History


FOUNDER

Tichi Wilkerson Kassell (1926­-2004)Tichi Wilkerson Kassel founded Women In Film in 1973 while she was a publisher and editor-­in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter. She knew first­hand how limited opportunities were for women in the entertainment industry and was determined to change that:

As most of you already know, I have a very strong commitment to this organization. Those veterans of this group are aware that we are no longer alone, no longer isolated in our endeavors. We have created a point of reference, an embryo resource, which has great potential for growth. As a group, we can focus a new spotlight on individuals among us and on women in general. As an organization, we can strengthen each other. We can provide opportunities for profiling individual successes. Our combined voices can assure greater recognition of individual efforts. I am proud to be one of you.

­—Tichi Wilkerson Kassel, 1985 Crystal Awards

 

 

PAST PRESIDENTS
Jane Fleming, 2007–10
Cici Holloway, 2006
Iris Grossman, 2003–05
Hollace Davids, 2000–02
Iris Grossman, 1996–99
Joan Hyler, 1994–95
Patricia Barry, 1993
Billie Beasley Jenkins, 1991–92
Marcy Kelly, 1990
Marian Rees, 1988–89
Fern Field, 1987–88
Irma Kalish, 1986–87
Barbara Klein, 1985–86
Johnna Levine, 1984–85
Mary S. Ledding, 1983–85
Phylis Geller, 1982–83
Mollie Gregory, 1981–82
Bonny Dore, 1980–81
Gloria Goldsmith, 1978–80
Barbara Boyle, 1977–78
Sally Baker, 1976–77
Tichi Wilkerson Kassel, 1973–76

 

FOR THE RECORD: The Oral Histories of the Women Behind Women In Film

By Mollie Gregory

FOR THE RECORD has documented the first phase of the history of Women In Film, Los Angeles by collecting and archiving programs, minutes of board meetings, photos, transcriptions of the Crystal + Lucy Awards®, and conducting many interviews with members of the organization from 1973 to 2012.

The interviews present lively personal recollections through the decades—their triumphs, their challenges, and their observations of how the organization evolved as women’s career opportunities changed in the entertainment industry and in the world.

Since WIF began, hundreds of women in the industry have served on its boards of directors, an unbroken chain of service that has functioned for 42 years. Members of those boards have included many of the most accomplished and groundbreaking women (and a few men)—producers, directors, writers, agents, and executives. Their combined experience is a powerful source of expertise and information for anyone working in the industry today.

 

1973–1980

Founders:

Tichi Wilkerson-Miles, publisher, Hollywood Reporter; Marcia Borie, author and magazine writer; Zepha Bogart, publicity and public relations; Sue Cameron, Hollywood Reporter columnist; Georgianne Heller, President, Publicity West Company; Nancy Malone, film, television, and stage actress, Director of TV Development at Fox; Portia Nelson, composer, writer, lyricist; Françoise Ruddy, writer-producer; Norma Zarky, attorney. They met on March 12, 1973.

Presidents:

Tichi Wilkerson Miles, 1973–76; Sally Baker, 1976–77; Barbara Boyle, 1977–78; Gloria Goldsmith, 1978–80; Bonny Dore, 1980–81.

Interviews:

Barbara Boyle, Sue Cameron, Gloria Goldsmith, Bonny Dore, Christine Foster, Lilyan Chauvin, Kayla Garen, Ilene Kahn Power, Nancy Malone.

Actions and Events:

1973:  First meeting of founders, first WIF boards were formed.

1974:  First WIF directory published.

1976: First WIF chapters formed in New York, Atlanta, and Georgia.

The WIF production of But Can she Type? aired on NBC.

1977: First Crystal Luncheon. Awardees were Lucille Ball, screenwriter Eleanor Perry, Nancy Malone, and attorney Norma Zarky.

1978: Nancy Malone creates The Zarky Award for a man who “significantly helps women to achieve their goals, or whose own work celebrates achievements of women.” That year Gareth Wigan received the first award.

1980: Kayla Garen and Joan Owens formed WIF International.

Lilyan Chauvin (actor, director) established WIF Directors Workshop, which met monthly for over 20 years.

A standing committee is formed to create the WIF Foundation (Barbara Boyle, Margot Winchester, Meredith MacRae, Bonny Dore).

1981: WIF board revised the by-laws to allow all members to directly elect WIF officers.

QUOTES FROM MEMBERS

We wanted to network with each other, help each other. We wanted to let the industry know there were women who were accomplished and professional. To many men in the industry—though most denied it—women were wives, secretaries, actresses, and hookers—in that order. They didn’t think that seriously, but it was an attitude….Women In Film gave me a sense of sisterhood I never had before. Also it gave me a sense of the politics of the industry and that made me more of an activist in life. It was a pivotal organization and we all were part it. It made us a community.

—Gloria Goldsmith, writer

 

Tichi made me join. When I was on the board one of the big issues was whether Women In Film should support the Equal Rights Amendment, which I was very much for. I said, ‘It’s not a political issue, it is a human issue!’ The board worried about our nonprofit status, but we did support the ERA, finally..My own partner in my law firm, a man, didn’t regard WIF well. ‘What do you want to do that for? And for Heaven’s sakes, do you have to draw more attention to it?’ When I worked for Roger Corman, his attitude was quite different. He hired a lot of women because they were smarter, more loyal, and cheaper.

—Barbara Boyle, attorney, producer

 

I think Sue Cameron or Tichi pulled me into the group because I was getting a little publicity. There weren’t very many of us doing development in executive positions. In the early 1970s, there wasn’t a reaction from men [about WIF] because we had no power. But for us, it was a way to compare notes and talk with each other as executives, or growing executives, I should say. Later, I always felt the aim of the organization was to put itself out of business. Meaning that we would get to the point where, for instance, hiring women was no longer an issue.

—Christine Foster, executive, WIF Board of Directors 1974–77

 

From the beginning Tichi wanted Women In Film to be international. When we went to Cannes we would talk to all the female producers, they always let us know what was happening in film, they had heard of Women In Film and wanted to be part of it. It was a natural outgrowth of the organization, and it was very exciting with very diverse opinions. Tichi never got involved in personalities. ‘Try to hear the idea,’ she would say, ‘don’t get caught up in the passions.’

—Kayla Garen, director of operations, Hollywood Reporter

 

I was proud to be part of it. I was among fabulous people who were on the verge of or had broken through to some degree, and it was marvelous to see the potential. I was very proud to say I was a member of Women In Film, very proud to be in the first group of Crystal winners. It meant something to help put this adventure together. Then the organization became more respectable, less suspicious…and that reflected on all of us who started it. There’s nothing better than feeling proud about something you’ve done.

—Nancy Malone, director

 

1981-1990

PRESIDENTS:

Mollie Gregory, Phylis Geller, Mary Ledding, Johnna Levine, Barbara Klein, Irma Kalish, Fern Field, Marian Rees, Marcy Kelly.

INTERVIEWS:

Fern Field, Phylis Geller, Mollie Gregory, Diane Asselin-Baer, Johnna Levine, Barbara Klein, Irma Kalish, Georgia Jeffries, Dorothea Petrie.

ACTION AND EVENTS:

1981: Officers of the board were the first to be elected by the membership.

The first of three big media seminars began, produced by Ricki Franklin.

Besides NYC and Atlanta, WIF U. S. chapters included: Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Denver, New England, and Orlando, Florida.

1982: The board finalized the establishment of the WIF Foundation in July.

1983: The Speakers Bureau began. Phylis Geller’s Issues Committee presents “Violence Against Women in Movies.”

1984: Nancy Malone creates the Crystal Humanitarian Award for Women of Courage, whose achievements go beyond career goals to issues—such as poverty, education, or medical advances.

Diane Asselin, Phylis Geller and Mollie Gregory create the Film Finishing Fund.

1985: A grant from Dianna Meehan and Gary David Goldberg funds WIF’s programs, such as its Signature Series (an oral history program that later became Legacy.)

The Job Referral Service is established.

1988: WIF Film Festivals (“On Screen”) begin, created by Barbara Klein.

WIF president, Marian Rees, presents “Presidents’ Night” with Betty Friedan.

QUOTES FROM MEMBERS

I think women had the sense that they were on the precipice of something big in their career possibilities—that doors were opening and they would open even further. We also realized that wherever you were in your career, you really had been alone. But now maybe you didn’t have to be….Women In Film gave us that support. I believe the organization, by its very existence, contributed to the self-fulfilling process of women achieving more in the industry. Though it was less tangible, I firmly believe it gave us more confidence by bringing us together to share beliefs, passions, and commitments. That’s when we realized we were not alone. It gave individuals more confidence to do what they wanted to do.

—Phylis Geller, producer

Diane Asselin, Lilyan Chauvin, and I were candidates for president the first time elections were decided by the members instead of by the board. That one change brought out members in droves. They packed the hall. All the women running for the board or for president gave speeches about where we stood on various issues, what programs or directions we would recommend. Everyone—candidates, members in the audience—had lots of opinions! After that night, the campaigns for the board had all the highs and lows of opera. Supporters were quite partisan and some were concerned the candidates wouldn’t work together after the drama was over. But we did! When the results were in Diane Asselin (first vice president) and I (president) looked at each other, both new to Women In Film, and said: “We’re in charge. What do we do now?” We broke up laughing. Then we went to work.

—Molly Gregory, writer

I was a writer, I had two children, my life revolved around my family. Women In Film took me out of my isolation. I was elected to the board, produced the Crystals in 1982, and on that board all of us were bright, pragmatic, ambitious. We had certain goals for our careers, we had a camaraderie—I would say a sisterhood. I personally felt that I was working not just for myself when I served the organization, I really was working for a larger good and for an organization that would serve not only my needs, my career, and those of other women, friends, and colleagues. What we did would serve the women who would come after us.

—Georgia Jeffries, writer-producer

In essence, Women In Film was started by a close-knit group of women who were very serious about their intent to improve employment conditions for women in the industry. That’s why WIF has lasted this long. When I was president in 1984, we struggled to survive financially to cover mailing costs, office rental, Mac’s salary in the office. I remember a Warner Bros. executive whose support I was trying to enlist for WIF. He looked over a brochure I gave him and said, ‘Fine organization that believes equality. The only man you have on your board is named Sam.’ I thought, ‘I can’t even give him that.’ Sam O’Brien was on my board. I think her name was Samantha, but she was Sam to us. We began thinking seriously about men on the board.

—Johnna Levine, attorney

 

When I was president in 1986, we accepted men into our organization. Perhaps I still can’t get the tar and feathers out of my hair….There was talk about Women In Film being sued, but this was an era in which women were trying to get into men’s organizations, so why not open ours up to the men? They did join our organization. Some served on the board and the world didn’t come to an end.

—Irma Kalish, writer-producer

 

When I was looking for someone to hire, my first choice was always to go to the women I knew from Women In Film to find, for instance, someone who wrote music who was a member of WIF, or someone that was right for the project I was working on.

—Barbara Klein, producer

 

In the early years, I believe Women In Film helped chip away at prejudices and limitations. It raised awareness. And if you don’t have that awareness, it’s really hard for change to happen.

—Fern Field, producer

QUOTES FROM THE CRYSTAL AWARDS

Women need to help women. We must look into ourselves and see how really frightened we are of one another. Even those who say they are feminists often show a lack of generosity to other women. We must root for each other’s successes and not for each other’s failures, because every woman’s failure closes the door an inch, and every woman’s success opens it a little wider for all of us.

—Barbara Streisand, 1984 Crystal Awards

 

When I was starting out as an actress, there were very few kinds of roles that a woman could play in the media as in life. If you were pretty, you could be dumb. If you weren’t pretty, you could be funny. If you were black, you could be a maid. If you were Hispanic, you could be an evil sexpot. And if, God forbid, you were a woman director, or a producer, or a cinematographer, or a grip, you could forget about working all together.

—Marlo Thomas, 1985 Crystal Awards

 

Young actresses in film today have no idea of the strides made by women in our industry. They now can be in a film that is cast, directed, and produced by women. When I began my film career 26 years ago, the only women behind the camera were the hairdresser, the wardrobe girl, and the body makeup girl. It was not until 1978, while working on a film, that I saw a woman electrician on the set.

—Ann-Margret, 1987 Crystal Awards

 

Michael Eisner thought it was a great idea to hire people to make decisions at a network who actually were the same gender as the majority of viewers. So did Fred Silverman and Brandon Stoddard. That was 1974. You’d think that would be an old idea by now, but no.

—Marcy Carsey, 1990 Crystal Awards

 

1991-2008

PRESIDENTS:

Billie B. Jenkins, Patricia Barry, Joan Hyler, Iris Grossman, Hollace Davids, Cici Holloway, Jane Fleming.

INTERVIEWS:

Patricia Barry, Jane Fleming, Iris Grossman, Judith Parker Harris, Joan Hyler, Judith James, Billie Jenkins, Deborah Miller, Carol Savoie.

ACTION AND EVENTS:

1992: WIF board changes election of officers by the membership to the board, the slate process.

The Crystals continue to flourish as a successful fundraiser.

1993:  The PSA program begins, created by Judith Parker Harris.

Mentoring programs and Internships develop.

1994:  Lucy Awards established by Joanna Kerns, Loreen Arbus, Bonny Dore.

WIF creates more scholarships for women.

U.S. chapters added: South Carolina, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle.

1998: WIF International is redesigned and formalized with its own board.

Carol Savoie establishes the WIF International Summit meetings every other year.

Nancy Malone and Barbara Streisand create The Dorothy Arzner Directors Award at the Crystals to highlight women directors.

2005: Judith James brings major grant from General Motors; she also creates WIF/GM website and the online magazine, TRACTION.

QUOTES FROM MEMBERS

One night I got a call from Marcy Kelly, president of WIF. I was on her board…She said the executive committee had nominated me for president. I think they had me on speakerphone, and I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not sure. I’m cooking dinner.’ All I could think about, in all honesty, was that I’ll have to give a speech at the Crystals in front of 1100 people….Carmen Zapata was also on the board and had participated in Women In Film for many years. She and I had talked about making a difference, you know, being visible. After that call from Marcy, Carmen and I spoke. She said, ‘You know when we were talking about you wanting to continue to make a difference? Now is your time.’ What it amounted to was that I would be the first African American president of Women In Film and that would encourage other minorities to come into the industry, participate in it, to grow and prosper. So I said yes.

—Billie B. Jenkins, executive

 

I honestly think it’s one of the most exciting, innovative organizations for women….In the 35 years that Women In Film has been around, when you stop and think about the difference between how many women were in the executives’ suites then compared to now it is quite amazing…WIF not only enhanced my career, but it kind of created who I was.

—Iris Grossman, agent

 

At a pre-Crystal party, Joanna Kerns, who had spent her life in television, said, ‘It’s too bad there aren’t as many women in television being honored….What if we had a separate event for the women in television?’ Loreen Arbus and I went to Joanna’s house. We were sitting on the patio and I said, ‘The first thing we’ve got to do is name this baby,’ at which point Loreen said, ‘How about we name it after Lucille Ball?’ Joanna and I looked at each other and went, ‘The Lucy Awards, it’s perfect.’ And that’s how it was born.

—Bonny Dore, producer

It’s not a little girls’ club, it’s an important organization. I think the community has grown to respect Women In Film. We didn’t have the old boys’ network, we still don’t have an old girl’s network, but I think we are better at being a team for each other. And that’s why Women In Film survives, because we still need it. We need people to help us along a path, and women are good at that.

—Judith Parker Harris

 

You had to learn to play as a team, because it was pretty obvious that if you weren’t part of a team in our profession, it was going to be difficult. I went to my first WIF meeting with a girlfriend at William Morris, and we sat there and didn’t know anything that was going on, and really didn’t feel a part of it, and we were kind of like, ‘What are we doing here?’ She didn’t go back. I did, and in a very short time I was involved with the Lucy Awards, and from there on I found a home. I found wonderful, wonderful friendships that have lasted, and lasted, and lasted.

—Deborah Miller, agent

 

Women have been heads of studios and networks, but on a certain level men are still somewhat uncomfortable with women in senior positions to them…That is unspoken but still exists, which may be why Women In Film still exists. I believe our biggest challenge now in Women in Film is to make sure it has a reason and relevancy, reaches out to the next generations, because a lot of them do not feel there is a need. Yes, we paved the way, did the heavy lifting, and now, ‘Why Women in Film? We don’t need it because we’re equal.’ Well, guess what? Not so much. In the words of Borat.

—Ilene Kahn Power, producer

 

I joined WIF because, I think, I have an incredibly strong belief in community. The old phrase, the old boys’ network, was the singly biggest lack in the women’s professional business world. All industries. And we felt that lack very badly in the film business. For me, it was finding a place like an oasis to take a deep drink of water. That place was in Women in Film. At least, the promise of it. On the foundation, we were talking about staff, about computers, about ‘getting the tools’…and around 2002, 2003, I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. Unless I can find a big source of money, I’ve got to get off this board, because it’s breaking my heart.’ That’s when I started looking for big sponsors, which I have done in my business. We needed to grow up, and we did through the G.M. money.

—Judith James, producer

 

I think Women In Film has changed the perspective of what women are able to achieve, and what their lives look like, and that’s been done through the Crystals and Lucys and all the programs we put on every year. Women In Film has empowered women without being anti-male….This is more philosophical, but my generation is coming around to realize they still need people to teach them, that we don’t need to do it all alone. And we can’t do it alone. As women in or out of the entertainment industry, it’s impossible to balance all of the needs of our lives alone.

—James Fleming, Producer

QUOTES FROM THE CRYSTAL AWARDS

There are many jobs in Hollywood and other communities that remain relatively closed to women. I believe that as leaders in film it is our responsibility not just to open the doors for other women, but to stick huge rocks in them so those doors will never shut again.

—Penny Marshall, 1991 Crystal Awards

 

But the success of women does not wipe out the failure of the profession. And women directors have been failed by their profession. The individual successes that we cherish and cheer have made such a small collective difference.

Women directors don’t make the short list. And frequently they don’t even make the long list. Women directors are still shut out. Women who could be directing are still below the line, and that’s the bottom line.

—Jean Furstenberg, 1990 Crystals

 

Don’t be afraid of missing opportunities. Behind every failure is an opportunity somebody wishes they’d missed.

—Lily Tomlin, 1992 Crystal Awards

 

I think the women in this room can rack ‘em up and slam ‘em down with the best of the boys.

—Alfre Woodard, 1995 Crystal Awards