Women and Hollywood is honored to share the recipients of the Trailblazer Awards, which will be given out during our upcoming 10th Anniversary events in New York and Los Angeles.
The New York Trailblazer Awardees are directors Amma Asante (“Belle,” “Where Hands Touch”), Julie Dash (“Daughters of the Dust,” “Queen Sugar”), and Julie Taymor (“The Lion King,” “Frida”) as well as producer and GameChanger Films president Mynette Louie and HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins. They will be honored October 17 at the Time Warner Center in NYC.
Our Los Angeles Trailblazers include directors Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman,” “Monster”), Haifaa al-Mansour (“Wadjda,” “Mary Shelley”), and Angela Robinson (“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” “D.E.B.S.”). Director Leah Meyerhoff (“I Believe in Unicorns”) is being honored for founding Film Fatales. Other honorees include the Aclu; Melissa Goodman, Audrey Irmas director of the Lgbtq, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at Aclu of SoCal, and Lenora Lapidus, Director of the Women’s Rights Project at the Aclu, will be accepting. And the founder of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, will also be recognized. They will receive their awards on October 25 at the ArcLight Theatre in Hollywood.
These are women who through their work, their voice, and/or their activism have been a part of raising the level of conversation on gender equality, stepping up the advocacy drumbeat, and paving the way for their female peers and colleagues.
To find out more about the Trailblazers, check out their bios below. And, remember, tickets are still available for our anniversary events in NY on October 17 and in La on October 25.
Amma Asante, MBE is a multi-award winning writer and director who won a BAFTA for her first film, A Way of Life. This made Asante the first Black female director to win a BAFTA Film Award for writing and directing a film. Her next film, Belle, drew widespread critical acclaim, and saw Asante named one of CNN’s Leading Women of 2014, as well as being named by Variety as one of their 10 Directors to watch. In 2016, her film A United Kingdom was released and its European Premiere saw Asante celebrated as the first Black female director to open the BFI London Film Festival in its 60-year history. This year Asante was named an MBE by Queen Elizabeth on the 2017 Birthday Honour’s list, for services to film as a writer and director. Asante is currently in post-production on her next film, Where Hands Touch. The film, inspired by historical events, is set in 1944 Germany and follows the plight of a young girl of color attempting to survive under Nazi rule.
Twenty-six years ago, filmmaker Julie Dash broke through racial and gender boundaries with her Sundance award-winning film (Best Cinematography) Daughters of the Dust, and she became the first African American woman to have a wide theatrical release of her feature film. In 2004, The Library of Congress placed Daughters of the Dust in the National Film Registry where it joins a select group of American films preserved and protected as national treasures by the Librarian of Congress. Dash is the only African American woman with a feature film that has been inducted into the National Film Registry. She is the recent recipient of the New York Film Critics Special Award, the 2017 Robert Smalls Merit and Achievement Award, and the Visionary Award from Women in Film, Washington, D.C. Dash is currently a Distinguished Professor of Art at Spelman College. She recently directed multiple episodes of the award-winning dramatic series, Queen Sugar, Season 2, created and produced by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey, for Own Television.
Mynette Louie is a New York-based film producer and the president of Gamechanger Films, the first equity fund to exclusively finance narrative features directed by women. Gamechanger’s films include Natalia Garagiola’s Hunting Season (Venice Critics’ Week 2017), Lauren Wolkstein & Christopher Radcliff’s The Strange Ones (SXSW 2017), Sarah Adina Smith’s Buster’s Mal Heart (Tiff 2016), and So Yong Kim’s Lovesong (Sundance 2016, 2017 Independent Spirit Award nominee), among others. Louie won the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award and was named one of Ted Hope’s “21 Brave Thinkers of Truly Free Film” and one of Indiewire’s “100 Filmmakers to Follow on Twitter.” She is on the Board of Directors of Film Independent and serves as an advisor to the Sundance Institute, SXSW, Ifp, and A3 Asian American Artists Foundation.
Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Sheila Nevins is president, HBO Documentary Films, responsible for overseeing the development and production of all documentaries for HBO, HBO2, and Cinemax. As an executive producer or producer, she has received 32 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 News and Documentary Emmys, and 42 George Foster Peabody Awards. During her tenure, HBO’s critically acclaimed documentaries have gone on to win 26 Academy Awards, the most recent of which was A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness in 2016. Nevins has been honored with several prestigious career achievement awards including, most recently, the 2009 Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. She has supervised the production of more than 1,000 documentary programs for HBO. Nevins is the bestselling author of You Don’t Look Your Age… and Other Fairy Tales, published by Flatiron Books.
Credit: Marco Grob
Julie Taymor became the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, and won a Tony for Best Costumes, for her landmark production of The Lion King. The Lion King has gone on to become the most successful stage musical of all time: 24 global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people. Her credits also include Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, The Green Bird, and Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass (five Tony nominations). She directed the play Grounded, and completed a cinematic version of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filmed during the production at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn. Film credits include Titus, Frida, Across the Universe, and The Tempest. Operas include Oedipus Rex, The Flying Dutchman, Salome, The Magic Flute, and Grendel, composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Taymor is a recipient of the 1991 MacArthur Genius Award and a 2015 inductee into the Theater Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement. She is currently in rehearsals for a revival of M Butterfly starring Clive Owen on Broadway.
Melissa Goodman conducts legal and policy advocacy concerning Lgbtq rights, reproductive rights, gender equality, and the rights of people with HIV. Goodman leads the Aclu SoCal’s advocacy to end discrimination against women directors and increase inclusive hiring in Hollywood, to protect the rights of transgender students and adults, to expand access to quality and confidential reproductive healthcare, to increase protections for working parents, to end bias and over-policing and over-incarceration of Lgbtq people, and to improve healthcare for incarcerated women.
Lenora Lapidus litigates gender discrimination cases in courts throughout the country, engages in public policy advocacy, and speaks on gender equity issues in the media and to the public. Her work focuses on economic justice, educational equity, ending gender-based violence, and women in the criminal justice system. Along with Melissa Goodman of the Aclu of Southern CA, she urged the Eeoc to investigate the low number of women hired by studios to be directors for film and television. Lapidus has received several fellowships and awards, including 21 Leaders for the 21st Century from Women’s eNews and the Wasserstein Fellowship for outstanding public interest lawyers from Harvard Law School.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Patty Jenkins is a writer and director best known for directing Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, her debut feature Monster, based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and helming the pilot episode of AMC’s hit show The Killing. Monster was named by AFI as one of its Ten Best Films of the Year. Jenkins garnered a number of awards and nominations, including winning Best First Feature at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards. She went on to direct many commercials and TV programs including the pilot and finale episode for AMC’s The Killing, for which she received an Emmy nomination, and won the DGA award for best dramatic directing. Jenkins directed several other pilots and episodes including Fox’s Arrested Development and HBO’s Entourage. She was nominated for an Emmy for a segment of Lifetime’s Five, an anthology about breast cancer.
In 2017, Jenkins broke the record for biggest grossing live-action film directed by a woman, domestic and worldwide, with Wonder Woman. The film simultaneously smashed box office records and received critical acclaim and it has grossed a worldwide total of more than $820 million to date.
Haifaa al-Mansour is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia and is regarded as one of its most significant cinematic figures. She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo and completed a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Sydney. The success of her 2005 documentary Women Without Shadows influenced a new wave of Saudi filmmakers and made the issue of opening cinemas in the Kingdom front-page news. At home, her work is both praised and vilified for encouraging discussion on taboo issues and for penetrating the wall of silence surrounding the sequestered lives of Saudi women. Wadjda, al-Mansour’s feature debut, is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female director. The film received wide critical acclaim after its premiere at the 2012 Venice Film Festival and established al-Mansour as an important talent emerging from the Arab World. She recently published a novelization of the film titled The Green Bicycle for Penguin publishing group. Her latest film, Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning and based on the life of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Leah Meyerhoff is an award-winning filmmaker whose debut narrative feature film I Believe in Unicorns was released theatrically in 2015 after premiering at SXSW, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival and additional awards from Woodstock Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, First Time Fest, Tribeca Film Institute, Ifp, Nyu, and the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. Meyerhoff is also the founder of Film Fatales, a female filmmaker organization based in New York with dozens of local chapters around the world. Film Fatales is a global community of women feature film and television directors who meet regularly to mentor each other, share resources, collaborate on projects, and build a supportive environment in which to get their films made and seen. Founded in 2013, Film Fatales actively supports over 500 women directors in New York and Los Angeles, and hundreds more in a dozen sister cities across Europe, North America, Australia, and Africa.
Angela Robinson is a filmmaker who explores and exposes the breadth and complexity of humanity in an extensive body of work across both film and television. Filtering her storytelling through the multi-faceted prism of identity, Robinson uses the power of her unique voice to intelligently and empathetically bring compelling, intersectional stories — specifically those of women, people of color, and Lgbtq individuals — to the mainstream in a way that is entertaining, emotional, and thought-provoking. Most recently, Robinson wrote and directed Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, the origin story behind one of the world’s most famous superheroes, Wonder Woman.
Moving fluidly between film and television, Robinson has an overall deal with ABC Television Studios and recently served as a Consulting Producer on ABC’s hit series “How to Get Away with Murder.” She is in development on a series exploring the intersecting lives of Golden Age stars Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D.
Stacy L. Smith is the Founder and Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, the leading think tank globally studying issues of inequality in entertainment. Mdsc research focuses on inclusion in film, television, and digital media and all facets of the music industry. Dr. Smith has written over 100 journal articles, book chapters, and reports on media content patterns and effects. She was the principal investigator of the Card report, examining Hollywood’s hiring practices on screen, behind the camera, and in the executive ranks across the major media companies and digital distribution platforms. Dr. Smith speaks routinely on issues of inequality. She has given a Ted Talk and spoken at the United Nations, the White House, Sundance Film Festival, Promax, and Lunafest. Dr. Smith’s work was the basis for the EPiX docuseries, 4%: Film’s Gender Problem.
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