The 2014 Focus Achievement Award Gala took place on Wednesday, November 5 as the signature event for Women in Film Chicago. VSA Partners’ Selina Hood, Director of Production reflected on her involvement in the organization on the occasion of the event—and the 10th anniversary of her helping to relaunch the chapter. “My soapbox then was pretty similar to what it is today: I love Chicago and I want to work here and do creative work. If we’re going to do that, and keep talented people from thinking they can only do exceptional work on the coasts, we have to constantly continue to bolster our community.”
WIFC is one of 23 chapters around the country of Women in Film, the preeminent organization for the advancement of women in media creation industries with 6,800 members in the US and over 12,000 worldwide. Active in the 1980s and 1990s, the Chicago chapter had gone dormant until 2004, when Hood and a number of other local professionals began looking for ways to organize. “We always had two tenets in mind: education and networking. Together, we introduced the idea that there’s a really strong community here that talks with each other and supports each other.”
Hood and her cofounders saw that WIFC held a very specific role in empowering women in media at all points in their career, from those just starting out and seeking potential career paths to those looking to be mentors. Out of that came program series aimed at various career stages—executive breakfasts, agency tours, student events and cocktail hours. WIFC President Megan Maples discussed the cofounders mission as “changing the landscape of what are currently male-dominated industries,” especially when looking at the upper tiers in advertising, film and television. “When we can connect women with other women within the same industry or across industries, it can be eye-opening, providing that person with a whole new world that they just might want to jump into,” she said. “It provides exposure, opportunity and potential for innovation—and that’s important if we truly want to change the conversation.”
Hood began as the chapter’s first secretary and sponsorship chair, then transitioned into the vice-president role for several years. She moved to the advisory board about five years ago, where she remains today. “The board has done so much in the last few years to grow the programming and visibility, and keep the chapter on the map,” she said. “It’s been an honor to serve as a sounding board for them and support them through identifying resources, making connections and sharing the lessons the core group of us learned in the first few years.”
In Hood’s words, the Focus Awards offer the opportunity to honor people—men included—who’ve made significant contributions in film, television, advertising, digital and on-screen media, whether currently or previously in Chicago. “Sometimes that results in some well-known honorees, like Raquel Welch and Bonnie Hunt. But other times the honorees are surprising and touching, like Janice Arthur, who’s been a Steadicam operator for 25 years.”
Maples, shown in the photo above, acknowledged the Awards’ uniqueness: “This year’s Focus Awards boasted record attendance, drawing both industry veterans and emerging talent from Chicago’s advertising and film communities to honor four very accomplished women. Seeing the men and women who lead, champion and support these communities come together to support Women in Film Chicago is a testament to the impact we have on these industries. It’s inspiring—and humbling—to know that we make a difference.” This year’s honorees came from a range of professional backgrounds and included Susan Credle, Shira Piven, Erin Sarofsky and Christina Varotsis, who were feted at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communication.
Follow Women in Film Chicago on Facebook and Twitter to learn about upcoming events and see a gallery of photos from this year’s Focus Awards. And stay tuned in the coming year for a WIF members-only job board for opportunities in the film, agency, production and post-production communities.
Focus Awards image courtesy of Women in Film Chicago.