Women in Film 2007 honorees

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Emily Blunt: After a successful past year, the English actress becomes WIF's Face of the Future

She garnered plenty of attention this past awards season thanks to BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for her hilarious and smart turn as a preening assistant in the fashion world in 2006's "The Devil Wears Prada" -- not to mention a supporting actress Globe win for her work on the small screen in "Gideon's Daughter" the same year. Now, Emily Blunt is enjoying some more time in the spotlight. Women in Film will present the English actress with the MaxMara Face of the Future Award at tonight's annual Crystal+Lucy Awards.

WIF designates the award for an on-the-cusp film actress about to experience a major change in her career.

The Evening Standard British Film Awards predicted that success would flow Blunt's way when it anointed her 2005's most promising newcomer, along with co-star Nathalie Press, for her work in "My Summer of Love."

The forecast proved to be accurate for Blunt.

"This last year has been a big turning point," Blunt says. "Just more doors opening and opportunities and really such a variety of roles that have come in as well."

After wrapping "Devil," Blunt wanted to tackle more vulnerable characters onscreen. "I think for a while I was seen as someone who only played mysterious, malicious people," she says. "It was worrying."

Blunt recently found herself working alongside last year's inaugural Face of the Future recipient Maria Bello in Sony Pictures Classics' upcoming release "The Jane Austen Book Club." She says she admires Bello's ability "to remain under the radar" while juggling work and family. "She's got the balance right."

Blunt also counts former co-stars Streep and Judi Dench as role models, crediting Dench with being "incredibly helpful in my initiation into this business." The two worked together when Blunt made her theatrical debut in Peter Hall's production of "The Royal Family" in 2001. "I just think I am drawn to people who take the business with a very large pinch of salt," she says. "A lot of it is kind of over-glamorized and overly sort of desired. And once you're in the thick of it, you realize that actually it is just your job."

While trying to maintain a sense of humor about her line of work, Blunt is "taking a bit of time off now" to promote her many upcoming projects. The actress has more than half a dozen films on her schedule through the next two years, two of which happen to feature Mr. A-list himself, Tom Hanks: Universal's planned December release "Charlie Wilson's War" and another planned 2007 title, "The Great Buck Howard."

For the face of the future, Blunt is clearly enjoying the now.

Nancy Meyers: WIF Dorothy Arzner honoree patented the formula for smart -- and profitable -- date movies

One might say that Nancy Meyers has a type. With a career spanning more than three decades, the writer/director/ producer has developed a reputation as the go-to gal for studios in the market for quasifeminist romantic comedies with decided boxoffice appeal. The force behind such fare as the 2000 Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt romp "What Women Want," 2003's Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton smash "Something's Gotta Give" and the 2006 Kate Winslet/Cameron Diaz house-swap saga "The Holiday," Meyers has become a widely recognized brand name in Hollywood -- something few mainstream female filmmakers have achieved.

Given that it was Meyers, however, who back in 1980 proved that a female lead could open a film (penning the screenplay for and producing the landmark Goldie Hawn comedy "Private Benjamin"), maybe that's not too surprising. Recalls the now-57-year-old Meyers, "That was a big-deal movie and firmly established (Hawn) as a bankable movie star -- and without a male lead."

A native of Pennsylvania, Meyers got her start in the business working with her former significant other, director Charles Shyer, writing and producing comedies such as 1987's "Baby Boom" and 1991's "Father of the Bride" with him. It wasn't long, though, until she moved into the director's chair with the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap" and then onto "Women," which grossed upward of $182 million at the domestic boxoffice.

"Something's Gotta Give" enjoyed similar success, earning nearly $125 million domestically and scoring longtime Meyers collaborator Keaton a best actress Oscar nomination. Meyers says she conceptualized the story line for the film with both Keaton and Nicholson in mind as over-50 sex symbols -- and then pitched it to Nicholson.

"I went up to his house and pitched him the idea," Meyers says. "I didn't have it all worked out, but I told him I wanted to write it for him, and if he liked the idea, that would be great. If he would've said, 'I would never be in a movie like this,' I wanted him to let me know before I spent a year writing something for him. He said he liked it a lot."

Meyers believes that to make it in the industry, whether male or female, "You need tenacity. You have to be able to fight for what you believe in. You have to believe this movie has something to say, this movie is worth everybody's time and energy."

But, she cautions, "When you're in the minority as we are as directors, we have to work harder. If a male director doesn't have a hit, he'll get another shot. Whereas if a woman director fails, it's hard to get another shot. Really hard."

Kathleen Kennedy: Successful producer lends a hand to women looking to follow in her footsteps

Producer Kathleen Kennedy's resume reads like a syllabus for a master class in film: For 25 years, she's been Steven Spielberg's partner in crime, producing everything from 1982's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" to 1993's "Jurassic Park" and Academy Award best picture winner "Schindler's List."

But at tonight's Women in Film Crystal+Lucy Awards gala, Kennedy will get credit for something entirely more personal: her decades spent mentoring women in the film industry. She will be the inaugural recipient of the Paltrow Mentorship Award, with General Motors underwriting a film scholarship in the late producer Bruce Paltrow's name.

It's a tribute, according to WIF president Jane Fleming, that's long overdue. "She has really committed herself within the community to do mentorship," Fleming says. "And she's such an extraordinary woman. We thought it would be great to put somebody out there to say that mentorship is something we really want to build (at WIF)."

Kennedy, as usual, turns a credit for herself into a compliment toward others. "I'm really glad that they set up this award around Bruce's name," she says. "He means so much to so many people who didn't have the opportunity to know him."

It's this kind of genuine self-effacement and love for those in the industry that strikes Kiri Zooper, a screenwriter who met Kennedy roughly 10 years ago when Zooper was a freelance researcher for the Kennedy/Marshall Co. When Kennedy heard that Zooper was working on a script, she asked her for a copy. And she read it immediately, offering a great deal of insight and helpful feedback.

"She's a person who really invests in people," Zooper says. "She's extremely fun and energetic, and she just pours that energy into you."

Although Kennedy has multiple projects scheduled for 2008 -- including the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise and Paramount's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett -- she still considers giving back to others a priority. "I think it's part of the responsibility when you reach a point in your career ... that you end up being kind of a teacher," she says.

Kennedy cites Spielberg, husband Frank Marshall, "Indy" producer Robert Watts and Sherry Lansing as mentors, noting: "I think there have been, frankly, few women that you can look at who have sustained a career over a long period of time."

There's no doubing that Kennedy belongs to that elite group.

Uta Briesewitz: Former German camera operator has made a name for herself as a versatile cinematographer

Uta Briesewitz is a rising star whose moniker is slowly seeping into Hollywood's consciousness. This evening, Women in Film will call out Briesewitz's name (pronounced "breeze-wits") as the Kodak Vision Award honoree for excellence in cinematography.

"I feel very honored because I've never won much before," she says in impeccable English spiced with a German accent. "When I was at (the American Film Institute), I won the Mary Pickford (Foundation) Award, and that was a great boost because I thought, 'God, here in America they pay attention to you and encourage you with awards.'"

Best known for her work on acclaimed shows such as HBO's "The Wire," FX Network's 2006 limited-run series "Thief" and Lifetime's Emmy-nominated 2003 telepic "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story," Briesewitz also is building an impressive body of film work, lensing ThinkFilm's "The TV Set," starring David Duchovny and Sigourney Weaver, and HBO Films' "Life Support" with Queen Latifah.

Her feature-film resume actually begins before her graduation from AFI with 1998's Brad Anderson-directed "Next Stop Wonderland," which Miramax picked up at that year's Sundance Film Festival. Working with Anderson proved fruitful in more ways than one, providing Briesewitz with the opportunity to shoot one of the first feature films -- 2001's "Session 9" -- with Sony's 24p high-definition video camera.

She is, quite frankly, a show business oddity, someone who passed up good money (as a camera operator in Germany) to pursue what she really wanted. Of her past, she recalls, "I was doing television in Germany for huge sports events, but that wasn't really my main goal. I wanted to shoot features. I remember having many colleagues who told me, 'Yeah, when I was young I wanted to do film,' but 30 years later they were still shooting sports.

"That's why I came to AFI and went back to being a student," she continues. "And being completely broke came with it!" But no matter. "I took quite a dive, but I was willing to take it. You just have to be stubborn and consistent and not get sidetracked from what you really want to do."

She is reteaming with "TV Set" writer-director Jake Kasdan for her first studio feature, Sony's "Walk Hard" (which is being written by Kasdan and Judd Apatow). The musical biopic parody is set to open this year and stars Oscar-nominated John C. Reilly.

"When I was younger, (my job) was so well-paying, and I didn't really quite know what to do with the money and felt like it came to me too easily somehow. It was maybe a weird way of thinking, but I thought, 'I really don't need that money right now.' I just wanted to keep thinking forward."
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