Women On Film – AWFJ’s 2008 EDA Awards Celebration at Circa Tabac

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awfj-crowd2Circa Tabac proved to be the perfect setting for the celebration of AWFJ’s third annual EDA Awards. Circa, as the place is referred to by the incrowd of downtown filmmakers and artists who habituate the place, is one of non-smoking NYC’s five smoking lounges. Regulars, who treat Circa as their home or a second office, arrive in the late afternoon, claim their table and hang out until the wee hours. The decor, a hodgepodge of deco, left bank bistro and La Golue, is charming, but the real reason Circa’s so popular is that it presents such an easy, relaxed, cozy and unfailingly congenial environment. That’s thanks to Circa owner Lee Ringelheim–and how generous it was of him to allow AWFJ to transform his lounge into our non-smoking livingroom for three of his busiest hours. From 7 to 10 pm on December 15th, Circa Tabac became chez AWFJ.

AWFJ co-VPs Joanna Langfield and Maitland McDonagh joined me in sweeping ashtrays off the tables and replacing them with heaping platters of FlatOut flatbreads and fixin’s like tabouleh, hummus, cheese cubes, thickly sliced pepperoni, olives from France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco and glorious grapes. Oh, yes, and sweets–trays of homebaked brownies, chocolate chunk and English toffee cookies, and gingerbread were on the bar.


Libations were poured very liberally–Merlot and Chardonnay, and our four featured cocktails, each named for an AWFJ’s EDA Awards winner: Slumdog-tini, Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky and Prop-8-Banger.

(PHOTO: Prima publicist Donna Daniels, EDA Award-wnning doc director Tia Lessin (Trouble The Water) and EDA Award-winning feature filmmaker Courtney Hunt (Frozen River). Courtney’s drinking the pretty blue cocktail named for her film. Credit: Frank Lovece).

Like Circa’s regular patrons, our guests weren’t in any hurry to leave. MaryAnn Johanson, who arrived early to help stuff goodie bags and post our EDA Awards winners’ names around the room, stepped up to become our official greeter and welcomed everyone–around 60 guests, in all–as they arrived.

(PHOTO: Ed Douglas holds a “Happy-Go-Lucky” and FatDot’s Brandon Rohwer has a “Frozen River.” Credit: Michael Rose.).

ComingSoon.Net’s Ed Douglas came promptly at 7, but most invitees arrived between 7:15 and 7:45. Once they were with us, they seemed to be in no hurry to leave. Most stayed until around 10, when Circa’ regulars began drifting past the “private party” sign posted on the door, and reclaiming their preferred spots. Several AWFJ guests were still comfortably perched on banquettes and NYWIFT’s Terry Lawler and MoMA’s Sally Berger, each of whom arrived late after making appearances at other pre-holiday festivities, were deep in conversation at the bar as our AWFJ crew headed out the door.

That people stayed and schmoozed delighted us, especially since we presented neither formal program nor official trappings to keep them there–just women’s hospitality. At one point, when publicist Sharon Kahn, ever generous in her support of AWFJ, suggested I make a speech about our organization and EDA Awards, I surveyed Circa aka chez AWFJ to read the scene, and saw everyone enjoyably engaged in lively conversation–Jenny Halper and Lexi Feinberg and other AWFJ members and all our guests were mingling, mixing, making new acquantances and reconnecting–by sheer happy happenstance–with long lost friends and former teachers. And I grinned at Sharon and said, with a note of glee, “Naw, it’s not necessary. Everyone knows why we’re here. They’re having a good time celebrating. There’s excitement in the air. It’s all good. Let’s not interrupt the flow.”

Publicist Sharon Kahn(PHOTO: Golden Trailer Awards’ Evenlyn Brady Watters and Publicist Sharon Kahn. Credit: Liza Bear)

We were sad, of course, that Stephen Daldry, Karina Longworth, David Magdael, Loreen Arbus, Warrington Hudlin, Olympia Dukakis and Sophie Kahn (Sharon’s mom, and a brilliant publicist in her own right)–and several others–who’d intended to join us ultimately couldn’t do so. But a truly amazing group of people had gathered at Circa aka chez AWFJ. Our members had a wonderful opportunity to chat with our awards winners–“Frozen River” writer/director Courtney Hunt and producer Molly Connors, “Trouble the Water” producer/directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, and “Man On Wire” producer Maureen Ryan–and with other bright and fascinating directors, actors, producers, publicists. Players who make things happen.

When you convene the right bright and creative people in an environment like Circa aka chez AWFJ for three hours, wonderful conversations are bound to blossom–about AWFJ and the EDA Awards, film and filmmaking, birthing babies and movies, life in general–in a high-powered but low-key sort of way that’s hard to describe and even harder to achieve. But that’s exactly what happened at AWFJ’s first-ever EDA Awards celebration.

We’re grateful. We wish to express sincerest thanks to all who laid it on the line to make the films–the best of them and the most egregious mistakes, too–that we recognized in our 2008 EDA Awards, and all who joined us at Circa aka chez AWFJ, and to our generous event sponsors, Circa Tabac’s Lee Ringelheim and Brian Michels, WomenFilmNet’s Adriana Shaw, Joanna Plafsky and FlatOut Breads.

Judging by the post-celebration notes we’ve been getting, AWFJ’s 2008 EDA Awards celebration will be fondly remembered by all, and everyone will look forward to receiving their invitations to join us at next year’s bash–which is already in the planning. Meanwhile, we deliver the 2008 EDA Awards celebration’s only formal presentation: a rather informal and randomly arranged gallery of snapshots of the event, along with recipes for our deliciously potent winning drinks. Enjoy!


"Frozen River" producer Molly Conners and friend, actress Sherin Shaker. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
Frozen River producer Molly Conners and friend, actress Sherin Shaker. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, Producer/Directors of "Trouble The Water" chat with Maureen Ryan, producer of "Man on Wire." The films tied for 2008 EDA Award for Best Documentary. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, Producer/Directors of Trouble The Water chat with Maureen Ryan, producer of Man on Wire. The films tied for 2008 EDA Award for Best Documentary. (Credit: Frank Lovece)


Actress Peggy Pope and Indie Film Attorney Jonathan Gray
Actress Peggy Pope and Indie Film Attorney Jonathan Gray. (Credit: Michael Rose)
Publicist Dianne Collins. (Credit: Liza Bear)
Publicist Dianne Collins. (Credit: Liza Bear)
Miramax's Julie Fontaine and Nicolette Aizenberg. Credit: Frank Lovece
Miramax's Julie Fontaine and Nicolette Aizenberg. (Credit: Frank Lovece)

HBO's Joanne Firneno and Cristin Curry with Zeitgeist's Shannon Attaway and Nadja Tennstedt. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
HBO's Joanne Firneno and Cristin Curry with Zeitgeist's Shannon Attaway and Nadja Tennstedt. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
WNET's Donald Lee. Credit: Liza Bear
WNET's Donald Lee. (Credit: Liza Bear)
Porducer Abe Shainberg and WomenFilmNet's Adriana Shaw. (Credit: Frank Lovece)
Producer Abe Shainberg and WomenFilmNet's Adriana Shaw. (Credit: Frank Lovece)

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).

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