Since 1989, Bowen has organized the monthly Women in Film breakfast and the annual WIF Malibu Golf Classic that raises thousands of dollars for its scholarship programs.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
Thirty-year Malibu resident Candace Bowen has been a member of the nonprofit organization Women in Film for 21 years and served on its board for 10, eventually retiring as a senior vice president in charge of membership.
Even so, the woman who never hears “no” said she was floored when former WIF president and current vice president of fundraising Iris Grossman called Bowen to let her know that the organization had created a new award in her honor: the Candace Bowen Membership Award. The inaugural award will be presented to Bowen herself at the Women in Film annual holiday party this week.
“Iris never calls to chitty-chat,” Bowen told The Malibu Times. “But I was shocked. Iris is the biggest agent at ICM (International Creative Management), so she has an eye for talent. This just humbled me.”
Grossman said, “We created this award because every time Candace finishes a project and reports at our meetings, we are just floored with what she was able to accomplish. She is tireless in her efforts to round up new members and organize volunteers for projects and we, as an organization, are the better for it.”
Women in Film was founded in 1973 with the goal of advancing women’s role in the global entertainment and media industries at a time when women’s representation in the professional guilds, like the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, numbered in the low single digits.
The foundation provides an extensive network of contacts to its membership, scholarships for young women, and film finishing funds and grants to struggling women filmmakers. Its annual awards include the Crystal Award, which honors outstanding individuals for helping expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. The Lucy Award was named for Lucille Ball and recognizes individuals who exemplify the accomplishments of the legendary television comedienne.
Since 1989, Bowen has organized the monthly Women in Film breakfast at the Chart House Restaurant and the annual WIF Malibu Golf Classic that raises thousands of dollars for its scholarship programs. She said she honed her chops by volunteering early on to work in WIF offices, answering phones and sitting in on meetings with “these powerful studio women.”
“I got to know these women,” Bowen said. “I got on committees and made myself indispensable to them and eventually was asked to join the board.”
The whole time, Bowen worked her Rolodex. She made introductions; she cajoled industry insiders into speaking at her Malibu and Beverly Hills breakfasts; she gently bullied stars into volunteering their time for different causes; she snagged scholarships and internships for scores of young female filmmakers.
She was so effective that when she termed out on board representation, she asked to stay on in a position for which the title was created for her: Senior Vice President and Membership Consultant.
“Women in Film is kind of like the Sopranos,” Bowen said. “Once you’re in, you can’t get out. Iris said once, ‘To succeed with WIF, just put your head down, do the work and we’ll find you.’ Well, I did the work.”
Bowen was no stranger to “the work.” She was born and raised in Philadelphia, where she first learned the value of volunteering as a candy striper at Philadelphia General Hospital. She came to Hollywood as a young actress, but decided to get out from in front of the camera once she realized the only roles being offered her were for prostitutes and drug addicts, saying, “My parents sent me to college so I could not be that!”
She focused on producing and networking within the WIF ranks and, in 1998, was asked to visit the WIF chapter in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Bowen said. “I saw people who looked just like me and they literally had nothing. They lived in shantytowns. There was nothing in their culture that taught the value of volunteerism and how it just brings riches back to you. I realized how valuable volunteers are within any society. They change things and move them around. You can’t stop a good volunteer.”
Gayle Nachlis, executive director for Women in Film, characterized Bowen as a giant, unstoppable wave that brings along everything in her path.
“We’re like a big sorority at Women in Film,” Nachlis said. “And Candace represents that thing we have, supporting each other in the business, giving advice, imparting wisdom.”
Bowen doesn’t expect to rest on her accolades, however. She is already making plans for her trip to the next Sundance Film Festival, where Women in Film usually snares new members. She manned the booth herself at last weekend’s ShowBiz Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“Of course I signed up new members,” Bowen said. “That’s what I’m all about.”