First, the news: This year’s Women in Film Gala, held Wednesday night at the Beverly Hilton, showed this group means business by introducing three new awards honoring Hollywood’s female entrepreneurs: The WIF Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award, Emerging Entrepreneur Award, and the WIF Members Choice Award.
The first two were announced prior to the event dinner, hosted by Xosha Roquemore: Amy Poehler, named Entrepreneur in Entertainment, and Issa Rae, chosen as Emerging Entrepreneur.
The WIF Members Choice Award announced for the first time on the podium by Lake Bell, went to five directors: Mimi Leder for On the Basis of Sex, Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Chloe Zhao (The Rider) and Anne Fletcher (Dumplin’).
Other pre-announced awardees included Cathy Schulman, who received the Crystal Award for Advocacy in Entertainment; Elizabeth Debicki, who got the Max Mara Face of the Future Award; and the Inaugural Class of ReFrame Rise Directors: Desiree Akhavan, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Patricia Cardoso, Hanelle Culpepper, Sydney Freeland, Zetna Fuentes, Tina Mabry and Meera Menon.
Now, to the evening’s speeches, which had women from all areas of the industry seizing the mic to call for gender parity. Host Roquemore launched the inclusivity theme of the evening’s speeches from the get-go. “I’ve been waiting to get into a room like this, and have a chance to say something, and be seen,” she said. She added that the glass ceiling in the entertainment industry remains “like hella thick” but added that, surrounded by support from women, “anything is possible. I left the chip on my shoulder back (outside) on Wilshire. Tonight, I’m Brad Pitt. What’s up?”
Women in Film LA. Board President and gala co-chair Amy Baer got political referring to new restrictive abortion laws in Atlanta “where women are facing a tax on both their personal choices and their professional livelihood.” Bringing the focus back home, she drew applause for calling attention to another Hollywood disparity that has nothing to do with gender: “Stop delineating between above the line and below the line,” she said. “We are all on the same team.”
Veteran producer Schulman (Crash) gave the longest and most impassioned acceptance speech, using the opportunity to detail how bullying and sexism in her career led to “train-wrecking lawsuits with two men … thank you, Mr. [Mike] Ovitz and Mr. [Bob] Yari, for radicalizing me,” and offering a tongue-in-cheek “big fat public apology to anyone I’ve pissed off.” She said Hollywood needs to “de-couple” the buzzwords diversity and inclusion. While Hollywood is making some strides in diversity, she said, the industry “is claiming credit for inclusion long before credit is due” when it comes to representation in decision-making positions.
Schulman talked about a recent lunch in which she commiserated with a high-ranking male exec who said: “Cathy, it sounds like you want a big-boy deal.” “I said, ‘I want an equal deal. And I want to be paid what I’m owed.’ He listened, and he said: ‘How about dessert?’ ”
Whew. After that, the audience was ready for some insolent, palate-cleansing humor from Rae, who said women tend to downplay themselves, so therefore this evening she would say the opposite of what she would usually say in accepting an award.
Some excerpts: “You future hos need to bow down! I’m closing all the doors behind me, so if you didn’t make it in, oops, your bad,” she crowed. “Entrepreneur means I did my sh*t by myself. And UTA, worry about that writer’s strike instead of worrying about me.”
Poehler ended the proceedings with a simple acceptance speech in which she read off a lengthy list of notable movie and TV projects spearheaded by women or telling women’s stories. “More, more, more, more, more,” she said.
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