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THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100

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    98. Jean Prewitt
    98
    Jean Prewitt
    President and CEO, Independent Film & Television Alliance*

    Her style might not be as aggressive as that of the late Jack Valenti, but Prewitt -- whose professional roots are, like his, in Washington -- is to independent films what the hard-charging Texan was to the studio mainstream.

    Her task with the trade group, though, is an unusual one: As the head of IFTA, she fights to ensure that indies exist as their own category, with their own needs -- often distinct from those of the big boys. "What we're seeing recently," she says, "is that decision makers understand it. Increasingly, they ask for an independent point of view."

    PHOTOS: 2011 Women in Entertainment Power 100

    That point of view is especially crucial in matters like piracy, which hits indie filmmakers differently than it does corporate distributors. "This is a year where we've been engaged, here and in Europe, with the issue of online theft," says Prewitt. "We've been negotiating with the White House and Congress, as well as the various service providers." Because indie films are often made on a shoestring, piracy's ability to erode revenue can be considerable. "If piracy takes a market down, like it has in Spain, all the jobs are lost -- the film can't get made."

    It's not all about online theft; Prewitt also fights for net neutrality and to help indies beat trade barriers. IFTA oversees the American Film Market, held annually in Santa Monica and the world's largest event of its kind. "Independents make 70 percent of the films released in the United States, and often they expose new talent," she Prewitt, noting that the studios are often busy erecting tentpoles of familiar fare.

    The Los Angeles-based Prewitt was drawn to indie film largely because of the passion that drives it. "I'm absolutely fascinated by how much of it depends on an independent producer and his or her complete conviction," she says. "It may take years, but what it requires is someone's need to bet the ranch on it. We try to push as many administrative and political barriers out of the way and let them do what they do best."

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