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BEVERLY HILLS – HBO had reason to celebrate at the 30th Annual Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors awards dinner Sunday evening.
HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo accepted the Caucus Executive of the Year Award from producer Gary Goetzman, with whom he has collaborated on Band of Brothers, John Adams and The Pacific. Goetzman called Lombardo “an inspiring creative partner.”
Lombardo went out of his way to say how many people it takes to make a show a success, insisting that “it really is you (who deserves the award), the men and women who have brought their unbelievable talents to HBO.”
“It’s much like getting an award for being husband of the year,” added Lombardo. “It’s mostly about picking the right partner.”
Some of those creative partners picked up competitive awards presented at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Jay Roach was honored as director of the year for a body of work that includes HBO films Recount and Game Change, beating out Don Mischer and Kevin Reynolds, among others.
Roach recalled when he was hired to direct Recount in 2008, sharing that he was anything but the obvious choice. “Talk about brave,” said Roach. “I was trying to imagine what they were thinking when they did Recount and HBO said get the guy who did Austin Powers.”
Another frequent HBO collaborator, Graham Yost, won writer of the year, beating out the likes of Alan Ball, Steve Levitan and David Shore. Yost won for FX’s Justified, which he created in 2010 based on stories by Elmore Leonard. The award was presented by series actress Joelle Carter.
“Television perhaps more than anything,” said Yost, “is a collaborative medium.” Yost singled out his father, noting that Elwy McMurran (Yost) did a TV show in Toronto for 25 years about the movies. Recalled Yost, “He said you are going to go to Hollywood and be a writer.”
Another producer with numerous HBO connections, Stan Lathan, was presented the Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award by Dennis Doty. Lathan, a prolific producer and director, proudly talked about helping create entertainment featuring African Americans, with and without producing partner Russell Simmons. Their shows for HBO have included Def Comedy Jam and Russell Simmons’s Presents Def Poetry.
Lathan came to Los Angeles in 1975 to direct pilots for Sanford & Son, Martin, Moesha, The Parkers, The Steve Harvey Show and recently The Soul Man for TV Land. He noted that progress has been made, but said African Americans are still an underserved audience. “I want more,” said Lathan. “I want much more. I want more executives, more employment and more substantive content.”
The one competitive category that wasn’t tied to HBO was producer honors, which went to Homeland duo Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. The award was presented by Canadian actor Diego Klattenhoff, who plays Mike Faber on the drama. Gordon said they have been “blown away” by the response to Homeland but at the same time, it’s been terrifying as they keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The Walking Dead‘s Gale Anne Hurd, president of Valhalla Entertainment, was presented the Caucus Chair’s Award. “Hollywood may have been in my blood,” said Hurd, “but mine was a long obstacle strewn road from the San Fernando Valley.”
Other honors were presented to producer John C. Moffitt, who received the Caucus Distinguished Service Award, and Variety political and legal editor Ted Johnson, who was given the Caucus Journalism Award.
The Caucus also presented awards and grants to students. Alethea C. Avramis, a Greek-American student at UCLA, won first place in the Gold Circle Awards, which comes with a $60,000 package of services from Panavision for her next project, which she said was a feature inspired by her winning short, The Foreigner.
Jordan Salvatoriello, who has an MFA from Emerson College, won second place, which brought her $20,000 in services from Illuminate TV for her next movie. Other student winners included Jerell Rosales of UCLA, Joel Novoa of the American Film Institute, Micah Robert Barber of the University of Texas at Austin and Rebecca Louisell of USC.
For the first time the Caucus presented grants to students for projects done for TV or the Internet. The winners were the creative team at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University for a half hour serial called Two Close; and the USC School of Cinema and Television for the production of the show In Brotherhood.
The evening was hosted with grace and wit by TV, film and Broadway star Valerie Harper. The program was produced by Caucus Steering Committee members Vin DiBona and Lee Miller. The awards dinner chair was Chuck Fries.
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