Our festival celebrates women artists who have made distinctive differences in entertainment, and who, by their very nature, cross over into the many forms of artistic avenues.
This year we are thrilled to honor Ivonne Coll , Julia Verdin, Abigail Spencer, Ashely Rickards and Patricia Velasquez with the “LA Femme Award” which celebrates all the contributions they have made in their career in Entertainment .
Lupe Ontiveros Image Award – Ivonne Coll
Ivonne Coll is a TV, film and theater actress born in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Her film debut as the “redheaded Yolanda” in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather II made her an international star and one of the first Puerto Rican actresses to cross over from the Latin world to Hollywood.
After representing Puerto Rico in the Miss Universe Pageant, the show provided the perfect opportunity to showcase her many talents which included singing, dancing and acting, with looks evocative of the legendary Rita Hayworth. She trained in drama directly with Lee Strassberg, comedy with Lucille Ball and music theater with David Craig. In 1972 she performed for the troops as part of the USO Tour making her the first Puertorican performer to sing for the troops stationed in Vietnam.
On Broadway, she has starred and performed alongside luminaries such as Katie Bates and Jane Alexander in Goodbye Fidel and played the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She also starred in the Tony nominated Chronicle of a Death Foretold to great reviews. In 2006 she was cast as the lead in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Tony Award winning La Jolla Playhouse, a vivid revival directed by Obie Award-winner Lisa Peterson. Her performance of Mother Courage won her a Best Actress Nomination by the San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle. Ivonne Coll received the ACE Award by the NY Hispanic Media for her performance in Orinoco with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. She is also the recipient of the Craig Noel Award for Outstanding Performance by the San Diego Critics Circle and was nominated for the Jefferson Award as Best Supporting actress by the Actors Equity Association. She won the prestigious Agueybana de Oro in Puerto Rico for her performance in the highly rated soap Coralito.
Television credits include Nip Tuck, An American Family, Chicago Hope, NYPD Blue, The Practice, The Division, Saturday Night Live, Cold Case, Joan of Arcadia, LA LAW, Wings, The Bold & The Beautiful, Days of our Lives and the new ABC Family show Switched at Birth where she recurs in the role of Adriana. She has also joined the cast of the hit TV show Glee on Fox.
Her upcoming film Hemingway & Gelhorn starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owens will be released by HBO in 2012.
Executive Achievement Award – Julia Verdin
British Producer JULIA VERDIN has established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading independent producers, with over 31 critically acclaimed feature films produced to date. She founded and has been running Rough Diamond Productions since 1995.
Julia has produced acclaimed theatrical releases including the Newmarket release Stander, directed by Bronwen Hughes starring Tom Jane, Deborah Unger, Dexter Fletcher and David O’Hara; Sony Classics release The Merchant of Venice, directed by Michael Radford, and starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes; and Riding the Bullet based on a Stephen King story, directed by Mick Garris, and starring David Arquette, Jonathan Jackson, Erica Christensen and Barbara Hershey. Her recent faith based film, Lionsgate release, The Least Among You, starring Lou Gossett Jr., Lauren Holly and William Devane, premiered on Showtime and was featured in many major festivals. The film was nominated for the 2012 NAACP awards for Outstanding Television Movie and Best Lead Actor.
Julia’s recent film 2 Jacks, based on Leo Tolstoy short story “Two Hussars,” directed by Bernard Rose, and starring Danny Huston, Jack Huston, Sienna Miller, Jacqueline Bisset and Billy Zane, was released theatrically last year and is now currently playing on Netflix and VOD. Born of War, a film she Executive Produced, directed by Vicky Jewson, and starring James Frain and Sophia Black D’Elia was released by Lionsgate in 2015. This year she has just directed her first film Lost Girls staring Bar Paly, Marisol Nichols and Jamie Harris and produced The Unwilling directed by Jonathan Heap starring Dina Meyer, Jake Thomas and Lance Henriksen.
Some of the films Julia produced earlier in her career include I Witness, directed by Rowdy Harrington, starring Jeff Daniels and James Spader, Green Mail starring Steven Baldwin and Tom Skerritt, The Shipment starring Mathew Modine and Nick Turturro and Elisabeth Berkley, The Contaminated Man starring William Hurt, Peter Weller and Natascha McElhone and STYX starring Peter Weller, Angus MacFayden and Brian Brown, directed by Alex Wright, and all for Promark. Ballad of the Nightingale with Virginia Madsen, Maria Cuccinota (Il Postino), Seymour Cassell, Michael Madsen and Harry Dean Stanton, and Lone Hero directed by Ken Sanzel starring Lou Diamond Philips, Sean Patrick Flanery and Robert Forester, Slipstream starring Sean Austin and Vinnie Jones, and The Set Up, a bank heist thriller based on a James Hadley Chase best-selling novel, which stars Billy Zane, James Coburn, Mia Sara and James Russo for MGM/Showtime, and Temptation, an action-packed revenge thriller for Dino De Laurentis Communications starring Jeff Fahey, David Keith and Alison Doody, both directed by Strathford Hamilton.
She is currently developing various projects with well-established Hollywood writers and directors including Surviving Christmas, written and to be directed by Academy Award Nominated filmmaker James Dearden; An Invisible Army by acclaimed festival award winning writer/director Éva Gárdos; A.K.A. written by Phillip Morton and to be directed by Academy Award Nominated director Jonathan Heap; Curtains, a WGA Autumn Stories 2010 selected period piece about eccentric Parisian stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, written by Cynthia Riddle and will also be a co-producer on William Gibson’s Neuromancer to be directed by Vincenzo Natali.
Julia is based in Los Angeles, and still maintains a base in London. She served on the Board of Seven Arts Pictures PLC, a public film production and foreign sales company, from 2007-2010. She is currently on the Board of LA Femme Film Festival and also BAFTA LA Board of Directors.
Having worked in the film business for 30 years and hands on produced many films from idea inception all the way to release, Julia has an excellent overall knowledge of all aspects of film making from story development, casting and packaging, budgeting, financing, on set production skills, festival strategy, and getting films sold and out into the marketplace. Julia is also a top indie film consultant and speaks regularly on industry panels including BAFTA LA, American Film Market Seminars, Women in Film, WGA, and many film festival panels. She also regularly runs a “How to Produce a Low Budget Movie” workshop for Raindance and as well various other workshops on filmmaking. She also wrote the popular filmmakers’ guide to funding, making and finishing your film book Success in Film. Julia has through her consulting work helped many filmmakers to get their film into production.
Humanitarian Award – Patricia Velasquez
Patricia Velasquez is constantly in motion. Her international career runs the gamut from modeling, acting and producing to being a successful beauty products entrepreneur, published author and passionate activist for Latino causes.
Velasquez has appeared in foreign films such as such as “Le Jaguar,” and “Zapata.” However, she is best known for her role as Ank Su Namun in “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns.” Velasquez was critically acclaimed for her debut stage performance in the lead role of “School of the Americas” at the Public Theater in New York City. The play was produced by Philip Seymour Hoffman and written by Jose Rivera.
Velasquez has appeared on many popular television shows including “American Family,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Arrested Development.” As a result of her high-profile life as a celebrity-activist, Velasquez was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, a frequent judge at Ford Models’ Supermodel of the World contest and is frequently featured in main stream media as a Latina celebrity. For a complete listing of her credits, visit Filmography.
In spite of being born into poverty in Venezuela, Velasquez triumphantly climbed to the top of the fashion world. She is considered by many to be the first Latina Supermodel and has been a runway star for top haute couture design houses like Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Carolina Herrera. As a sought-after supermodel, Velasquez’ exotic features have adorned the covers of Vogue, Bazaar, Marie Claire and other international fashion magazines.
She was one of an elite group of models chosen for several issues of Sports Illustrated’s iconic swimsuit edition and was also a Victoria’s Secret model. For years, Velasquez was the familiar face of Cover Girl Cosmetics’ advertising campaigns. Additionally, she was featured in ads for Allure, Pantene and New York & Co.
Velasquez’ first experience in film production was as executive producer of “Cenizas Eternas,” an independent film in which she also played the lead role. Most recently, Velasquez was the associate producer and lead actor in “Liz in September,” a film directed by acclaimed director Fina Torres. The film is currently in theaters in Venezuela. As an actor and producer, Velasquez is constantly working on interesting and challenging new projects.
In her new autobiography, “Straight Walk: A Supermodel’s Journey to Finding her Truth,” Velasquez recalls her triumphant journey from poverty to international acclaim. In this intimate and inspiring memoir, she courageously reveals her personal truth.
As an Artist for Peace, Velasquez is a celebrity advocate for UNESCO. She received the “Women Together” award at the United Nations in 2009 and the Solidarity Award in November 2010.
In 2011 Velásquez successfully helped launch Taya Beauty, an organic line of beauty products, on the Home Shopping Network. Created from the super-botanicals of the rainforest, Taya Beauty skincare and hair care products are grown in environmentally sustainable programs in South American indigenous communities. Taya Beauty is now sold all over the world through HSN, QVC and Shopping Channels. www.tayabeauty.com
Concerned about the living conditions of Latin American indigenous groups like the Wayuu group in Venezuela, Velasquez founded Wayúu Taya Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and funding ways to improve conditions of Latin American indigenous groups, respecting their culture and belief. She competed on the television show “Celebrity Apprentice” on behalf of her foundation in 2012. www.wayuutaya.org
New Establishment Award – Abigial Spencer
Abigial Spencer, a talented actress, writer and producer on both the big and small screen, Abigail Spencer is quickly making a name for herself in Hollywood.
Spencer had roles in two of summer 2015’s most gripping TV dramas. She played ‘Gena Brune’ in the second season of HBO’s, “True Detective;” and continued her starring role as ‘Amantha Holden’ in season three of the Sundance Channel’s Peabody Award winning show “Rectify.” It was also recently announced that “Rectify” has been renewed for a fourth season premiering in 2016. Spencer’s portrayal of ‘Amantha Holden’ garnered rave reviews and a Critics Choice Television Award nomination in the category of “Best Supporting Actress in a Drama” in 2013. The show has also been nominated for a Television Critics Association Award in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Mini-series and Specials.” The series follows a man who must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia’s Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.
Previous television credits include multi-episode arcs on the USA hit series “Suits,” AMC’s “Mad Men,” Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital” and “NTSF:SVU;” as well as E!’s cult comedy “Burning Love,” a scripted comedy-web spoof on the television shows, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” among others. Following the success of her 2013 short film she produced & starred in “Here and Now” (which was selected by Ron Howard as the winner of Canon’s “Project Imagination” film contest), Spencer is reteaming with Student Oscar winning director Julian Higgins & partners Josh Pence and Justin Allen for the film, “Winter Light”; produced under her Innerlight Films umbrella she co-runs with “Anomolisa” director Duke Johnson. “Winter Light” is a modern-day revisionist Western set against the sweeping backdrop of the snow-covered Montana wilderness. Spencer has also co-written a TV pilot script, “Teach,” that is on the coveted 2015 WriteHer list.
Spencer recently wrapped production on the indie drama, “The Sweet Life,” starring opposite Chris Messina. She also stars in the indie film, “A Beautiful Now,” which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2015. The film tells the story of a passionate dancer who finds herself mulling over an extreme act when she reaches a crossroads in her life. Her other big screen credits include: “The Forger;” “Oz, the Great and Powerful;” “This Is Where I Leave You;” “Chasing Mavericks;” “Kilimanjaro;’ “The Haunting in Connecticut 2;” “This Means War” and “Cowboys and Aliens.” Spencer spent many summers studying under mentor, Ann Reinking, at the Broadway Theatre Project. She was later accepted into Carnegie Mellon University.
Rising Star Award – Ashley Rickards
Ashley Rickards currently stars as the lead character in MTV’s popular scripted comedy-drama Awkward. She portrays ‘Jenna’, a teenager struggling with new found infamy while also managing the drama, relationships, and up and downs of high school life. Rickards was nominated for a Critics Choice Award (Best Actress in a Comedy Series) as well as a Teen Choice Award (Choice Summer TV Star – Female) for her work on Awkward. She won a People’s Choice Awards in 2013 along with the cast for Choice Cable Comedy Series and scored another People’s Choice Award nomination in 2014.
In addition Rickards was most recently seen starring alongside Jaime Pressly and Marlon Wayons in A Haunted House 2. She was previously seen in the film Fly Away as an autistic teen raised by a single mother. Rickards will next be seen starring in the IFC Midnight film, At The Devil’s Door, a suspense thriller from director Nicholas McCarthy. The film will be released on VOD on August 8th, and then in theatres September 12th.
Ashley is currently shooting the high school comedy The Outskirts with Director Peter Hutchings and screenplay written by Dominique Ferrari and Suzanne Wrubel.
Rickards’ other film credits include: Gamer, Spooned, and the dark coming-of-age film Struck By Lightning opposite Chris Coffer and Rebel Wilson. Her TV shows include: One Tree Hill, Entourage, and FX’s hit series American Horror Story. Rickards is very passionate about her philanthropic work and is a strong supporter of Somaly Mam, a nonprofit charity committed to ending modern day slavery in North America and around the world. Rickards — who is also a writer and former equestrian — graduated from high school with honors at the age of 15.