GAY HOUSTON NIGHTLIFE, ARTS & CULTURE
Raise for Will & Grace
Rumor is that all four stars
will get a whopping $600,000
per episode next season.
APRIL 29, 2005
power to the people
HOLLYWOOD CO-OP FINANCES LESBIAN FILM
By SARAH KELLOGG
HHAT WOULD YOU CALL A WOMEN'S
Hollywood film cooperative that
finances short movies about lesbians
and gay men? A joke? A pipe dream?
Dead on arrival?
These days, you call it successful.
Despite the odds, POWER UP
(Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment
Reaching Up) will celebrate its fifth birthday in
October, and with considerable pride. After all, the nonprofit production company-that-could has produced and
distributed 11 short films and is working on its first feature.
That POWER UP has succeeded where others have
failed — or not even dared to go — is due in no small
part to its powerhouse founder, Stacy Codikow, a former
television and film producer, who apparently won't take
no for an answer.
"I completely believe in what we're doing here," says
Codikow, whose previous credits include a stint on "Cagney
& Lacey" "There are so many lesbian and gay filmmakers
who have so much to say out there, and up until recently
not that many places to say it. We're a club with members
around the country and we are trying to help as many of
them tell their stories as possible."
Telling those stories wouldn't have been possible,
Codikow says, if there hadn't been exceptional people
to support POWER UP's mission. Even she marvels at
the vein of talent that POWER UP has tapped into in
recent years. Talent that many in Hollywood had
ignored or didn't even know was there.
Look at the credits for any of POWER UP's short
films, and you'll find the names of successful directors
(Jamie Babbit, Lee Friedlander), producers (Andrea
Sperling, Lisa Thrasher) and writers (Cherien Dabis,
"These people are making it right now," Codikow
says. "Imagine what they're going to be doing in five
TO DATE, POWER UP'S MOST ACCOMPLISHED
alum has been Angela Robinson, the director of the
recently released feature film, "D.E.B.S.," the lesbian spy
caper. POWER UP financed a short version of the film in
2002, and its success proved to be a ticket to directorial
stardom for Robinson.
Stacy Codikow, a former television and film producer in Hollywood,
says there are many lesbian and gay filmmakers who have so much
to say and, up until recently, not many places to say it. For the past
five years, POWER UP, the company she founded, has been working
to fix that problem.
"Stacy and Lisa really came in and took a risk with
me," says Robinson, whose latest film, Disney's "Herbie:
Fully Loaded," is coming out in June. "Here was this lesbian talking about directing a story with girls in short
skirts carrying big guns. I'm not sure everyone would have
bought it, but they did and my life changed after that."
POWER UP HAS HAD AT LEAST ONE OF ITS SHORT
films accepted into the Sundance Film Festival (the gold
standard of festivals) every year since the production company first opened its doors. And almost even- one of its
short films has won festival kudos and awards.
Originally the grant program selected three short film
scripts each year, helping fledgling directors and writers
turn their dreams into reality through $20,000 grants and
in-kind contributions that ranged from production help to
distributing the film. The group has given away $1 million
in cash and in-kind assistance since 2000.
By shelving the shorts program to focus on feature
films, the company will surely increase its visibility and
influence. Feature fibns, not short films, are the currency
of real power in Hollywood, and Codikow and her board of
directors are determined to elbow their way into the film
world's old boys' club. The feature film application deadline is May 1.
First at bat for POWER UP in the features league is
"The Itty Bitty Titty Committee." a comedy about a high
school girl who joins a radical feminist group. The film
was written and will be directed by Jamie Babbit ("But I
Was a Cheerleader").
What has made POWER UP so successful up to now
has been its old-school, major-studio approach to bringing films through the pipeline. At every step along the
way, whether it's production, marketing or distribution,
POWER UP's Codikow and her No. 2 partner. Lisa
Thrasher, have called on a cadre of friends at Los
Angeles studios and production companies to assist
their first-time directors.
"POWER UP really came to the rescue when I was
making 'Memoirs of an Evil Stepmother,'" recalls
writer/director Cherien Dabis, whose screenplay "Little
Black Boot" was produced by POWER UP with a different
director. "They offered me production insurance, crew
recommendations, free locations and completion funds. It
doesn't really get much better than that. This is a group of
women who want to tell good stories and are willing to
help anyone who asks."
The result has been compelling films with high production values and, more importantly for some, famous
names. The actors in POWER UP-financed films have
included Sharon Lawrence ("NYPD Blue"), Michele
Greene ("LA Law"), Tammy Lynn Michaels ("Popular")
and Amanda Bearse ("Married with Children").
Please see POWER UPon Page 19
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