Laughs, emotion color WIF awards

Honorees pay tribute to women in the industry

From Jennifer Aniston's self-deprecating remarks about her personal life to Universal executive Stephanie Sperber's recounting of her emotional personal story, laughs and heart were in attendance at Women in Film's 2009 Crystal + Lucy Awards.

Aniston generated plenty of laughs when, after she accepted the Crystal Award in excellence in film from Stacey Snider, compared the titles of her films -- "The Good Girl," "Rumor Has It," "Derailed," "The Break-Up" -- to the evolving goings on in her life at the time.

"If any of you have something titled "Everlasting Love With an Adult, Stable, Male," my agents are at table 12," Aniston said.

On a more serious note, Aniston said that no matter how much the entertainment industry may try to distill movies into pure science or pure business charts, powerful and authentic stories will be told. "The people in this room will find a way," she said.

While Dorothy Arzner Directors Award recipient Catherine Hardwicke made a call for the room to write "beautiful parts for women of all ages, color and shoe sizes" and Lucy Award honoree Holly Hunter thanked everyone from her presenter Jodie Foster to the writers on her TNT show "Saving Grace," it was Universal executive vp of partnerships and licensing Sperber who moved the crowd with her story of battling breast cancer.

Sperber recounted how last September, at age 43, she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, how she underwent six weeks of chemo, daily radiation therapy, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and had to have her ovaries removed. She also went through a divorce and found herself a single mom.

But, she said, it was the women in this industry that helped her through her terrible time.

"As I moved through every phase of this trial, and it was at times brutal in the true sense of the word, the support from this community grew," Sperber said. "I never went to a chemo session alone. My daughter always had playdates if I couldn't get out of bed. I had a hand to hold as I was poked, undressed, biopsied, and injected. I was told I was beautiful even when I had no hair on my head or no lashes and no eyebrows. And somehow these women made me believe it…Producers, directors, writers, executive of every stripe, you all cirdled around me and protected me as best you could. Many of these women are here tonight. I want to thank them all."

Elsewhere, MaxMara Face of the Future honoree Elizabeth Banks read funny responses from her Twitter followers whom she asked what it means to the face of the future (many were cyborg-related)  while cinematographer Petra Korner accepted her Kodak Vision Award from filmmaker Jonathan Levine, who remembered how Korner, when starting out her career,  sent out her reels under the masculine moniker of "Petro Korner," knowing this was an easier way to score interviews with directors and producer.