Hunky young men delivered the Women in Film trophies Wednesday night. As past winners of Crystal Awards filed onto the stage to celebrate the organization's 40th birthday--from actresses Cloris Leachman, Diahann Carroll and Sharon Stone to
producers Gale Anne Hurd and Marcia Nasatir, Universal co-chairman Donna
Langley and director Martha Coolidge--studio pioneer Sherry Lansing spoke on video to her colleagues and asked them to take a minute to celebrate their achievements, accumulated power and progress, even though "I know we still have a long way to go," she said. "I know you will go back to work tomorrow, fighting hard until there is true equality for women in the film industry. So congrats to you and bravo."
Of course the stats on women's participation in Hollywood hiring are dismal: 9% of the top 250 movies last year were directed by women; 28% of speaking parts in 2012's hit films were women. "That's nuts," said writer-director Nancy Meyers, who presented the WIF Dorothy Arzner directing award to Sofia Coppola, whose "Bling Ring" opens Friday. "In real life women are speaking characters. It takes real effort on someone's part to keep them quiet." (CinemaCon women's panel here; check the WIF stats here.)
WIF president Cathy Schulman stated: "When money and stakes increase, opportunities decrease. We can begin to combat that. It's up to all of us to present an accurate picture of our lives." During the mixer part of the evening, producer Nina Jacobson, in the midst of production on "The Hunger Games" follow-up "Catching Fire," starring Jennifer Lawrence as tough teen warrior Katniss Everdeen, told me that we all "just have to keep reminding them when the men don't show up for opening weekend and the women do."
And I don't share newly slim George Lucas's optimism that in his lifetime women will achieve the same 50/50 parity in Hollywood as they do in the population. The creator of such kick-ass icons as Princess Leia and Marion Ravenwood accepted the Women in Film humanitarian award from one of many women he's championed over the years, Kathleen Kennedy, now running Lucasfilm--and rebooting "Star Wars." On video, Carrie Fisher said that Lucas "believes more in women's abilities than men --which I completely agree on."
This year's Crystal winner for excellence in film, 49-year-old Laura Linney (in Emmy mode for concluded cable series "The Big C") added: "I've been more shades of blonde than you can possibly imagine." She went on to say that the industry's gaping inequality of pay is worse than it was 20 years ago. "There certainly is a wider diversity of roles available to women; careers don't instantly end at 29 anymore. But the progress in every other area has been so slow, very slow. So there's a long way to go, and not just in this industry, but in every industry."
Other Emmy contenders at the Beverly Hilton included the women of "Mad Men," presented by Holly Hunter--saying "without these women these guys would a bunch of desperate, masturbatory men"--and accepted by Elisabeth Moss (Hunter's "Top of the Lake" co-star) on behalf of her colleagues Jessica Pare, January Jones, Christina Hendricks and diminutive Kiernan Shipka. They thanked not only the women behind the scenes on the show, but creator Matthew Weiner and his wife Linda Brettler, in the audience.
During an intermission, when I asked Meyers what she's working on, she reminded me that "things have changed." She's pushing two projects up the hill, trying to get a studio green light. "I'm trying," says Hollywood's most consistently commercial woman filmmaker ("What Women Want," "Something's Got to Give"). If she's struggling to push her films forward, what about other women directors with a less stellar track record?
Academy president Hawk Koch wants to even the ranks of women members in the Academy, he told The Wrap editrix Sharon Waxman --as he asked her not to write about it just yet.
Young Hailee Steinfeld, who broke out at age 13 with an Oscar-nominated performance in the Coens' "True Grit," took home the WIF Face of the Future award. She's the hardest working girl in show business, with four movies coming up: Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," sci-fi adaptation "Ender's Game," opposite Harrison Ford, John Carney's "Can a Song Save Your Life?" with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, and Luc Besson's "Three Days to Kill" co-starring Kevin Costner. "I'm proud to be a young woman in film," she said.
And it's never too early to get awards buzz going on a movie. The Weinstein Co. is pushing Sundance prize-winner and Cannes entry "Fruitvale Station." Last week rookie writer-director Ryan Coogler gave a rousing speech as he accepted a newcomer award at a Sundance Institute fundraiser, while his star Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire") charmed the crowd as he presented the Kodak Vision Award to the film's cinematographer, Rachel Morrison ("The Sound of My Own Voice"), who set herself on fire sitting on a stove during filming. Morrison said, "Tomorrow I will shoot my third feature directed by a woman!"