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Recap: Women In Film 2011 Focus Achievement Awards Gala

October 28, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Terrence Flamm

Women In Film Chicago attracted an impressive turnout for its annual Focus Awards Gala, which was held in the Wolf Point Ballroom at the Chicago Mart Plaza on October 13th. This year, there were three recipients of the Focus Achievement Awards’ 2011 Committee Honors. They were Chaz Ebert, who serves as Executive Producer of Ebert Presents At The Movies and the Ebertfest Film Festival; Linda Jack, the Director of Voice-over Talent at Grossman & Jack Talent; and Karen O’Hara, the Set Decorator who snagged an Oscar for her work on Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland.

Formerly held during the daytime, the award ceremony was transformed last year into a more elegant nocturnal presentation preceded by cocktails and dinner. Once again held at the Wolf Point Ballroom, the 2011 Gala drew a well-dressed crowd of WIF Chicago members as well as non-members.

“We had over 200 guests.” WIF Chicago member Alisha D. Horton said in a recent telephone interview. She agreed that in addition to its entertainment value, the Gala provides a prime opportunity to network. “A lot of people who come to the Gala go to the other industry events. So it’s a way to reconnect, and to get introduced to new people in the industry as well.” It also serves as the organization’s major fundraiser, and helps attract new members.

Formed in 2004, Women In Film Chicago is part of a national organization that’s been around for over 40 years. Its mission includes offering workshops on the latest trends and technical advances, while tirelessly promoting Chicago as a viable choice for film and entertainment productions. WIF Chicago currently boasts a membership of over 200 women and men involved in the local film/entertainment industry. The women who are chosen as honorees for the annual Focus Achievement Awards’ Committee Honors must have a Chicago connection.

“That’s one of the prerequisites,” Horton confirmed. “They most definitely have to be Chicago natives.” She added she’s sometimes surprised during the decision process, when members vote on a list of nominees, to discover how many film industry movers and shakers are from Chicago. “We learn a lot in our research.”

This year’s Focus Awards Gala opened with a welcoming speech by National Women In Film Vice President Lisa Goepfrich, filling in for President Megan Maples, who wasn’t able to attend. A silent auction helped raise more than $6,000.

“We were proud to be able to have a silent auction,” Horton said. The items “ranged from dresses to electronic helicopters.” Those in attendance could also bid on spa certificates and more industry-related items, such as a 50% off discount for film post production services. “It was a nice variety.”

Another highlight for Horton came when it was time to honor Chaz Ebert, wife of film critic Roger Ebert (who unfortunately was not able to attend). WIF Chicago had created a short video tribute for each recipient, but the organizers were pleasantly surprised when Ebert announced that she had brought her own video as well. The reel included congratulatory messages from stars such as Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Ebert’s humorous responses to those messages.

“We had no idea,” Horton said of last minute addition to the Gala. “I don’t know how she was able to pull that off.” All part of an annual celebration of Chicago area women and their contributions to the film industry.

Check out for additional information on Women In Film Chicago.


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