Variety’s annual Hall of Fame ceremony mixed comedy, gratitude and warmth at the annual awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Because the class of 2019 celebrates technical innovation and achievement across film, TV, digital, video games and music. The honorees — Greg Berlanti, Bill Hader, Cindy Holland, Dametra Johnson-Marletti, Margie Cohn and Innovation Award winner Ted Schilowitz — used their speeches to reflect on what led them to the highest levels of success in entertainment.
Berlanti, one of the most prolific producers working today, spoke about his early days in Hollywood, beginning with his first entertainment job on “The Young and The Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
“While the scripts were printing, myself and my coworker would read the leftover trades from that day — this is back when the trades were daily — and dream of the day our names would appear in Variety,” he said. “It was the ultimate acknowledgment that you’d arrived in the business and was as meaningful to see your name in the trades for the first time as this honor is for me tonight.”
Hader spoke of his time growing up in Oklahoma and his path from being a production assistant and editor to now the Emmy-winning star and executive producer of the HBO comedy series “Barry”.
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“There’s not a lot to do [in Oklahoma], either do meth or hope to get your own HBO show,” he said, earning roars of laughter from the audience. “It’s very flat there. My grandfather used to say ‘It’s so flat in Oklahoma you could watch your dog run away for three days.'”
Hader wasn’t the only honoree to crack up the crowd. Johnson-Marletti, GM of digital stores business and category management for Microsoft, drew plenty of her own laughter when she spoke about her time researching the event.
“I spent time really watching the very rich history of the hall of fame and this event, and watched video of past inductees. I have to tell you, when I finished all that, I started thinking to myself, ‘Man, I am a big deal,'” she joked. “Almost instantly, that feeling was replaced by an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”
Cohn, president of DreamWorks Animation, also spoke of her Hollywood dreams, saying that going to work for the studio meant the world to her. “Coming to DreamWorks, a studio that to me always stood for quality and innovation, to build a TV business that could proudly stand along the feature films was my only dream,” she said. “As someone who has spent her career making quality kids and family content I couldn’t find a meatier or more satisfying challenge.”
“In the early days it was the VHS boom,” said Holland, VP of original programming at Netflix. “That was followed by DVD and Blu-Ray. And now, streaming…It’s been a real pleasure to be part of that change and I’m grateful for the support and mentorship of Netflix colleagues and previous honorees, Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos. I believe it’s part of our responsibility at Netflix to be as ambitious and inclusive in our programming choices as we’ve been in advancing technology. We learned early on in the DVD business that viewers wanted far more variety than what was broadcast into their homes and that they wanted to see more of themselves in the characters and stories they watched.”
Finally, Schilowitz, Paramount Pictures’ futurist-in-residence, was honored with the Variety Innovation Award and extolled the importance of curiosity in his work.
“I get asked to do presentations all around the world with my thoughts on the trajectory of technology, entertainment, and humanity, and here’s what I’ve discovered about myself along the way,” he said. “I can tell you with 100% certainty that I am never the smartest person in the room but I am almost always the most curious person in the room. Mostly because of great friends and mentors, I’ve been able to turn that into an interesting day-to-day pursuit.”