(L-R) NYWIFT 2014 Muse Award honorees Wanda Sykes, Abigail Disney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Bailey, and Dawn Ostroff, and Muse host Judy Gold. Photo courtesy of NYWIFT.
On December 11, 2014, New York Women in Film & Television held its annual Muse Awards, a fundraising gala luncheon that honors women of outstanding “vision and achievement,” as well as presents the Loreen Arbus Changemaker Award. This year’s honorees were Maggie Gyllenhaal, Wanda Sykes, Condé Nast Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff and script supervisor Mary Bailey. The Changemaker Award went to philanthropist and documentary producer Abigail Disney.
Pre-luncheon, approximately a thousand industry professionals and friends and colleagues of the honorees mingled, taking photos and selfies—
—while the honorees as well as members of the cast of Orange is the New Black—
Actor and NYWIFT member Alysia Reiner walks the Muse Awards red carpet. Photo courtesy of NYWIFT.
—other celebrities, walked the Red Carpet and gave interviews.
After opening remarks by NYWIFT Board President Alexis Alexanian, emcee Judy Gold brought the audience, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, to tears—
—with her jokes, including a very funny bit on being asked to audition as an “irritated vagina” for a commercial. A request for a hashtag for the term immediately came from Abigail Disney when she took the podium.
Humor infused the event, but heartfelt speeches on the current inequality of women in Hollywood, the generational shift in feminism, and the power of women to create change were the main focus of the day.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, who earlier that day was honored with a Golden Globe nomination, recalled when during an interview she was asked to comment on Shailene Woodley’s declaration that she wasn’t a feminist, and how she felt she had dropped the ball with her reply. She said she was going to use her Muse Awards speech to fix that and discuss feminism:
"From my perspective, my mother’s generation was trying to do it all. And perfectly. I think the cultural threat was PROVE that you can have a career and a family. If you make a mistake or a misstep, you’re out. So the model was, "We can handle it! ALL of it! Watch this!"
Gyllenhaal went on to use the final scene in Baby Boom as a metaphor for how the generational feminist struggle has evolved. At the end of the film, Diane Keaton’s character changes her baby’s diaper upon her desk while conducting a business call on the phone. An example of a woman doing it all. Gyllenhaal exclaimed, “In 2014…I think we are allowed to say that sounds like hell, right?”
Diane Keaton in a promo shot for Baby Boom, 1987.
Post Secretary (2002), Gyllenhaal said that she was often asked about the “powerful women characters” that came before her. Her response: “What does that mean ‘powerful women?’ I feel powerful some very small percentage of the time. The rest of the time, I feel like a mix of all sorts of things…I think now, in 2014, if I played the scene I remember from Baby Boom, I might do it weeping.”
She concluded with saying that her mother’s generation (Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal was in attendance, as was Maggie’s husband, actor Peter Sarsargaard) fought “to have it all,” and her generation is fighting “to balance it all,” and Woodley’s generation is “raging” and finding their voice to overthrow previous generations’ notions and create their own path…”trying to move the conversation forward in her own way.”
Loreen Arbus introduced Abigail Disney by sharing the motivation behind the Changemaker Award: “Our greatest hope was that by honoring those who have made a real difference in women’s lives, we could inspire others to take action.” In her acceptance speech. Disney explained that she came to filmmaking late, when she was 46, originally snubbing documentary filmmaking, considering it a wasteful use of money and “just art.” ”What an asshole!” Disney exclaimed, causing laughter to erupt from the audience.
Abigail Disney accepting the Loreen Arbus Changemaker Award. Photo courtesy of NYWIFT.
Dawn Ostroff spoke to the future of the industry, pointing to her daughter in the audience and saying, “To my 11-year-old daughter, there is no difference between film, TV and online video. To her, it’s all just content.” Ostroff went on to say that she feels this shift creates opportunity for women in the industry, new ways to reach the audience, and levels the playing field.
2014 Muse Honoree Dawn Ostroff with her award. Photo courtesy of NYWIFT.
When Mary Bailey rose after the montage of clips showing the great expanse of her career, the audience’s applause was overwhelming. A true master of her trade, Bailey began her speech with:
"While preparing for this event, Executive Director Terry Lawler asked me if there was any footage of me at work on a movie set. After gently disabusing her of this idea—I believe I laughed rather loudly—I realized that I could give a demonstration of it today at this very moment.
So please imagine me seated next to the director. We’re looking at the set or the performance space and one or three monitors are in front of us. The director has called ‘action’ and now I’m going to show you me at work right here.”
Bailey proceeded to demonstrate her work on set by silently twisting her head slowly back and forth and observing the audience as though they were the action on set. Everyone laughs.
She went on to knock the belief that script supervisors are “office workers who have wandered onto the set and now perform secretarial duties,” and emphasized that the future of this position needs to be viewed as not a tech-savvy position only, but as the key person in charge of making sure the editing room has everything they need to make a film. She joked that Richard Pryor once told her she was the only “sane person on set.”
At the luncheon, Muse Award Honoree Mary Bailey speaks about her work. NYWIFT Board President Alexis Alexanian is seen seated to the left.
Wanda Sykes closed the event, once again bringing the audience to tears of laughter, joking she has a white wife and white children, and is a minority in her own home. She teased that after cooking and cleaning up after the kids, she realized that she was “the help”: My wife and my kids are my muses…but…I take care of white people all day. I went backwards!”
The Muse Awards concluded with a coffee reception and the announcement of the numerous raffle winners. Goodie bags filled with sponsors’ gifts went home with everyone, and a wonderful time was had by all!
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