Kennedy announced as sixth annual Archer Film Festival keynote speaker

Kathleen+Kennedy+poses+with+Star+Wars%27+R2-D2.+She+will+be+the+keynote+speaker+for+the+sixth+annual+film+festival.+Photo+courtesy+of+Kathleen+Kennedy%0A
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Kennedy announced as sixth annual Archer Film Festival keynote speaker

Kathleen Kennedy poses with Star Wars' R2-D2. She will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual film festival. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy poses with Star Wars' R2-D2. She will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual film festival. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy poses with Star Wars' R2-D2. She will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual film festival. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy poses with Star Wars' R2-D2. She will be the keynote speaker for the sixth annual film festival. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kennedy

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Following last year’s keynote speaker, director J.J. Abrams, student organizers returned to the Archer Film Festival’s roots by announcing a female keynote speaker at the April 26 gala. The speaker for the sixth annual Archer Film Festival will be eight-time Academy Award nominated producer Kathleen Kennedy.

“Throughout the selection process, it was definitely one of our priorities to select a woman to speak on stage this year,” Alex Sherman ’17, an executive board member of the festival, wrote in an email interview. “I think it was important to acknowledge last year, with Mr. Abrams, that you don’t have to be a woman to believe in gender equality. With that said, it was important for us to showcase successful women because that is our goal and mission statement: to empower and shine the spotlight on women in film.”

According to the press release, she is one of the most “successful and respected producers and executives in the film industry today.”

Kennedy is the president of Lucasfilm and oversees the company’s three divisions: Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. She is one of the most “successful and respected producers and executives in the film industry today,” according to the release.

She has produced or executive-produced nearly 70 feature films, which have collectively garnered 120 Academy Award nominations and 25 wins. She is also the parent of Archer girls Meghan Marshall ’17 and Lili Marshall ’15.

A few of Kennedy’s most popular productions are “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as well as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” She has two new productions coming out soon: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and a new installment in the Indiana Jones series.

“Ms. Kennedy has been on our radar for a couple years, but this time she was available,” Sherman wrote. “We are excited to share her insight with the Archer Film Festival community.” 

“She is an example of what the Archer Film Festival strives to embrace: empowering women in every aspect of filmmaking. She surrounds herself with strong women like herself and that has always been a true inspiration to us,” she continued. “It is also just interesting to learn more about the job of a successful producer and what that means in the context of her environment.”

The first gala keynote speaker was “Hunger Games” producer Nina Jacobson. Other past speakers include Vanessa Morrison, president of Fox Studios Animation and “Legally Blonde” novelist Amanda Brown.

Senior Billie Wakeham is also on the executive board of the festival. Wakeham and Sherman play a key role in organizing the event and choosing a speaker. They both noted that finding a keynote speaker is one of the hardest aspects of planning the film festival.

“It is a very nerve wracking process! There is a lot of conversation about different outcomes, making sure our keynote is available, researching his or her credits, being knowledgeable about the kind of work he or she does, knowing how to get in contact and so many other things,” Wakeham wrote in an email. “We spend three to four months just discussing possibilities and researching, and after we all felt that Ms. Kennedy was the one — which we knew from the beginning — and we finally reached out.”

Wakeham and Sherman both said that they have always wanted to have Kennedy speak at the festival.

“We have been aspiring for Ms. Kennedy because of her experience and expertise within the industry. Her credits are absolutely amazing, and she is such an amazing role model for girls everywhere,” Wakeham wrote. “We wanted our keynote to represent female empowerment as a whole, as our theme this year is ‘focusing in on the female voice.’ We want to empower women in any way possible, and for us that is art, and Ms. Kennedy really encompasses that.”

Wakeham noted that Kennedy stands out in a male-dominated industry.

She has really made her voice heard in an industry dominated by men. She co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Frank Marshall (her husband) and Steven Spielberg, and even a basic Google search on her name will list more credits than you can imagine,” she wrote. “She exemplifies the ambition, courage, and tenacity it takes to persevere and push through for things you really love and believe are worthwhile.”

Sherman and Wakeham are both happy that she is willing to speak and even happier about the progress the festival has taken.

“This is seriously Alex and [my] baby. Working on the Archer Film Festival and watching it grow over the past four years has been the highlight of my time at Archer,” Wakeham wrote.

Sherman echoed her excitement and hopes for the future.

We are not only excited, we are thankful to host such an important female figure in the industry,” she said. “We are excited to see the upward trajectory of the festival continue and set it up for success after we graduate.”

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