On September 28th, Chicago’s Indie film community gathered at the Arts Club of Chicago to honor multi-talented entrepreneur, publisher, author, producer, and philanthropist Chaz Ebert with the FACETS Legend Award at the Screen Gems 2022 Benefit.
FACETS is a non-profit organization that was founded by the late Milos Stehlik in 1975. Its vision is to “open minds and souls, giving every individual the opportunity to see themselves as they are and what they can be.”
Karen Cardarelli (the executive director of FACETS) said: “Chaz is so deserving of this honor as she is passionate about programs that help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color, and that provide education and arts for women, children, and families. We are inspired by her extraordinary contributions to the industry.”
I was fortunate to not only attend the spirited event, but to catch up with Chaz for a brief one-on-one interview.
The 2022 Screen Gems Benefit was a lively event. There was an electric buzz in the air, and the welcome background noise of people chatting face-to-face after so long in lockdown.
When I asked what was going through her mind at that moment Chaz said: “At this very moment, I’m absorbing energy from all of the people here at the event. I’m trying to calm down.”
“My mom taught me to center myself and find my own calm no matter what I’m in.”
Since childhood, Chaz told me she had wanted to be a philanthropist. She got the inspiration in her social studies class while they were studying different people. “I didn’t have the full meaning of what philanthropy meant. I just know we were talking about these people who helped other people.”
Chaz recounted that her teacher smiled and told her that she couldn’t be a philanthropist because she didn’t have money. But Chaz says she told the teacher: “You don’t have to have money to help people.”
For many years, Chaz was a lawyer by trade. Chaz told me she decided to become a lawyer as a 6-year-old watching Perry Mason on TV with a neighbor. Then she met Chicago’s famous film critic Roger Ebert. Chaz and Roger got married in 1992, and stayed married until the day he died (April 4, 2013). She retired from law when Roger offered her the opportunity to become the vice president of The Ebert Company.
“It’s not easy to just make a decision to give up something you knew your whole life you were going to do. Although, it’s funny, even as a kid I wanted to become a lawyer, and at some point, I wanted to stop and become a philanthropist!”
After the open bar and dinner, the program began with a speech and remembrance of Milos Stehlik by Board Co-Chair Randy Adamcik. Randy referred to the FACETS founder as “legendary” and shared the bond they had.
Then Randy turned his attention to Chaz: “We should be honoring Chaz tonight. Because she has not only continued to do Roger’s work, but she’s brought it to new horizons.”
Chaz told me that she and Roger considered Milos Stehlik a good friend. She said that both Roger and Milos “believed in empathy, and that movies were the vehicle to help bring empathy to a wider audience.”
When I asked her opinion on whether or not women and people of color have come a long way in the film industry, Chaz said she believed we have come some ways but still have a long way to go. “Until you have more women and people of color who are able to greenlight more projects and have control over the purse strings to give people and to fund more films, we’re not going to go much further I think.”
The future? Chaz is currently working on two projects. She’s directing The Wellness Warrior (her first documentary) which focuses on Deborah Szekely. Deborah, who is 100 years old (!), is known as the “Godmother of Fitness.” And she’s also working on a book called The FECK Principles.
The FECK Principles? The FECK Principles are forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and kindness. “That’s my mission at this point in the world,” Chaz said. “I’ve been on this earth a long time and that’s what I care about more. People being kind to each other.”
“I want people to give a FECK.”
© Stephanie A. Taylor (10/7/22) – Special for FF2 Media®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE:
Go to Chaz Ebert’s site for reviews, interviews, and more.
Visit FACETS for more information and film schedules.
Click HERE for additional information on the Arts Club of Chicago.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS:
Photo Credits: All photos by Stephanie A. Taylor are used here by FF2 with her permission. All Rights Reserved.
We are grateful to Karen Durham for reaching out to us & ensuring an FF2 Media presence at this event.