Top Caucus Honors to Nigel Lythgoe, Greg Berlanti, Jack Bender, More
Producer Nigel Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance), writer Greg Berlanti (Brothers and Sisters), director Jack Bender (Lost) and more among top honorees at the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors' prestigious 28th annual awards gala in Beverly Hills. Modern Family funny man Fred Willard hosted.
By Juliana J. Bolden
Producer Nigel Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance), writer Greg Berlanti (Brothers and Sisters) and director Jack Bender (Lost) garnered top honors at the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors' 28th annual awards dinner and ceremony, held Sunday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Caucus is a multi-guild industry organization mentoring content creators in their creative rights negotiations with conventional and emerging distribution platforms.
Television and film star Fred Willard of ABC's Modern Family (pictured left at the 2010 Primetime Emmys Performers Nominee Reception) hosted the Caucus gala, with actress Greer Grammer, daughter of actor Kelsey Grammer, presenting trophies.
Television Academy governor and Caucus member Lee Miller served as executive producer of the gala, which funds student production grants via the Caucus Foundation. (Miller and fellow Television Academy directors peer group governor John Moffitt also serve on the Caucus Foundation Board.) Last night, the Caucus celebrated its tenth anniversary of awarding student filmmakers with grants, in kind services, cash and production packages to help complete their projects.
Caucus Foundation president Chuck Fries, along with Foundation treasurer Norman Powell and television/radio personality Tanya Hart, shined the spotlight on student filmmakers participating in the Caucus student support program. This year's key first and second place winners of the organization's student filmmaker competition are Kyle Fischer for his film Thule and Ka'ramuu Kush for his film Salvation Road, respectively.
Both Fischer and Kush attend the American Film Institute. Each received cash grants, Panavision camera packages, hi-def post-production packages from HTV Illuminate. Producer-director Jen McGowan was also recognized for her service to the Caucus Foundation Alumni Network.
This year's pro Caucus honorees are:
- Vin Di Bona (Independent Producer of the Year), the man behind syndication giant America's Funniest Home Videos and much more;
- Suzanne de Passe (Chair's Award), Primetime Emmy-winning television producer now producing the first authorized biopic on Martin Luthur King, Jr., with Steven Spielberg;
- Bill Blinn (Caucus Lifetime Achievement Award), prolific writer-producer-creator of such enduring television series as Eight is Enough and Starsky & Hutch;
- Herman Rush (Caucus Distinguished Service Award), producer/studio head who served as executive producer of the hour-long daily Montel Williams Show for 17 years, among other achievements;
- Jacqueline Liebergott (Special Educator Award), president of Emerson College whose tribute was delivered by Emerson alums di Bona and Gary Grossman;
- Sharon Waxman (Journalism Award), war correspondent-turned-entertainment journalist who now serves as CEO and editor-in-chief of the industry news website, TheWrap.com.
Top producers, agency executives, actors and more were on hand to present: Mark Itkin, Gil Cates, Tanya Hart, Derek Hough, Charlie Koones, Syd Vinnedge, among other key entertainment figures.
Honoree Suzanne de Passe, widely recognized for discovering the Jackson 5 for Motown Records before sparking the growth of the Motown Productions film and television unit, garnered good-natured laughs, thanking her "mentor — and tor-mentor — Berry Gordy." She noted she is "inspired even in these trying times and invigorated as never before because there is also great opportunity ahead."
Nigel Lythgoe, who gratefully noted that his Fox net dance program, So You Think You Dance, launched the same year as ABC's Dancing with the Stars, thanked his team and supporters for proving there is a strong place for dance in primetime television. In addition, Lythgoe, who also produces American Idol, recounted poignant moments while on location in Africa, taping the Idol Gives Back concert-fundraiser.
Journalism award recipient Sharon Waxman founded TheWrap.com just 22 months ago. She observed that within the entertainment industry, the internet still "looms as this massive destructive force and people don't know if for good or for ill" and thanked the Caucus for "recognizing what (her team) has accomplished in such a short period of time."
For more information about the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors and its programs, visit Caucus.org.