Chicago Critic Champions Women Filmmakers; Wins Second Consecutive Achievement Award

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Chicago film critic Jan Lisa Huttner recently earned her second consecutive Silver Feather Award from the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, for writing the most award-winning articles in IWPA’s annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. Last year Huttner’s writing won 10 honors, one of which went on to win first place in the “Best News Writing for the Internet” category from the National Federation of Press Women (IWPA’s parent organization). “Jan Huttner brings expertise, ethics and enthusiasm to all her writing projects,” explains IWPA Contest Chair Pat Szpekowski. A go-to source for information on women filmmakers, Huttner has spoken out widely against the “celluloid ceiling” that keeps women screenwriters, directors and other behind-the-scenes professionals from having the same opportunities as their male colleagues. “To use the words of Professor Martha Lauzen,” says Huttner, “If we change media messages, we change the world!”

Her articles always contain good new information

Chicago film critic Jan Lisa Huttner recently earned her second consecutive Silver Feather Award from the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, for writing the most award-winning articles in IWPA’s annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. This year, Huttner won two first place awards, a pair of seconds, a trio of thirds and an honorable mention—for 14 articles, reviews and interviews she wrote for “All About Jewish Theatre”, “Chicago Woman”, “JUF News,” and “World Jewish Digest,” as well as her own specialized movie website “FILMS FOR TWO: The Online Guide for Busy Couples” (http://www.films42.com). Last year Huttner’s writing won 10 honors, one of which went on to win first place in the “Best News Writing for the Internet” category from the National Federation of Press Women (IWPA’s parent organization).

“Jan Huttner brings expertise, ethics and enthusiasm to all her writing projects,” explains IWPA Contest Chair Pat Szpekowski. “Her articles always contain good new information,” IWPA president Suzanne Hanney adds.

Huttner, who holds Masters degrees in psychology from both Harvard and the University of Chicago, is a member of multiple organizations including the Chicago Film Critics Association, and she writes regular columns for “Chicago Woman,” “Digital Filmmaker,” and the “JUF News” in addition to her numerous freelance articles.

A go-to source for information on women filmmakers, Huttner has spoken out widely against the “celluloid ceiling” that keeps women screenwriters, directors and other behind-the-scenes professionals from having the same opportunities as their male colleagues. On the FILMS FOR TWO® website she runs with her husband, Richard Miller, Huttner has posted an interview with (and keeps up with the ongoing statistical research of) San Diego State University Communications Professor Martha Lauzen. Lauzen’s recently released 2006 report reveals that on the 250 top-grossing films of 2005, women comprised only 11 percent of the screenwriters (down from 14% in 2000), and seven percent of the directors (down from the 11% in 2000).

The morning after the 2006 Oscar ceremony, Jan was a guest commentator on Baton Rouge Public Radio’s “Jim Engster Show,” explaining why women were so upset about this year’s nominations: Diana Ossana was the only female writer or director nominated this year (as co-screenwriter of “Brokeback Mountain”) compared to 6 in 2004.

As Director of College/University Relations for AAUW-Illinois (the American Association of University Women), Huttner is the driving force behind the WITASWAN initiative (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now), convincing thousands of women around the country to flex their box office muscle by pledging to watch one film per month penned and/or helmed by a woman. As WITASWAN coordinator, she also played key roles this year in the Fund for Women Artists’ “Push The Envelope, Please” campaign (http://www.PushTheEnvelopePlease.com), which recently sent a letter with over 1,000 signatures to Hollywood heavyweights advocating more movies written and/or directed by women, as well as in the 2006 “Queen Kong” billboard campaign, co-sponsored by the First Weekenders Group and the Guerilla Girls.

Huttner takes particular pride in discovering women filmmakers doing excellent work below the radar, and then helping to generate buzz through her interviews and/or reviews. In addition to established filmmakers such as Gurinder Chadha, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, and Sally Potter, Huttner has also interviewed Roberta Cantow (“Clotheslines”), Eileen Douglas (“My Grandfather’s House”), Lisa France (“Anne B. Real” and “The Unseen”), Sally Heckel (“A Jury of Her Peers”), Deborah Kampmeier (“Virgin”), Ivy Meeropol (“Heir to an Execution”), Pamela Katz (“Rosenstrasse”), Barbara Turner (“Pollock” and “The Company”), Sarah Watt (“Look Both Ways”), Lizzy Weiss (“Blue Crush”), and Alice Wu (“Saving Face”).

According to Independent Spirit Award nominee Lisa France: “The great thing about being interviewed by Jan is her ability to ask unique and varied questions that really delve into the soul of where your art originated from and why it's poignant to you." Eileen Douglas adds: "Jan’s review of our personal documentary ‘My Grandfather's House’ was the first we received, and besides her words of praise, Jan went the extra mile, making sure she linked to our distributor!"

The IWPA judges call Jan’s work “wonderfully engaging and informative,” “thought-provoking,” “authoritative,” “thorough,” “insightful,” “witty” and “entertaining.” On the awards specific to her series on women filmmakers for “Chicago Woman,” they wrote: “Thorough and concise summation of films; admirable description and context; expansive information well condensed in a small space.”

“The first time I saw the name ‘Martha Lauzen’ was in a Sunday ‘New York Times’ article on June 2, 2002,” Huttner recalls. “I remember both the date and the context vividly, and I have been tracking her research ever since. The sad fact is that her ‘celluloid ceiling’ numbers get worse every year, not better. There are many reasons for this, of course, but whatever the reasons, I am determined to do all I can personally do to right the imbalance. As it stands now, the voices of half of humanity are being suppressed in the planet’s most influential medium. This is simply wrong. To paraphrase what Martha told me when I interviewed her: If we change media messages, we change the world!”

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