A Chat With Cathy Schulman

Courtesy of Cathy Schulman

The president of Women in Film opens up about the 2011 Crystal & Lucy Awards.

Producer Cathy Schulman is halfway through her first year as head of Women in Film, a nonprofit founded in 1973 to help women achieve their highest potential in the entertainment industry. She spoke with THR about the 35th annual ceremony June 16, WIF's accomplishments and issues women face in the biz.

The theme this year is "impact."

Yes, the impact women make on the media and the impact women in media make on all of us.

Who has done that to greatest effect in the past 12 months?

Oprah. The woman is unstoppable. She has the ability to merge social activism with media with entertainment value and to keep all eyes on not only herself but on the things she believes in.

What do this year's honorees -- actresses Annette Bening and Katie Holmes, director Pamela Fryman, cinematographer Reed Morano, CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler and the late Elizabeth Taylor -- bring to the table?

When I look at that group collectively, it's extraordinary how much reach they've had.

Your host, Melissa McCarthy, has been on a roll lately.

She's a writer, producer and an actress. She's in television and film. She's the example of the modern multihyphenate. The box office of her latest film, Bridesmaids, is impressive, and the film is impressive; it shows there's a place for women in broad comedy.

Which WIF program are you particularly proud of?

I'm proud of all our programs, but our Finishing Fund (which supports films by, for and about women with cash grants) has had a strong track record because we keep putting money into movies that are selling at Sundance, winning awards and being nominated for Oscars.

What are the most pressing issues facing women in entertainment?

We're dealing with ageism, with lack of parity in salaries, with problems surrounding maternity leave and employment before and afterward. There are too few women working in important positions behind the scenes. In 2010, 7 percent of the top 150 films involved female writers, directors and producers. That's not OK.

What is left for women to achieve in the business? There are women, even in small numbers, in nearly every area of the industry.

There are women in every area. I don't like the small-numbers part. I would like more equal numbers. We also need to move from assimilation to self-distinguishing within a man's world.           

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