Amy Baer, who has deep industry experience as a top studio executive and more recently as a producer working with major talent, has been elected board president of Women in Film. She steps into the role at a critical juncture in Hollywood, as the entertainment industry faces a broad reckoning over gender disparities and sexual harassment.
Baer takes over for outgoing president Cathy Schulman, who will remain on the board and assume a new role as chair of an advisory council for the organization. Schulman will preside over the Crystal + Lucy Awards on June 13, and two days later will be succeeded as president by Baer. In a statement, Schulman praised her successor as a “proven industry leader and entrepreneur whose unique experience spans major studios, independent financiers, and producing.” She added, “We are in a tipping-point moment, where sustainable gender equality can be achieved, and I am thrilled to turn the reins over to my long-time colleague and collaborator.”
Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film, in a statement said Schulman over eight years “was responsible for moving the organization deeper into advocacy work and bringing greater national and international media attention to the need for parity in the workplace, on screen and behind the camera.”
Baer, 51, who began her career as an assistant at CAA in 1988, served from 2007 to 2011 as president and CEO of CBS Films, where she produced her first film, 2013’s “Last Vegas.” Prior to that she spent 17 years at Sony Pictures, overseeing such hits as “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Adaptation,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Moneyball.” In 2012, she raised a seven-figure development fund for her newly launched Beverly Hills-based production company, Gidden Media, whose debut film, “Mary Shelley,” was released by IFC earlier this month.
On June 6, Baer will speak at Variety’s inaugural women’s summit, Path to Parity. The conference will bring together industry leaders, talent, showrunners, producers and legal minds actively working for women’s advancement in the #MeToo and Time’s Up era.
In an exclusive phone interview with Variety, Baer shared how she views her mission in leading the board of the nonprofit Women in Film, which was founded in 1973.
“I’m very humbled by it because it’s a very big responsibility from a cultural standpoint,” Baer said of her election. “I take it very seriously because we are at a very critical and important moment culturally in terms of the dialogue between men and women in all workplaces.”
Baer explained that she is ready to face the challenges of her new role. “It comes with a lot of responsibility,” she said, “and being clear that I want to walk a line that respects and empowers women and makes sure that our programs are empowering women to speak up for themselves and to pursue their own paths and own their own power.”
Baer, who counts among her mentors producer and former studio executive Lucy Fisher, former Sony Pictures chief-turned-producer Amy Pascal and 20th Century Fox movie chief Stacey Snider, said she will focus on creating mentorship opportunities and building a sense of community among women in the film business.
“Most women I know in my generation of the business didn’t [have mentors],” she said. “I want to be able to afford that to younger women … across all aspects of the industry — above the line, below the line. We’re stronger together.”
Women in Film has long advocated for equity for women in entertainment, establishing a number of programs in recent years to help improve access and opportunities. In addition to providing scholarships and other programming, the organization has taken an active role in pushing for systemic changes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations that have felled several powerful men in the entertainment industry.
Baer also talked about how the tectonic shifts remaking the economics of the film business can create pathways for women. “If you are open to seizing the entrepreneurial opportunity, it’s the Wild West,” she said. “I understand well the dilemmas of the major legacy studio, having been a product of them. We have programs that are meant to expand opportunity and dialogue around parity within the existing systems … but there’s also the opportunity to expand the conversation around entrepreneurial endeavors for women.”
Women in Film “can play a role in educating and opening doors and pathways for our constituents. We can help you navigate within the system, but we can also help you navigate around the system and find your own way to resources and opportunities, and that’s a big piece of what we’d like to be able to do going forward.”
The organization also announced the addition of five new board members: WME partner Esther Chang; entertainment attorney Bonnie Eskenazi; ABC Comedy senior vice president Jamila Hunter; Hulu vice president and head of corporate communications Gaude Paez and First Foundation managing director Stasia Washington. The full board can be found here.
Among Women in Film’s programs are ReFrame, a partnership with the Sundance Institute, as well as the Legacy Series, which helps preserve the history of women in entertainment.