WIFC Honors Mercier, Batthany, Hempel, Swanberg

WIFC Honors Mercier, Batthany, Hempel, Swanberg

Women in Film Chicago's Focus Awards were held last night honoring four great Chicago women in the advertising, commercial and film business, attracting more than 200 with its new format.

Carrie Hunter, the chair of the event and partner/director of Client Relations at Conspiracy, called it a very successful evening. The four honorees this year were Megan Mercier, Jean Batthany, Kathryn Hempel and Kris Swanberg.

"The honorees were incredibly inspiring starting off with Megan talking about her experience moving to LA and having people tell her to take anything off her resume that made her look too smart, anything that would make her seem too qualified for a job," Hunter said. "To Kris Swanberg who spoke about when she was directing her first feature and the feelings that she had somehow tricked everyone and she shouldn't be there."

The event's format was changed this year from a traditional sit-down dinner to a presentation in a theater followed by a Q&A session with the honorees.

"It went fantastically from the minute that people walked in the door, from the moment you walked in we felt some new energy," Hunter said. "The cinema setting created an intimacy and attention it didn't have at a dinner and I think that helped get our message out there that there are women in this industry, very creative, capable and qualified and it's time to recognize that and stop paying them less and skipping over them for opportunities."

About the honorees:

Megan Mercier is a writer, actor, director, producer, and improviser based in Los Angeles and graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Before moving to L.A., Mercier was Artistic Director and an Ensemble Member at the renowned theater company, The Neo-Futurists, where she wrote and performed regularly in Chicago’s longest-running late-night show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes.

Other show credits with the 25-year-old company include Picked Up (2008), Crisis: A Musical Game Show (2010), Burning Bluebeard (2011), and The Miss Neo Pageant (2013), the latter of which she created and co-wrote to critical acclaim. She also acted as a producer and curator for several other events including an annual summer film fest as well as an annual Chicago Pride benefit show, which raised money for the LGBTQ Host Home Program providing alternative housing to homeless queer youth.

Jean Batthany, currently an Executive Creative Director, EVP at DDB Chicago, was named one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative Women in Advertising, celebrated as one of Advertising Working Mothers of the Year by AWNY and Working Mother Magazine and awarded the 3 Cheers Award at the 3% Conference NYC in 2015. Since joining the agency, she’s added Kohler and the American Cancer Society to the client list and helped launch LaunchPad, a creative internship program designed to both find and develop new talent as well as mentors.

A native New Yorker, Jean has more than 20 years experience building brands and growing talent at BBDO, M&C Saatchi, Merkley + Partners and Saatchi & Saatchi. Her work has been recognized by the Addies, Clios, AICP, New York Festival, Effies, London International Awards, AD Council’s Gold Bell, Communication Arts Advertising Annual and Lürzer’s Archive. An art director by trade, she has written for the Drum, Ad Age, Communication Arts and sat on panels at the New York Festival, 3% Conference, Omniwomen, Lake FX SUMMIT + Expo and OMMA Chicago

An advocate for changing the ratio of men to women in creative leadership roles, Jean proudly sits on the Better by Half Board, a gender balance initiative from DDB North America and is a member of the Art Director Club’s 50/50 initiative. She is the proud mother of Maya and Olivia, two strong, smart, talented, teenage daughters and is engaged to playwright, director, actor Graham Brown, who manages a lot of the drama at home.

Kathryn Hempel, is Editor, Partner, Vice President of Cutters Studios and an artist. Kathryn has edited award-winning commercials and films of various genres, including P&G’s internationally acclaimed Always “Like A Girl” campaign that won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial, swept the Webby Awards, won seven CLIO Awards and numerous Pencils at the D&AD show, and 14 Cannes Lions. Her portfolio includes documentary, dialogue, comedy, narrative and visual storytelling spots for Burrell, Cramer Krasselt, DDB, Digitas, FCB, Energy BBDO, Leo Burnett, mcgarrybowen, and Saatchi & Saatchi, to name but a few. Kathryn has also edited web content, videos, shorts and long format documentaries, all influencing her ability to create and to cut to the essence of a story.

Kathryn co-wrote and edited “Road to Roubaix,” a feature length documentary about the Paris-Roubaix cycling classic in France – and directed and edited the short documentary film “Ox-Bow,” which screened at the Tribeca International Film and Video Festival.

Kathryn’s interest in film editing blends well with her art. She has created original art for commercial and independent feature film sets, and recently exhibited a 365-day art project, along with creating a book and short art film encapsulating the year of making a piece of art every day.

The creator and founder of the international Camp Kuleshov editing, design and sound competition for assistants in all AICE member companies, she is also a proud member of the Curatorial Committee for the 2015 AICE Awards and 2015 Clio Awards Film Jury for Editing in Film Technique. Kathryn lives in Oak Park with her husband, Curt Warner and their two great kids, Daisy and Lincoln.

Kris Swanberg began her film career at Southern Illinois University where she studied documentary film production. Using naturalistic techniques and often working with non-actors, Swanberg went on to focus her career in narrative film. Her first feature, It was great, but I was ready to come home played in competition at the SXSW Film Festival in 2009, followed by her next feature, Empire Builder (2012) and short film Baby Mary (2014). Unexpected, starring Cobie Smulders and Anders Holm, premiered in competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and is Swanberg’s third feature.