Women’s Experience Honored at Women in Film & Video’s Image Awards Celebration

By Britt Wahlin

On October 22, Women in Film & Video/New England (WIFV/NE) hosted its third Image Awards gala event at the Sheraton Commander in Cambridge, MA. WIFV/NE presents the Image Awards for Vision and Excellence to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals who enhance the image of women in front of and behind the camera. This year’s honorees included Margaret Lazarus, Academy Award-winning social activist filmmaker; Sara Rubin and Kaj Wilson, executive director and artistic director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival; Lyda Kuth, director of the LEF Foundation; and special celebrity guests Brooke Adams and Lynne Adams, sisters, actors, writers, and producers. Television journalist Dixie Whatley emceed the evening with wit and enthusiasm.

With a nod to the generation who blazed the trail for women in film, the theme of the event was inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 song, “Are You Experienced?”, and lava lamps and rock ‘n roll were the order of the evening. “What does it take to feel experienced in this business?” asked Erin Dalbec, Image Awards chair and WIFV/NE board member, in welcoming the crowd of nearly 200. “Is it making sure the talent’s coffee has no more than five and no less than three sugars? . . . Or maybe it takes being the one who calls the shots, gets the credit, or mentors women coming up in the ranks.” The event was as much a tribute to those who finally feel “experienced” as to those who are at the start of their careers. Most importantly, the event recognized the six women whom WIFV/NE selected not just for their experience and contributions to the industry, but for having used their experience to inspire and empower others along the way.

Upon accepting their award, Brooke and Lynne Adams each said the other was her mentor. Both have had successful acting careers - Brooke has three dozen film credits including Allison Anders’ Gas Food Lodging, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Terrence Malice’s Days of Heaven, and Lynne is still approached by fans of the daytime drama, “The Guiding Light”, in which she starred for a decade. But in recent years, they have turned to writing, directing, and producing and have worked together on several endeavors. Most notably, Lynne and Brooke produced and performed in the film Made-Up, a “coming of middle age” comedy loosely based on Lynne’s one-woman play, “Two-Faced.” They started their production company, Sister Films, upon their decision to produce the film independently and now are formulating plans for distribution.

Honorees Sara Rubin and Kaj Wilson were also honored for their accomplishments both as individuals and as a team. Under their collaborative leadership, the Boston Jewish Film Festival has become one of the largest annual Jewish cultural events in Boston. Rubin’s business and marketing know-how (she previously held senior marketing positions in the banking industry) has helped to double the organization’s individual donor base and grow and stabilize its budget, while Wilson’s ability to discern the best contemporary films on Jewish themes - she travels around the world seeking out films - has created one of the highest quality festival programs in the region. Together they have expanded the festival’s programming and secured significant community partnerships as noted by both honorees’ presenters, Michel Goldman and Shoshanna Paccar.

“Bridge builder” was how Beate Becker described Lyda Kuth in presenting her award. In 2001, Kuth began the Moving Image Fund at LEF Foundation New England to support independent filmmaking in the region and it continues to be one of the few funding sources available for independent film and video projects. In its first two years, the fund made grants in the amount of $450,000 to 56 individuals, 30 of whom are women. Kuth has been active in the regional arts community for years, channeling her passion for the media arts into ventures such as the Creative Economy Initiative, which promotes the sustainable economic development of New England’s arts industries. As a connector and bridge builder, Kuth has not only supported individual filmmakers, but she has helped to build a foundation for independent film to thrive in New England.

Long-time WIFV/NE member Margaret Lazarus was honored for both her commitment to making activist films and her impressive body of work, which contains seventeen films on social justice issues ranging from domestic violence and rape to homophobia and images of women in the media. Nearly thirty years ago, Lazarus and her partner and husband, Renner Wunderlich, founded Cambridge Documentary Films, dedicated to creating new perspectives on important social issues. Their films have received numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 1994 for DEFENDING OUR LIVES. Lucia Small, herself an award-winning filmmaker, presented Lazarus’s award and spoke of having been inspired by one of her films as a college student. “I didn’t realize that film could do that,” said Small. Upon receiving her award, Lazarus emphasized the need for women to support each other.

In her opening remarks as Emcee, Dixie Whatley spoke about her years as a young television journalist trying to make her way. Whatley, with a successful twenty-year career under her belt, including a fourteen-year stint as the Arts and Entertainment Editor and film critic for Boston’s WCVB-TV, said that in the early days of her career she didn’t have many female mentors and regrets not having had a network like WIFV/NE.

It was to create their own “old gals’ network” that a group of women working in the film industry founded WIFV/NE twenty-three years ago. The point was to provide a space for women working in all aspects of filmmaking to forge professional connections, improve the status of women in the industry, and empower each other to advance in their careers. Over the years, careers took off, partnerships formed, and an established network emerged. Since 1980, the organization has benefited from the leadership and involvement of some of the most accomplished film and media makers in New England and has continued to serve as an entry point for women who are just starting out.

Twenty-three years later, a community of women and men has grown and strengthened, and many of these individuals helped make the Image Awards event possible by donating their time and talent. WIFV/NE board member Jill Reurs produced the video profiles of the honorees shown during the awards programs with the pro bono assistance of Lynn Weissman, who shot the interviews; Martha Bourne, who produced original music to complement the ‘60s theme; David Porter of Mix One Studios, who did the music mixing; and Steve Tringale and Mike Gurnee from Rampion Visual Productions whose editing artistry helped to create a high-quality, professional piece. A volunteer technical crew led by Robert Delaney and Dennis Grabowski spent hours setting up and running the audio and visual for the evening. As WIFV/NE is a membership-based, volunteer-driven organization, the event could not have happened without the support of these individuals and many others too numerous to list here.

The event was also supported through the generosity of sponsors, including Shreve, Crump & Low, wiley design studio, Fleet, Kodak, National Amusements, National Boston, IMAGINE News, and Walden Asset Management.

For more information about Women in Film & Video/New England, please contact (617) 612-0091or email:

Britt Wahlin serves on the board of directors of Women in Film & Video/New England. She is a frequent contributor to IMAGINE.