Frank Darabont’s rite of passage into Hollywood is not unlike that of the medium’s Golden Age talents, many of whom escaped persecution and political oppression in their homelands. The writer-director — a son of Hungarian parents who fled Budapest during the failed 1956 revolution — was born in a refugee camp in France but ended up at Hollywood High School, which paved the way for one of the industry’s true Horatio Alger stories.
Working his way up from production assistant in 1981 to first-time feature helmer on “The Shawshank Redemption” made him, in effect, an overnight A-list filmmaker. The 1994 drama, based on a Stephen King short story, earned seven Oscar nominations, including ones for best picture and Darabont’s screenplay, and is ranked No. 23 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
With his follow-up, “The Green Mile,” also based on a King story set in a prison, Darabont enjoys the distinction of being among a handful of filmmakers whose first two movies were nominated for best picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Darabont once again returns to Stephen King terrain with his upcoming release “The Mist,” an otherworldly tale involving a freak storm and bloodthirsty creatures in a small New England town. The film is being released Nov. 21 by MGM.
As recipient of this year’s ShowEast Kodak Award for Film Excellence, Darabont follows in the footsteps of such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet, James L. Brooks and Ron Howard.
Al Shapiro Distinguished Service Award
Scott Forman is a champion of film and whose distribution savvy has helped propel “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Departed” to the kind of recognition that earns Academy Awards.
From his simple professional beginnings at 17 as a sales trainee at Columbia, Forman honed his skills at MGM/UA and made the jump to Warner Bros. in 1989. Now, as the studio’s senior VP-assistant general sales manager, he’s driven the release of such mega franchises as the “Harry Potter,” “The Matrix,” “Ocean’s 11,” “Lethal Weapon” and “Batman” films that define the Warner blockbuster brand.
But it’s as a champion of kids’ causes that has made him this year’s recipient of ShowEast’s Al Shapiro Distinguished Service Award. A major force behind Variety Tent 25, on which he serves as executive VP, Forman masterminded fund-raisers and auctions netting more than $550,000, and spearheaded fund-raisers earning north of $10 million for a new Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights.
Forman attributes much of his professional success to working directly for Warner teammates Dan Fellman and Jeff Goldstein. He’s just as giving when describing his successes in charity. “It’s not all me, believe me,” says the father of three. “It has so much to do with the people I work with.”
Alejandro Ramirez Magana
International Award in Exhibition
Alejandro Ramirez Magana has brought compassion to the movie business. With advanced degrees in economics from Harvard and Oxford, the Cinepolis CEO has spent years working against poverty for the World Bank and the United Nations.
The former chief of staff of Mexico’s Social Cabinet and former Mexican representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, his mission to change Latin American social conditions is reflected in his co-authorship of the book “Poverty, Human Development and Indigenous People in Latin America.”
With a curriculum vitae such as this, Ramirez seems more like contender for a peace prize. But it’s for his stewardship of Cinepolis, Latin America’s largest chain with 1,634 screens in five countries, that makes him the honoree for the International Award in Exhibition.
Under Ramirez, Cinepolis currently holds 51.5% of the exhibition market.
Ramirez has led advancements in operations including VIP rooms with restaurant service, Imax technology and advance ticket reservations. Yet his humanitarianism continues through his screening series for impoverished children and fund-raising efforts battling eye diseases in poorer or marginalized areas — efforts to make the world, and not just the movies, a better place.
Hassanein Humanitarian Award
The corporate succession saga of Shari Redstone and family patriarch Sumner Redstone might seem like an act right out of “King Lear,” but when it comes to the governance of National Amusements, the daughter is very much in charge.
As president of a family owned exhibition chain that started out in drive-in theaters and has morphed into a 1,500-screen empire that spans three continents, Shari Redstone has always been forward-thinking in her stewardship, targeting underscreened markets for growth and seeking alternative entertainment, such as live gaming, to lure patrons into movie houses.
Shari Redstone is this year’s Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award recipient due to her charitable efforts on behalf of children, senior citizens and military personnel as well as memberships on the board of directors at Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, among others.
Despite this, she prefers to maintain a low public profile, although she sees ShowEast as an opportunity to build personal relationships.
“The friendships that develop are great fun,” she says, “and are what make this industry so special, and provide the basis for our ability to move forward and meet the challenges of our business.”
Show ‘E’ Award
The movie business is practically stamped in David Tuckerman’s DNA. With a grandfather who opened the first nickelodeon in Orange, N.J., and later ran cinemas in New Jersey and New York, the Tuckerman family’s ties with exhibition date back 90 years, so “It’s really something in my blood,” he says.
As president of domestic distribution for New Line Cinema, Tuckerman has overseen the Stateside releases of the company’s most successful films, including the “Lord of the Rings,” “Austin Powers” and “Rush Hour” franchises as well as “Wedding Crashers” and “Hairspray.”
With a professional history spanning more than 30 years, including executive stints at United Artist Theaters, Loews/Sony Theaters and Music Makers Theaters, Tuckerman’s Show “E” Award seems almost inevitable.
“It’s an honor,” he says, “especially when I think of the other people who have received it. Sometimes you’re humbled by these honors, and it’s certainly a nice thing to have happen in one’s career.”
Felipe de Jesus Munoz Vazquez
Government Leadership Award
Felipe de Jesus Munoz Vazquez hates pirates. And as Mexico’s deputy attorney general of the Office of the General Prosecutor (PGR), he’s made plenty of them walk the plank.
Starting as a film industry attorney and having tight relations with top industry figures, Munoz Vazquez set sail on his public service career as prosecutor in the Mexico City district attorney’s office. In 2001, he was named general director of the Office of the Specialized Public Prosecutor, working on intellectual property protection, and was promoted in 2003 to chief of the specialized unit for the investigation of intellectual property crimes. With a career history to chill the blood of any filmland buccaneer, Munoz Vazquez is the MPA’s choice as this year’s recipient of its Anti-Piracy Latin American Government Leadership Award.
After a brief period spent pursuing other professional goals, Munoz Vazquez rejoined the PGR in 2005, where he led the Specialized Contraband Unit in spectacular seizure operations. By early August, PGR-led ops netted 92 million pirate items, dismantled 781 labs and eight factories engaged in the production of pirate audiovisual products, and arrested 202 people in the process.