Writers and actors walking the red carpet at the Academy Women’s Luncheon, presented by Chanel, in Los Angeles Wednesday morning were able to talk about their projects for the first time in months following news that SAG-AFTRA reached a tentative agreement with Hollywood studios and streamers to end their historic strike just the night before.
“We stood strong and fought the fight for 118 days,” actress and comedian Sherry Cola told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m just thrilled that me and my fellow performers can now celebrate our projects and keep doing the work that we love doing. I’m very grateful to be a part of this industry right now and to keep representing and telling these stories.”
Screenwriter and director Patty Jenkins was on a conference call with her agent when she heard the news. “We were going over materials that we hadn’t been able to finish, so suddenly they became much more real,” she told THR, adding that she’d waited to begin work on an upcoming Star Wars script as a gesture of solidarity with actors. “I was hearing about things, but when you can actually go into production on something, it changes things.”
Other celebrities in attendance at the event presented by Chanel were Kristen Stewart, Eva Longoria, Lupita Nyong’o, Riley Keough, Rita Wilson, Lily-Rose Depp, H.E.R., Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Molly Gordon and Ashley Park.
In her welcoming statements, Academy President Janet Yang called the occasion a true day of celebration, remarking how good it felt to be able to say Annette Bening’s name in the same sentence as her film Nyad, released last month, as she welcomed the former Academy Actors Branch governor to present this year’s U.S. Gold Fellowship for Women recipient Erica Eng.
“The energy in this room is electric,” said Yang. “We are all eager to get back to work, and we at the Academy are deeply thrilled that our industry is once again united.”
Bening called SAG-AFTRA’s success “extraordinary” as she took to the stage to acknowledge Eng. “It’s crucial that we continue to support one another,” she stated. “That’s why programs like the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women are so important. Because it’s through fostering the next generation of talent that our industry continues to thrive. By elevating new voices and ideas, our collective efforts can progress.”
The U.S. Gold Fellowship for Women is a one-year program that offers mentorship, support and exclusive networking opportunities to emerging women filmmakers. Each year, the Academy awards two fellowships, one in the U.S. and one internationally, each with a prize in the amount of $35,000. This year’s international fellow is July Jung.
Actress America Ferrera, who was honored at THR’s inaugural Latin Power event in Miami Wednesday, delivered the keynote address during the luncheon, taking a moment to speak on the concept of fellowship within the entertainment industry.
“Fellowship is community,” Ferrera began, “and we’ve all decided to invest in fellowship just by being here this day. Our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers dreamed of rooms like this. Women from different backgrounds telling stories, celebrating each other, even as we stand together to demand more space, more resources and more opportunity. Community is not something that we can or should take for granted. And I would like us to consider that growing and strengthening this community might be the key to moving this industry forward.”
Echoing that sentiment, director Gina Prince-Bythewood told THR that the end of the strike signals an opportunity for all members of Hollywood to find a more unified way to move forward.
“There were so many attempts to split us apart and pit us against each other and it didn’t work this time,” she said. “I’m on the board of the DGA, I know how intentional we are with connecting with the WGA to make sure that we can truly work together come next contract and also repair things where there shouldn’t be so much antagonism.”
“We need each other so much, even directors,” she added. “I really want to break through that and there’s a big group of us that have intentions of doing that.”