New prexy aims for higher profile

Holloway to recruit more midlevel exex, better connect WIF chapters

TIP SHEET
WHAT: Women in Film’s Crystal & Lucy Awards

WHO: Honorees include Geena Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Lauren Shuler Donner & Diane Warren; Edie Falco will host.

When: Today; 5:30 p.m. silent auction & cocktails; 7:30 dinner; 8 p.m. gala

Where: Century Plaza Hotel, L.A.

Armed with an ambitious plan of attack, industry vet Cecelia Holloway began her term as president of Women in Film, Los Angeles, in January with the goals of increased visibility and member enlistment plus more jobs for women.

A 25-year Viacom staffer and currently the company’s senior VP of diversity, Holloway deflects the perception of Women in Film as an amorphous organization that lacks political clout. “One thing that might prevent people from giving us full attention is that they’re not quite sure what we do,” she says. “As the year unfolds, you will see more definition — we will make WIF more public.”

Holloway describes an improved Web site with streaming video, updated member profiles and vastly increased networking opportunities.

“I think we do get respect,” Holloway continues, “not just from our members and the industry, but some of the respect can be measured from the corporate sponsorships we’ve developed. GM is giving us $5 million over five years. We have partnered with Johnson & Johnson … (and) Hallmark sponsored our recent Maya Angelou lecture.”

But the signs point to continual stasis when it comes to gains made by women in many areas of the industry. San Diego State U. prof Martha Lauzen’s annual survey of women working behind the scenes in Hollywood represents a regular wake-up call that is rarely acted upon. In fact, the most recent report cites a slight decline in female employment.

“It’s a very fast-paced industry,” Holloway says in response to the data. “Many people look at it as tough to change. In 1973, when WIF started, those first nine women identified a need for the group. In 2006, we still see the need. However, it is no longer nine members, but 2,500, including 65 men.”

Over her three-year term, Holloway says she’ll work to recruit more midlevel execs and strive to better connect the 40-plus WIF chapters around the world.

“We’re doing well with getting people introduced to the industry, we’ve done well with people who’ve made marks, and now we’ll reach out to those trying to get to the next level, those who say, ‘Now what do I do?’ ”

Holloway also intends to make more efforts to increase minority outreach, and views her own “diversity background” as “a perfect blend.”

Holloway says one-on-one mentorship programs — formalized four years ago — are WIF’s strength. She plans to create group sessions, in which small classes work under a mentor.

“WIF has found over 150 ‘mentees’ opportunities in our industry,” Holloway says. “They’ve been exposed to many different roles. (The org) thought you had to be Denzel Washington. Now they know there are hair people, makeup people and camera people.”

In March, WIF introduced, with sponsor Johnson & Johnson, “Girls in the Director’s Chair” for aspiring teen filmmakers. The contest, screening and networking session will be offered annually.

The Film Finishing Fund awards between $20,000 and $40,000 annually. A Maya Angelou Fellowship also is in the works.

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