her heroes are very humble and that their attitudes had informed the speech she was about to give. “I’m the first, so … I’m closing all doors behind me, so if you didn’t make it in, oops, your bad, figure it out,” she joked. “‘Entrepreneur’ means, I did that shi*t by myself.” The Insecure creator then proceeded to “thank” her friends, family and team members one by one by humorously pointing out the ways in which she had definitely not needed their help. “So in conclusion: Entrepreneur until the day I die. I deserve this,” Rae said, ending abruptly before a room filled with laughter.
Natasha Lyonne also elicited laughs when she presented Amy Poehler with the first-ever Women in Film Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award, calling the Wine Country director and founder of Paper Kite Productions, “a woman who does not wait for permission to remake the media landscape” but also “a woman who never sleeps.” The women co-created Russian Doll (along with Leslye Headland), which Lyonne also stars in.
Also among the night’s honorees were former WIF board president Cathy Schulman, who was bestowed the Crystal Award for Advocacy in Entertainment, presented by Viola Davis; directors Marielle Heller, Debra Granik, Chloe Zhao, Mimi Leder and Anne Fletcher, who received the Members’ Choice Award; and the eight directors of ReFrame Rise, all of whom will participate in a two-year sponsorship program for female directors.
The day before the gala, fashion label Max Mara threw an exclusive cocktail reception at the Chateau Marmont to celebrate actor Elizabeth Debicki, named the 2019 Women in Film Max Mara Face of the Future. Olivia Wilde, Minnie Driver, Suki Waterhouse, Camila Morrone, January Jones and Jennifer Morrison, all wearing Max Mara, were among those who feted Debicki (also in Max Mara).
Recognized for her contributions to the community and her work in film and TV, Debicki formally accepted the honor at the following evening’s gala. Speaking to the current state of female empowerment in Hollywood, she said, “It’s definitely changing. I am seeing it personally in terms of the type of work that I am being sent; there is much more a focus on championing women’s stories. … In terms of the number of scripts I am reading, where the central characters are women, and the stories are written for women, produced and directed by women. Just in terms of evolution, we are seeing various types of women’s stories, and that, as an artist, is my job, to run the gamut and not tell one specific story. It’s really good progress — it’s slow, like any progress, and not necessarily linear — but it’s happening.”
Feature image: ELIZABETH DEBICKI in MAX MARA at CHATEAU MARMONT. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Max Mara.
June 17, 2019