By Myra Chanin
The New York Women in Film and Television’s 39th Annual Muse Award was a rare and worthy event. The six being recognized were noteworthy for their talent and remarkable achievements rather than their wardrobes although I must admit they all looked mighty attractive. The New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) advocates for equality in the moving image industry and supports women in every stage of their careers. As the preeminent entertainment industry association for women in New York, it energizes women by illuminating their achievements, presenting training and professional development programs, awarding scholarships and grants and providing access to a supportive community of peers.
The women being honored were:
Terry Lawler, stepping down as NYWIFT Executive director after 21 years, has guided the organization through massive organizational growth, while it doubled its membership, tripled its operating budget, and has spearheaded the creation of numerous innovative programs and initiatives. She guided its move to online communications and the inclusion of the “digital media” industry, alongside film and television, in the organization’s programming and membership outreach. She also significantly enhanced membership diversification across occupations with more members represented in the below-the-line crafts, as well as age, race and ethnicity and, yes, gender. Moreover, she has revitalized NYWIFT’s advocacy initiatives and strengthened relationships with important partners such as the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, sister WIFTI chapters, and the media.
Maysoon Zayid, comedian, writer and producer and fierce disability advocate, once described herself in a BBC interview as “a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy from New Jersey.” She started her acting career by appearing on the popular soap opera As the World Turns along with guest appearances on Law and Order, NBC Nightly News and ABC’s 20/20. When her disability and ethnicity repeatedly limited her advancement, she turned to stand up and began appearing at New York’s top comedy clubs where she takes on serious topics such as terrorism and the Israel-Palestine conflicts. She spends three months a year in the Palestinian territories running an arts program for disabled and orphaned children in refugee camps, helping them deal with trauma and bridge the gap between disabled and non-disabled children.
Tricia Brock is an American television director, film producer and television writer who began her career working in television commercials before she was recruited to write two episodes of the television series, Twin Peaks. She wrote for other television series namely, Knots Landing, Family Law and Due East, before shifting her focus to directing. She made her directorial debut with the short film, The Car Kid and has continued her directing works in television with episodes of Younger, The Walking Dead, 30 Rock and Mr. Robot.
Lisa Nishimura is the Emmy Award winning producer and Vice President of Original Documentary and Comedy programming at Netflix. Nishimura was in charge of licensing documentaries for Netflix when she agreed to a brief sit-down with filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos who’d spent 8 years gathering footage for what would become, Making a Murderer, which explores a possible miscarriage of justice in the case of a Manitowoc, Wisconsin man imprisoned for sexual assault, exonerated by DNA evidence after 18 years behind bars, and then convicted of a different crime. Their 30-minute “get to know you” meeting evolved into a two-hour mind meld. She’s also produced Chef’s Table and The Comedy Lineup.
Ellen Burstyn is an American actress best known for her roles in films of the 1970s, such as The Last Picture Show, The Exorcist, and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. She’s one of the few actresses who’s won a triple crown of acting – Multiple Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award. She started as a dancer on the Jackie Gleason show and last year at age 85, directed her first feature film, Bathing Flo, in which she also plays the eccentric mother Flo. When she was offered the script, which she liked, she agreed to play Flo, and when they asked who she’d like to direct, she always wanted to direct and said, Me.”
Sarah Jessica Parker, a New York City icon is one of the most well-known actors and producers of our time for Sex and the City, Failure to Launch and Divorced. Inasmuch as I never got to hear anyone speak, because I was only given access to the Red Carpet, she made the biggest impression on me. She didn’t look like she was wearing much make-up, she didn’t look like she’d had any plastic surgery, and even more, her hair looked like it hadn’t seen a blow-dryer that morning. She looked like a regular person and was very attentive to the media people who questioned her.