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On Thursday at UCLA Neurosurgery Golden Visionary Ball, Elizabeth Gabler received the organization’s Icon Award, recognizing her celebrated tenure at 20th Century Fox’s Fox 2000 boutique arm. There, she developed a string of adult-minded commercial and critical hits (including literary-mined fare like The Devil Wears Prada, Life of Pi, Hidden Figures, Love Simon and The Hate U Give) before departing in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of the studio for an innovative new position as president of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s newly formed 3000 Pictures.
“I am wearing the mantle of icon with humility, I’ll tell you that, for sure, and honor, and I hope with grace,” Gabler told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel before the ceremony, noting that her new position, which has her partnered with Sony and the publishing house HarperCollins to develop new films, television series and multimedia ventures largely from the publisher’s existing and forthcoming literary library, had provided her with a brand-new learning curve. “It’s very exciting to be in our new company,” she added. “I’m really learning a lot from the ground up about publishing, which I thought I knew a lot about but I am now finding that I was in the first grade.”
“It’s really an amazing collaboration between a publishing company and a studio,” Gabler said of the unique partnership. “I’m learning a lot about television, I’m really reunited in a wonderful way with [Sony chair] Tom Rothman, who was my mentor [at Fox] and responsible for so many of the films that are going to be on the reel tonight. And just a lot of my colleagues over the years. Columbia was my first studio, too, so I’m back in a different location but it’s good to be there.”
Gabler said her role includes searching for new literary fare even before it’s formally set for publication.
“We are involved now from when a book is actually going to publishing auctions, so we get to speak to the editors, see what their vision is,” she explained. “It’s just a great incubator for ideas, whether it’s a written word or someone’s brilliant idea or a musical, or anything,” she added. “It’s got a lot of opportunity for us to make our way in a really competitive world today.”
She’s also energized by the fact that, no longer limited solely to a film platform, she has the ability to find the right format for the right project. “The last thing I would ever want to do is take a precious piece of material that might have giant wings on a streaming platform and put it into the middle of the maelstrom that is a theatrical calendar and the marketing budgets that saddle them,” she said. “I feel that a lot of our filmmaking community feels that way, too. Where maybe one day, years ago, you would have had resistance to that, I think everybody’s embracing it. It’s really exciting to be able to figure out where things will find their best home.”
“What I’m really excited about is learning the process of what, for example, would be unlimited series,” she continued. “There are so many books that I have worked on over the years that have so much content, and to be able to try and distill them easily into a two-hour format is sometimes difficult, if not impossible. So that would have given me the flexibility to have been able to do some of those great pieces of literature as film that works. But I couldn’t because I was stuck into a two-hour, two-and-a-half-hour framework.”
In addition to Gabler, the renowned, game-changing architect Frank Gehry — who’s garnered acclaim for works including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Nationale-Nederlanden Building in Prague, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles over the course of his six-decade career — received the Visionary Award.
Gehry, too, said he was fascinated to continue exploring new corners to his field. “I think architecture…I don’t know where it’s going,” he told THR. “I’ve been chasing light all my life. trying to figure out how these surfaces play with natural light, so I’m involved with that and I always have been.”
The acclaimed visionary also expressed his admiration for the neurosurgical community that paid tribute to him. “I really believe in what they’re doing with the science,” said Gehry. “I follow it. I’ve been involved with the neuroscientists, peripherally, for a long time, so it’s something I truly support and I’m excited to see it getting the kind of support that it deserves here. UCLA is a very special venue for that research.”
“The people that work at UCLA, the physicians, the caregivers, the researchers and everyone that works there alone, I’m in awe of,” agreed Gabler. “The honorees that I’m here with tonight are, I think, visionaries in every way. I felt like I was just grateful to be in their company and grateful to be part of the evening.”
The event, which was emceed by Extra correspondent Renee Bargh, also honored Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine, founding partners of Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, with the Visionary Award; and Dr. Ronald W. Busuttil, Distinguished Professor and Executive Chairman of the UCLA Department of Surgery, with the Medical Visionary Award.
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