Chaz Ebert has become one of the foremost agents of change in the entertainment industry, working to make sure traditionally overlooked communities get the chance to develop their talents in the business.
Tonight, the entrepreneur, film producer, publisher of RogerEbert.com and president of the Ebert Company LTD. is being honored for her efforts to drive inclusion with the FACETS Legend Award at the Screen Gems Benefit 2022 in her native Chicago.
“Chaz is so deserving of this honor as she is passionate about programs that help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color and that provide education and arts opportunities for women, children, and families,” noted FACETS executive director Karen Cardarelli. “We are inspired by her extraordinary contributions to the industry.”
Ebert began her career as an attorney, working as a litigator for the Environmental Protection Agency, and later in private practice. In 1989 she became vice president of the Ebert Company LTD, and in 1992 she and Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert were married. Her early efforts at promoting diversity within the film world came in sponsoring Ebert Fellows to participate in important festivals like Sundance and Cannes.
“When I first started out doing this, it wasn’t consciously just to open up things,” Ebert tells Deadline. “I would talk to people who I found interesting, people who didn’t know how to break into the industry. They didn’t know anyone. They didn’t have any clout. But I thought that they were talented and I thought, Boy, I’d like to see their work.”
She was married to Roger Ebert for more than 20 years before his untimely passing in 2013. Since his death, she has continued her philanthropic field-building work through a variety of programs.
“As president of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation… she has provided grants to support films with strong social justice themes,” a press release from FACETS said. “And she supports emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists with her endowment of scholarships, internships, or awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Film Independent Spirit Awards, the University of Illinois Ebert Fellowships, the Hawaii International Film Festival-Young Critics Program, the Telluride Ebert/TFF University Seminars, the Chicago International Film Festival Ebert Director Awards, and the Columbia College Links Journalism Awards in conjunction with the Chicago Urban League.”
Those initiatives have begun to bear fruit, widening a field that at one point was mostly the preserve of white men.
“I do know that I’m pleased every time I see some area opening up,” Ebert says, “whether it’s in front of the camera or behind the camera.”
In recent years, Ebert has become more involved in film projects, executive producing Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, the 2021 drama Passing that starred Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson.
“If you had to classify me as a personality type, I’m more of a producer,” Ebert explains. “I came from a family of nine children — I was the eighth of nine. And when you have a big group of people trying to do anything you need somebody who is very organized and very laser focused on what things need to be done and how to draw the people together to do them and how to draw money together to do it. That was my role kind of in life. And so it became natural for me to become more of a film producer.”
Recently, she has turned her attention to directing. She’s at work on her first documentary, which will tell the story of Deborah Szekely, known as the “godmother of health and fitness,” who celebrated her 100th birthday on May 3.
“She started Rancho La Puerta Wellness Resort and Spa when she was 17, and she started the Golden Door Spa outside of San Diego. And she’s still going strong,” Ebert says. “I spent her 100th birthday with her, and the whole town of Tecate, Mexico, came out and gave her a party. They had parties for her in San Diego. They had parties for her in Washington, D.C. She told me is still walks the mile a day. Sometimes she has to use a walker to do it, but she still does it.”
The film will explore the incredible dimensions to Szekely’s career, which extend beyond health and fitness.
“She started a center for new citizens who come into the United States. She wrote a book that Congress uses today to tell you what to do when you first get elected to Congress,” Ebert notes. “Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide was her idea. She put it together and it’s now in its 17th edition. She’s lived an extraordinary life, and to spend the day with someone who at 100 was still inspiring me was something that I wanted to document.”
Ebert says she hasn’t decided if the film will be feature length or a short, but hopes to release it next year.
Tonight’s Screen Gems Benefit, meanwhile, were Ebert is being honored, will support causes close to her.
“All proceeds will be directed to the Bross Scholarship Fund supporting under-resourced youth,” according to a release. “Scholarships provide free access to the Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and to Summer Film Camp.”
Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs
Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’
Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.
Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’
EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.
London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul
To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide
‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards
Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.
Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.
The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)
Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.
In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.
Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.
Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.
Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.
The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.
Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark
EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.
Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.
Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:
While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.
Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.
Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide. As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.
On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”
Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.
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