A Force For Diversity -Entertainment Events : Celebrating The Work of Sandra Lord

 

The auditorium at the Beverly Hills library packed in as members of Women Helping Women, an organization started by Sandra Lord, listened in rapt attention as John Keeyes, writer/producer/director of over 25 movies, lectured the audience on what was required to succeed as both a writer, producer and business person in the entertainment industry. At the end of the event, one lucky member was selected to have a private meeting with the speaker, a popular standard feature at all of Sandra Lord’s events.

 

Sandra Lord of Changing Images In America, Hollywood Networking Breakfast, Women Helping Women...and more Photo by D.B Lord c Sandra Lord All Rights Reserved

Starting out as an entertainer since the age of three, Sandra Lord, a Caribbean native, a singer and performer who entertained some members of the British royal family, arrived in the United States to pursue her career.  In her home, with so many mixed races, segregation was not a factor, but when in Hollywood, she found that people were often judged by their color, culture, religion and habits.  "I did not grow up with discrimination in my country.   What I saw on television did not reflect what was real to me. When I see a need, I move to address it. I am not a person that will sit around and watch or wait for others to do things. I jump in and do what’s necessary to effect change." 

 

Henry Winkler and Sandra Lord at Hollywood Networking Breakfast - photo by Thaine H. Allison, Jr. c Sandra Lord - All Rights Reserved

It was twenty-two years ago that she started Hollywood Networking Breakfast.  "When I looked at events that I had attended, I found a lot of segregation, exclusion and people that did not know what to do.  So many people were overlooked, perceived as not having anything to bring to the table.  I had learned that everyone has something to bring to the table. You can't discriminate against anyone."  Sandra had told her colleagues at Women In Film and they were encouraging but felt that she was a bit too ambitious.  It was Sandra's idea to get a studio involved.  'I wanted to attract a certain caliber of speaker.  So I made a presentation to Paramount Picture Studios.  I was not surprised when they accepted me.  It was only after 911 that, due to security concerns, I was forced to find a new location. We’ve been back a few times since then, but our new home is at Raleigh Studios."    

 

The breakfast has had huge successes.  Not only are attendees able to meet the speakers personally, but in comparing notes with each other, many find deals among themselves, even sometimes sitting at the same table.  Some of the speakers have included Academy, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody winners and nominees as well as studio heads, and company presidents.  Many top Hollywood professionals such as Henry Winkler, Ron Meyer, Penny Marshall, Dede Gardner, Len AmatoNina Jacobson and others have graced the breakfast stage.  The group now meets at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood and continues to feature Hollywood power players as guest speakers. 

 

Women Helping Women Speaker - writer/producer Kimberly Seilhamer - photo by E Seilhamer

Three years after the breakfast launched, in an effort to change stereotypes in the industry, Sandra founded Changing Images In America.  The motto of the group is "Don't miss a chance to be of service to others." Sandra Lord fits this perfectly.  "I thought it was important to show that there was more in life than what was being perceived on television.  It disturbed me that TV did not reflect what the world was about.  My idea was to create more diversity in the industry and change the perception of what people see on TV and in film. I did non-traditional casting for my films, projects and programs.  They would applaud what I did, but old habits die hard.   The idea was to create more diversity and eliminate stereotyping. "Roles for everyone to fit into."

 

Sandar Lord at the Hollywood Networking Breakfast - Voted #1 networking event - photo by Thaine H.Allison, Jr c Sandra Lord All Rights Reserved

Managing talent for a while, Sandra worked for her own clients.  In her Post Oscar showcase, she had writers, actors and directors from all over the world.  Their work culminated in a production.  "I intended to show the potential of talent available.  When people came from the studios, they saw 200 individuals on stage -- all different.  This array of people with colors, disabilities, cultures exhibited pure talent and the potential of all types.  Everyone ate, drank and talked about the roles - boggled by the fact that talent rose to the fore and stereotyping took a back seat…and it worked."  A lot of Sandra's future work was inspired by this program.

 

Hollywood Networking Breakfast,Nina Jacobson producer - photo by Thaine H Allison, Jr c Sandra Lord - All Rights Reserved

In 2012, Sandra took over the Los Angeles Film Meet Up and renamed it the Los Angeles Film & TV Meetup group.  One of the largest entertainment groups, her idea was not to have people who just wanted to see films, but who really wanted to interact with and help each other, across the board in entertainment.  "When I took it over, anyone could join.  Many people who wanted to be part of the group did not even have connections with film or TV.   Lord has streamlined membership which has more than tripled under her guidance to over 6,000. “I now have distributors, writers, actors, and filmmakers in the group and my programs are focused primarily about connecting members in person – networking, collaborating, learning. It's important for people to network and connect.  They have to want to do more than just see films. Seeing the films is a perk.“ (An event being held on July 30, 2015, The Power Women Behind Reality, still has a few tickets available.) 

 

Post Hollywood Networking Breakfast Celebrity Bike Signing Event to protect abused childen - photo by Thaine H Allison, Jr c Sandra Lord All Rights Reserved

Another of her groups is Women Helping Women.  While there are men involved in the group, the idea is to encourage people - especially women - to help one another.   "I found that too often women talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.  They are not really out there helping one another. So many feel that they climbed the ladder by themselves and they don't need to assist others."   Women Helping Women is about a women hiring each other and giving chances to others.   "Reaching up, reaching back and reaching out is my motto."

 

Tirelessly, she continues to help others. In 2014, she started  "Let's Do Lunch" where an intimate group gets together and discusses their needs while networking. This can be found as part of the meet up group events.

 

Cassian Elwes, Producer and Sandra Lord at Hollywood Network Breakfast photo by Thaine H. Allison, Jr. c Sandra Lord All Rights Reserved

As a separate entity, Ms. Lord also does strategy counseling for varied clients.   Many have experienced success as a result of their meetings because Ms. Lord understands Hollywood. Some have described her guidance in navigating Hollywood as “life-changing.”

 

She also recently started a seminar with three of her more well known writers from her Meetup group - Kimberly Seilhamer, Susan St. Peters, and Serita Stevens as well as other guest speakers who lecture writers, directors and filmmakers on their art.  Ms. Silhamer lectured about character development, while Ms. St. Peters gave a run down on the structure necessary for a script.

The next event will be held on August 23, 2015 at the LA Film School where Serita Stevens will be speaking about the difference beween writing books and writing scripts - how they differ and how one can use the same story to write both forms.  For more information on that go to Women Helping Women site.

 

Women Helping Women Speaker - books, scripts and adaptations - Serita Stevens photo by Patick Simpson

Despite her small staff, and with only a few volunteers, Sandra Lord accomplishes a dynamite amount of work.  "People are always looking for free things, but many do not appreciate them when they receive them.  I keep my events as low cost as possible and attendees always come out with something substantial at the end of the day."  Very few people understand the effort it takes to put together these panels, breakfasts and seminars and Ms. Lord works almost round the clock to continue her work with many of the expenses being absorbed directly by her. 

 

Hollywood Networking Breakfast - Cassian Elwes and lucky participant to meet with producer - photo by Thaine H. Allison, Jr c Sandra Lord All Rights Reserved

"My goal is to empower others. Everything I do is about diversity, empowerment and building self-esteem.  I don't believe in discounting anyone.  I want to help people realize their full potential.  So many people, especially in the creative community, have poor self-esteem.  If you don't have good esteem, you have nothing. I help people get confidence. Once you have that, you can, with your ability, transcend almost anything."

 

Sandra Lord attributes her success to a strong spiritual base, careful planning and strategizing.  "It's important for people to think out-of-the-box, to understand where the other person is coming from and to make Hollywood a win-win situation for all."

 

So if you are serious about your entertainment career, check out some of the events, and don't discount anyone!  You never know if the person sitting next to you - a receptionist now - might be head of the studio in five years or be personal friends with that agent you've been trying to reach.

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