30 Years After THR’s First Power List of Women, How Much Has Changed in Hollywood? – Hollywood Reporter

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Kathleen Kennedy, Debbie Allen and seven other powerhouses share what they’ve learned since 1992, when The Hollywood Reporter, then a daily trade paper, launched its annual list of the top women in entertainment.

By Sydney Odman, Stacey Wilson Hunt

In honor of the 30th anniversary of The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment issue, THR spoke with some of the powerhouse women that were featured in the very first list in 1992. From the likes of Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Kennedy, Gale Ann Hurd, Debbie Allen and more, nine women share what they’ve learned, the challenges they faced and how they’ve seen the industry evolve over the years. This year, THR also celebrates 30 years of sponsorship from longstanding cable network Lifetime.

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What I was doing in 1992 I was directing and producing A Different World, the spin­off of The Cosby Show, which became a centerpiece in the world of higher achievement in academics for colleges. We tripled the enrollment of HBCUs and made a real mark for the voice of young people in America.
Most memorable challenge The AIDS episode. When AIDS happened, everyone was so frightened of it. We tackled it immediately. Producers Susan Fales-Hill and Yvette Lee Bowser and the network — you would have thought we were putting Jesus back on the cross. I got Whoopi Goldberg, who I knew was going to win the Oscar that year [for Ghost], to play the teacher, and Tisha Campbell to play the young girl who had contracted AIDS. The advertisers pulled out, which was just awful. If we saved one or two lives, it was worth the whole show. At the end of the day, they told us no. [The episode did make it to air.] What I’m doing in 2022 Playing a rat in Hot Chocolate Nutcracker at 72 years old. Hopping around the stage, having the best time of my life.
Advice for new women on Power 100 Young women now can give more opportunities to other women. It’s important that you bring the tribe along with you.
Producer, including the 2020 Oscars
What I was doing in 1992 I was a vice president at Columbia Pictures, having just supervised Boyz n the Hood, and was working with John Singleton on his second film.

Most memorable challenge We shot Poetic Justice during the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. The city was on fire, emotions ran hot, and [star] Tupac [Shakur] was hard to wrangle!
Advice to my younger self Write more.
Advice for new women on Power 100 Hollywood is a long business. Sometimes you need to take a sacred pause to discover your next move. Failure is your best teacher. Take time for family because the business will always be here, but your kids become adults while you’re waiting for that green light.
Entertainment attorney, when asked to complete the sentence, “This woman in Hollywood taught me …
“[Bottle Rocket] producer Barbara Boyle taught me that helping other women was the work of angels.”
President, Lucasfilm
What I was doing in 1992 Beginning in 1990, and for three years, we had been exploring what technology we would employ to help create realistic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, which we began shooting in August 1992. Being able to continue that work at the intersection of storytelling and technical innovation is a real passion of mine.
Progress that women in entertainment have made An open and honest acknowledgment that our industry continues to have a significant lack of representation of women in all areas of our business.
Advice for new women on Power 100 Stay curious, passionate, flexible and, most of all, maintain a sense of humor!

The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, who recently premiered Gumbo Coalition, a film about social justice groups and the continued fight for civil rights.
“In 1992, I was a producer-director, working on Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson. I was able to put some heart and soul that was lacking in the sports genre into his story, and I could ask questions men wouldn’t about feelings and emotional memories to get to the core of the film. Mike Tyson [convicted of rape] was in jail, so all the stories were from those closest to him. When he got out, we were, for some reason or another, staying at the same hotel. He came up to me and told me he loved the film and its honesty.”
What I was doing in 1992 I was appointed chairman of the Paramount Motion Picture Group in November of that year.
Most memorable challenge Making great movies that were artistically and commercially successful.
Advice to my younger self Have more fun, enjoy every day and don’t worry as much about the future. It’s hard advice to follow, and I would give my 78-year-old self the same advice.
Progress that women in entertainment have made When I entered the business, the only management-level job available to women was story editor, which was a great job. But now women run studios and head networks and are involved in every facet of the industry. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, especially with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion, but we have made great strides. I also believe that in my lifetime a woman will be elected president of the United States.

In 1992, I’d co-created and was producing In Living Color at Fox, then a fairly new network, the Wild West. But they were culturally intimidated by the show and its brazen racial truthful content, and at that time, the NAACP was not endorsing us. After the pilot sat on their shelf for six months, I had no choice but to go rogue, and I slipped it to some press people. It was the brave Martha Frankel [at Details] who wrote an article asking Fox why this isn’t on their airwaves. I faxed it to Barry Diller and his team. The next day we were picked up, and the first year out [1990], the show won an Emmy. It would gift the industry with the still-enduring talents of Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Damon and the Wayans [brothers].
Oscar-winning production designer
In 1992, I worked on Billy Bathgate, and my greatest difficulty was surviving the endless fights with Disney over money. Despite great support from a great director (Robert Benton), an excellent producer (Robert F. Colesberry) and a top creative team, the film was seriously underbudgeted. Disney did not realize the script was complex and with many sets and locations. The studio (and my supporters) were all male; I felt no one took my problems seriously. I still love the film and am proud of it. If these things happened now, I would scream like a banshee. But they would not happen because we have a much more open forum now. Then again, they also don’t make films like that anymore.

Film and TV producer, including The Walking Dead franchise
What I was doing in 1992 Brian de Palma and I were in post-production on Raising Cain, which we filmed and posted in the Bay area. I was also in post on The Waterdance, written and co-directed by Neal Jimenez, which premiered at Sundance and won the Spirit for best first feature (over Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs!). I was coming off Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which was the world’s top-grossing film at the box office, and had an overall deal with Universal Pictures.
Most memorable challenge Juggling motherhood — my daughter was born in September of 1991 — and my career, [a challenge that] continued until my daughter went off to college.
Progress that women in entertainment have made It isn’t as rare to see women succeeding as producers, directors and writers, but the industry still isn’t a gender meritocracy.
Advice for new women on Power 100 Your perseverance is as important as your talent.
Oprah Winfrey: 27
Kathleen Kennedy: 26
Amy Pascal: 24
Dana Walden: 23
Stacey Snider: 23
Ann Daly: 20
Melanie Cook: 20
This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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