Women in Film Gala Recognizes Seismic Shift in Showbiz

Issa Rae Amy Poehler Elizabeth Debicki Cathy Schulman Women in Film Awards
Rae: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock; Poehler: Michael Buckner/Deadline/Shutterstock; Schulman: Rob Latour/Variety/Shutterstock; Debicki: Dan Doperalski/WWD

Each year, the Women in Film gala supports the org’s foundation, which advocates for gender parity for women throughout the entertainment industry, while also supporting various educational and philanthropic efforts in Los Angeles.

The 2019 edition, taking place June 12 at the Beverly Hilton, will honor Amy Poehler (Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award), Issa Rae (Emerging Entrepreneur Award), Elizabeth Debicki (Max Mara Face of the Future Award) and Cathy Schulman (Crystal Award for Advocacy in Entertainment Award). Xosha Roquemore (“The Mindy Project”) will serve as host at the event, which was formerly known as the WIF Crystal + Lucy Awards.

“In the last 18 months, there’s been a significant earthquake in the discussion of how men and women interact while working in the entertainment industry,” says Women in Film board president Amy Baer, who also serves as gala co-chair. “By re-naming the gala, we all felt strongly that it would promote a full celebration of women and their accomplishments.”

Created in 1977, Women in Film looks to honor various women working at different levels in the entertainment industry, all of whom are carving a unique path of their own while emboldening others for success. This year, the gala will roll out new awards that honor women whose entrepreneurial strides are creating opportunities for more women to succeed in Hollywood.

“Increased advocacy for entrepreneurship is a big focus for us, and we want to shine a spotlight on women who are creating pathways for others,” says Baer.

These debuting categories include the Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award, the Emerging Entrepreneur Award and the Member’s Choice Award, which focuses on women directors whose narrative feature work had a 2018 theatrical release.

Golden Globe-winning actress-writer-producer-director Poehler is receiving the Entrepreneur in Entertainment Award, which celebrates the ongoing achievements of an individual whose work nurtures the advancement of their female collaborators.

Poehler says she’s “delighted, especially since I’m sharing the evening with so many impressive women.”

And in Hollywood’s rapidly changing social landscape, Poehler has certainly noticed recent positive change.

“More women of color are telling their stories and more women are behind the camera,” she notes, as well as “the changing faces and broadening minds of the ultimate gatekeepers.”

Poehler recently worked with Netflix on the release of her star-studded feature directorial debut, “Wine Country.” Collaborating with the streaming giant was a match made in heaven, she says, calling the Netflix execs terrific. “They gave us incredible support and helped position the movie in the perfect way.”

The film co-stars a deep roster of comediennes, including Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey and Tina Fey. “I was never surprised by how talented and deeply funny my cast was, but I was reminded how wonderful and rare it is to laugh all day at your job. It adds years to a life.”

Her production company, Paper Kite Prods., has spearheaded development and production on an eclectic slate of material, including Netflix’s binge-worthy “Russian Doll,” “Three Busy Debras” for Adult Swim and the upcoming Fox animated comedy “Duncanville,” which she calls “a really funny show from the minds of Julie and Mike Scully. It’s a study into the life and family of Duncan, an average teenager with a rich fantasy life who has a mother who likes to stand on a stool and yell at him.”
Poehler will return as a co-host of NBC’s crafting competition series “Making It” in December.

“We are editing now and it’s great! Any excuse to watch paint dry with my good friend Nick Offerman,” she says. For her next feature project, an adaptation of the feminist young adult novel “Moxie,” she’s working again with Netflix, and producing through Paper Kite. “We have many other TV projects in various forms of development, as well as some more features on the way. We look for strong points of view in the writing, and ideas that feels juicy and full of potential.”

Rae is the recipient of the Emerging Entrepreneur Award, which honors an upcoming talent in the fields of film, television and digital media, whose industry-wide endeavors are creating progress for the next generation of female artists.

She has been Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated for her comedic work on the HBO series “Insecure,” while her web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” was the winner of the Shorty Award for web show.

Rae recently made her film debut in the critically acclaimed race-relations drama “The Hate U Give,” and co-starred in the Universal comedy “Little,” with Regina Hall and Marsai Martin.

Her company, Issa Rae Prods., has been involved in numerous projects, including the upcoming series “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and “The Dolls,” in which Rae will also star. Rae co-founded ColorCreative with Deniese Davis in 2014, which helps to increase opportunities for women and minority writers to showcase and sell their work, both inside and outside the existing studio system, and by discovering and supporting emerging talent by engaging in the development, production, and distribution of original scripted and unscripted content.

This year’s Max Mara trophy is being presented to Australian actress Debicki, who recently stole scenes in Steve McQueen’s crime thriller “Widows” and anchored the Netflix series “The Kettering Incident.” The award is given to an on-screen talent who is experiencing a turning point in her career in the film and TV industries, and through her contributions to the community at large, as well as her personification of style and class.

Debicki also appeared in 2018’s “The Tale” and “Vita and Virginia,” and recently completed production on “The Burnt Orange Heresy.”

Other credits include the global blockbusters “The Great Gatsby” and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” as well as “Macbeth,” “Everest” and “The Man From UNCLE.”

Former six-year board president of Women in Film and Academy Award-winning producer Schulman (“Crash”) receives this year’s Crystal Award for Advocacy. A re-envisioning of the iconic Crystal Award, it pays tribute to women who have helped to expand the role of other females in the entertainment industry.

“I’m completely honored as I’ve spent years of blood, sweat and tears at building Women in Film into what it’s become today,” Schulman says. “History has a sad way of repeating itself, and progress can oftentimes get pushed to the side. We can’t stop, and we have to work to keep the momentum going.”

Schulman is the CEO of Welle Entertainment ( “Five Feet Apart,” upcoming Netflix Original “Otherhood”), one of the first independent female-facing film and television production and finance companies in Hollywood. “We’re two years old and off to a fast start,” she says. “Narratives about and told by women resonate extremely well with audiences, so it’s important to continue to champion these types of stories within the marketplace, especially as the majority of film content buyers happen to be women.”

A top spokesperson for issues of gender parity in media, Schulman helped to design the multi-year Annenberg School gender data research project. “There are so many fabulous women in the industry who are fighting for gender equality, and the good news is that there’s become a widespread need for diversity within filmed entertainment,” she says. “It’s more than just creating fully representative content and I think we’re miles away from fully achieving full-blown inclusion, but there’s no question we’re paying more attention to these issues as a whole.”

Schulman is also the co-founder of ReFrame, a systemic change project for studios, networks and talent agencies, serving as a collaborative initiative between Women in Film and the Sundance Institute. “This has been the crown-jewel project that I’ve been involved with, and it’s had an industry-wide effect in supporting women in the world of media arts,” she says.

ReFrame utilizes a peer-to-peer approach where ReFrame Ambassadors engage with senior-level industry decision-makers from over 50 companies to implement programs. The aim is to provide research, support and a practical framework that can be used to mitigate bias during the creative decision-making and hiring process, while measuring progress toward a more gender-representative industry on all levels.

Some of Schulman’s other accomplishments include launching Women in Film’s sexual-harassment help line and legal resources outlet.

Schulman also serves as a board member of Film Independent, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Schulman has produced and overseen films such as “Gangs of New York,” “The Illusionist” and “Bad Moms,” and has served as an executive at the Samuel Goldwyn Co. and Savoy Pictures, and was president of Mandalay Pictures, and head of production for STX Entertainment.