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Ohio Today

They're well-connected
School of Film students see Hollywood director Betty Thomas, BFA '69, as both a role model and benefactor. In them, she sees the future.

Betty Thomas

Watch an interview with Betty Thomas from her visit to Ohio University.

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'Roll the credits'

Hometown: St. Louis

First acting job: "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," directed by Professor of Theater Bob Winters ("It was the '60s, and it was a kooky thing to do.")

Industry kudos: An Emmy in 1985 for Best Supporting Actress (as Lucy Bates in "Hill Street Blues") and another in 1993 for Best Director (for HBO's "Dream On.")

Director posts: "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995), "Dr. Doolittle" (1998), "28 Days" (2000), "I Spy" (2002) and others.

On why she endowed an award for female film students: "As I'm in Hollywood, I see that the percentage of women filmmakers is actually lower today than it was a few years ago. I wanted to see if I could make a difference in that in some way and at least not have a woman say, 'Well, I would have made a film, but I just didn't have the money that I needed.'"

On life after filmmaking: "I always say I have one more career in me. I don't know what it is."

Story by Mary Alice Casey
Photography by Krisanne Johnson

As a writer and poet with a bachelor's degree in English and theater, Eunice Charlton doesn't often have trouble expressing herself. But when she tried to write about meeting 7-year-old Beatrice, who supplements her family's meager income by playing her accordion on the sidewalks of Progresso, Mexico, the words wouldn't come. Four years later, Charlton again found Beatrice -- and her own voice -- and created a documentary film about the girl for her master's thesis in the Ohio University School of Film.

"The film is really about a time in my life when I stopped being a tourist in my own culture," says Charlton, a Mexican American who grew up in Mathis, Texas. "It's about removing the blinders."

Charlton, who goes by e. E.Charlton professionally, filmed the documentary "¿Cuantos Estos?" or "How Much?" early this year in Mexico with financial support from Betty Thomas, BFA '69, one of Hollywood's most prolific female directors and producers. Thomas, through contributions to The Ohio University Foundation, has helped finance the thesis films of several female School of Film students since the mid-1990s. In January, when she visited campus to conduct a weekend of workshops for film students, she made a $100,000 commitment that will permanently endow the Betty Thomas Film Award, to be given to two women annually.

"I like the idea of teaching and connecting," Thomas says of her time in Athens discussing scene cuts, the director's intent and other fine points of filmmaking. "I feel young people have the energy -- they own the energy, they own the passion, the new passion -- for film. Film is always changing, and I like to be connected with all the new energy."

Mary Alice Casey is editor of Ohio Today. Krisanne Johnson is a graduate assistant photographer with University Communications and Marketing.

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