Publicist of the Year Julia Neal (Paramount Pictures) / Photo by Trae Patton

PR Party Time!

The 61st Annual ICG Publicists Awards luncheon revels in fun and funny before an audience of PR professionals who went above and beyond to respond to 2023’s challenges.

by Pauline Rogers / Photos by Trae Patton and Evans Vestal Ward


The 61st Annual ICG Publicists Awards hit both fresh and fun notes this year as more than 600 attendees streamed into the event’s “fresh” alternate venue – The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, while the “fun” came in the form of a new presenter for The Motion Picture Showperson of the Year Award – Ukai, the star of Mark Wahlberg’s Arthur the King (a mix of Australian Shepherd, Border Collie and Bouvier des Flandres).

The luncheon began with co-chairs Tim Menke and Sheryl Main honoring those behind-the-scenes creatives who carefully craft events, awards, press releases, press kits and every form of promotion in the entertainment industry. They dedicated this year’s Publicists’ Directory to a trailblazer in behind-the-scenes work, Reba Merrill.

“An author and Emmy winner, who has been a member of the Publicists Guild since 1985,” Main announced, “she has not only conceptualized the electronic press kit, she set the bar very high by conducting some of the best interviews of the time. We are delighted to dedicate the directory to Reba Merrill and present her with a special edition of today’s program.”

Menke and Main then thanked IATSE President Matthew Loeb for taking time out from preparations for contract negotiations with AMPTP to attend the event. Also on hand for special shout-outs were ICG National President Baird Steptoe, ICG National Executive Director Alex Tonisson, ICG Second National Vice President Mark Weingartner, John Amman from the ICG Eastern Region office, ICG Western Region Director Micki Bursalyan and the Guild’s new Assistant Western Regional Director (and longtime ICG member) Michael Chambliss. In addition, the Communications and Events department, led by Jill Wilk, was introduced, with staff members MaryAnne MacDougall, Joey Gallagher, Tyler Bourdeau, Wes Driver, and Ken Harwood all in attendance.


Publicists from the Warner Bros. smash hit, Barbie, pose backstage after winning the Maxwell Weinberg Award for Motion Picture Publicity / Photo by Trae Patton


Sponsorship for the ICG Publicists Awards included first-time supporters Industry Art Works and Lionsgate, as well as longtime partners Amazon MGM Studios, CBS Studios, Junket Productions, Deadline, Netflix, Paramount, SAG-AFTRA, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. More than ever, Local 600 publicists reached out to thank the leadership of SAG-AFTRA and its members who were in attendance, as well as representatives from the DGA, Local 871 Script Supervisors, Local 892 Costume Designers, Local 700 Motion Picture Editors, and Local 728 Motion Picture Set Lighting.

Special honors were reserved for Sir Patrick Stewart (Television Showperson of the Year) and the Motion Picture and Television Fund with the Henri Bollinger Award for Special Merit. Menke said the Motion Pictures Showman of the Year Award for publicists included many professionals who “went the extra mile with their out-of-the-box creativity. Because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live in a sewer, Paramount publicists did interviews in a sewer. Dog-centric John Wick had screenings for dogs, and Amazon MGM Studio literally hit the streets of America for their Sneakers Cleaning street campaign in support of Air.”

Given the year 2023 was, Main added that publicists had to give “masterclasses in crisis management with Disney’s handling of the backlash over the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in the new live version of The Little Mermaid, as well as the silencing of anti-Semitic criticism over the prosthetic nose in Maestro by Netflix publicists, who achieved the respect and appreciation of not just filmgoers, but filmmakers.” A video by Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, highlighted the extra hard work the Netflix PR team did when actors weren’t available for promotion, how they found ways to work together with all venues with “ingenuity and commitment” as well as a “deep devotion to the film, which mirrored the emotional authenticity manifested. At one point, I semi-jokingly asked, ‘So, are movie teams always like this?’ ‘Oh, no,’ they all said, laughing. It was a funny moment, but it spoke to the unique aura around [Maestro] and the truth, connectedness and love – all of which the Netflix publicity team conveyed.”


ICG Publicists Awards Co-Chairs Sheryl Main and Tim Menke are joined onstage by the “presenter” of the 2024 Motion Picture Showpersons of the Year, Ukai (canine star of Arthur the King), who Main described as “the most well-trained client I’ve ever had.” / Photo by Evans Vestal Ward


Menke pointed out how the strikes forced publicists to move further out of the box than ever before. “And yet this year’s recipients managed to still advance the depiction of representation of film to audiences of all genders, races and sexual orientations,” he described. “Black audiences showed up to American Fiction; All of Us Strangers was pitched to LGBTQ+ audiences and Past Lives was promoted to Asian moviegoers. Apple Films worked their magic putting Killer of the Flower Moon before indigenous people, and they ensured Lily Gladstone received an Oscar nomination, the first time for a Native American actress.”

Main said 2023 also included some firsts, “like Creed 3, with the biggest opening weekend ever for a sports movie. And Oppenheimer became the highest-grossing World War II film of all time. We also saw two films enter the billion-dollar club, with Barbie as the first comedy and The Super Mario Bros. Movie as the first film based on a video game to gross a billion dollars worldwide.”

“Our 2024 Motion Picture Showpersons of the Year were at the heart of ‘Barbenheimer,’ the cultural phenomenon surrounding the simultaneous theatrical release of Barbie and Oppenheimer,” Menke announced. “Variety called it the ‘movie event of the year,’ and innovative movie studios and cast members pitched audiences to attend the films as a double feature, while internet users flooded social media. The joint opening became one of the largest ever at the U.S. box office. So, to announce this year’s recipient, we’re going to need a little help,” Menke added with a straight face. “Can somebody please bring us the envelope?”

As confident as when he stole Main’s heart at rehearsal (“the most well-trained client I’ve ever had,” she laughed after the show), Ukai trotted directly out to Main and Menke, who then called on every publicity department to stand up and acknowledge that they are all Motion Picture Showpersons for 2023. As the crowd deservedly toasted each other, a final “toast” was made to the man who made this all possible – Henri Bollinger.


Sandy Bollinger presented the Henri Bollinger Award for Special Merit to Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) President/CEO Bob Beitcher, who thanked the many publicists and journalists worldwide, “who have allowed [MPTF]  to shape the narrative about the impacts the double strikes had and continue to have on the livelihood of members of IATSE, Teamsters and the Basic Crafts.” / Photo by Evans Vestal Ward

It was no doubt a tough ask for Local 600 President Baird Steptoe and Motion Picture and Television Fund (MTFP) President and CEO Bob Beitcher to take the stage after Ukai. Steptoe laughed when he noted, “I think I was probably in grade school” when Henri Bollinger started the yearly event. But it was important to Steptoe to emphasize how hard publicists work, how difficult the strikes made their jobs, and, although “work has not returned to the same level as before COVID and two industry strikes, you are all back, and you will continue your hard work with your vision and your creativity,” he beamed. “You are the best publicists and still photographers in the world, and I’m extremely proud that you represent the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600.”

The annual Henri Bollinger Award for Special Merit was created in recognition of Bollinger’s term as five-time president of the Publicists Guild and chair of the awards luncheon for 35 years. Beitcher introduced Henri’s widow, Sandy, who took the stage to talk about her and her husband’s transition from independent living to the Ray and Fran Stark Villa at the Motion Picture Country Home in 2018, in an apartment donated by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Henri’s activities at the Home included art, ukulele, tai chi lessons, the Great Quill Society (a writer’s group) and playing poker with residents. “They provided Henri with a gym buddy so he could exercise safely,” Sandy recalled. “He did not need assisted living, and he got around the campus on his own with the help of the wonderful staff. Six months later, when he went in for unrelated surgery, his heart gave out.

Living at the Country Home helps me navigate the low points to arrive at the high points,” Sandy continued. “I have made so many wonderful friends. The staff is like family and they all know our names. I’m so fortunate to have found a home at MPTF under the capable and caring leadership of Bob Beitcher, and the support of the fantastic staff.”

Sandy went on to share the array of opportunities for creative expression. These physical, emotional, recreational, and educational programs facilitate the quality of life “in our intimate community. Bob is deeply concerned and connected with all the residents, and he works diligently to keep the campus a safe and vibrant community. He prioritizes health and safety at the top of MPTF’s mission. During the COVID pandemic, space was created to house and care for infected patients. To help keep us stimulated, a live-streaming interactive program called Creative Chaos ran on our TV channel. The pandemic proved very costly to MPTF, but Bob worked diligently and determinedly with his staff to raise the funds necessary to keep our campus going. I am very proud and honored to be giving MPTF the Henri Bollinger Award for Exceptional Merit in the entertainment field.”

When Beitcher accepted the honor, he stated, “While you want to give me more credit than I deserve for the magnificence of MPTF in the country home, it is Hollywood, after all. So, I’ll take some of the credit. I will surrender to the wonderful, kind, caring, and compassionate MPTF staff for the rest of it. They’re the ones who make the difference.”

Beitcher then turned to the audience to acknowledge how they “work hard to break through the clutter, to get the attention for the projects you’re representing, and always keep your clients in the best light, as you keep so many stakeholders satisfied. I’d also like to thank all the journalists who shared MPTF’s narrative worldwide, especially during this past Year. AP, Reuters, The New York Times, and many other big outlets got on board with allowing us to shape the narrative about the impacts the double strikes had and continue to have on the livelihood of members of IATSE, Teamsters and the Basic Crafts.”

Beitcher singled out Katie Kornfield, Andy Gelb, and the Slate PR team for their impressive work “on our pre-Oscar and pre-Emmy events, as well as other important moments.” He also gave a special shout-out to Dave Robb, a Deadline journalist “[whom] our industry lost last year.”


Publicist Jackie Bazan, 2024 honoree for The Bob Yeager Award for Community Service, said she “tries to find ways of integrating community involvement/service into everything what we do. All of the materials, the assets, things that we create every day we use for campaigns, we’ve found ways of using them to inspire the next generation.” / Photo by Evans Vestal Ward


Last Year’s winner, James Ferrera, came up to present The Bob Yeager Award for Community Service, noting that, “for all the hard work we do throughout the year promoting the work of visionary creators, there are those among us who somehow find the time and energy to give back to the communities that sustain us. Jackie Bazan’s unwavering commitment to raising awareness of the underserved African-American market has left an indelible mark on our industry. Through her organization, Bazan Ed, Jackie has created a path to bring relevant and topical film campaigns into classrooms nationwide, developing curriculums for school systems and providing critical educational tools to teachers for free. Something that she’s empowered to do with the support of many of the marketing teams in this room and through studio charitable-giving initiatives. Her vision, compassion and perseverance exemplify the true spirit of service.”

“James has been an incredible champion of the work I’ve done from the beginning and before I even started Bazan Ed,” Jackie Bazan announced, as she accepted the award. “I always try to find ways of integrating community involvement and community service into what we do. We are a very rich industry. All of the materials, the assets, things that we create every day that we take for granted and just sort of use for campaigns, we’ve found ways of using them to inspire the next generation. To demonstrate ways that the world should be seen as inclusive.

“Even though a lot of my work focuses on African American projects and the roles that African Americans have played in this country, it’s about all of us. It is about every nationality, religion and child you see.” Through her efforts, Bazan has reached thousands of kids across the country. She also shared how the whole thing started – when Cassandra Butcher asked her to come up with a way to help her get Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning feature, 12 Years A Slave, into classrooms. Bazan ran with that idea, making sure a free DVD copy of Selma was given to every high school in America. With The Hate You Give, Bazan was able to help create programs that inspired young people to look at art – and more.


Justin Lubin (L) Winner, Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Television, and Claudette Darius (R), Winner,  Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Motion Pictures, pose backstage with their awards. / Photo by Trae Patton


Next to the stage, for his first appearance at the event since becoming ICG National Executive Director, was Alex Tonisson, who, straight off, acknowledged the volunteers who put the event together every year. “The hard work done to make this happen is commendable, and profits from this luncheon feed directly into the Union’s Preservation and Scholarship Fund,” Tonisson announced. “Since its inception in 2001, Local 600 has given over 250 scholarships to Local 600 members and families totaling over $700,000. Thank you to our sponsors today who are helping provide our members, children and grandchildren with scholarships to further their education in the arts, sciences, and whichever field of study they choose. By purchasing a table or a ticket to this luncheon, you contribute to the health of Local 600’s Preservation and Scholarship funds and the future of this union.”

Tonisson said joining Local 600 was a significant milestone for many careers. “I’ve seen firsthand the pride members take in displaying their union membership cards on social media upon joining,” he shared. “That status and recognition happen partly because they have seen the work of their predecessors and want to follow in those footsteps. Becoming a Local 600 member not only brings a sense of professional status but also offers a supportive community that provides mentorship and guidance. The events of this past year demonstrate that we’re also a community that stands up and supports each other during challenging times. I’m proud of how our members rallied together in solidarity.”


Sir Patrick Stewart, who received The Television Showperson Award, thanked the many cast and crew members of Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Picard “who have become near and dear friends, over the years,” as well as his personal publicist, Kelly Bush (pictured above). / Photo by Trae Patton


Lieutenant Commander Data, aka Brent Spiner, went for lightness and fun as he took the podium to present The Television Showperson Award to Sir Patrick Stewart. Spiner enthusiastically plugged Stewart’s memoir, Making It So, the story of a Yorkshire lad who was born into almost Dickensian poverty with impossible challenges and managed, through desire, determination, discipline, intelligence and a world of talent, to propel himself to unimaginable heights, literally to outer space.

“Those three words, ‘make it so,’ have become a part of the science fiction lexicon because Patrick uttered them countless times in seven seasons and four feature films as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation and again 25 years after the CBS Paramount hit series Star Trek: Picard,” Spiner stated. “His career includes performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, on London’s West End, Broadway and more. He is now, of course, a knight of the realm, Sir Patrick Stewart – this year’s TV Showperson of the Year.”

After giving Spinner the “Picard” look, Stewart launched into a beautiful story of their beginnings together on the first days of The Next Generation. “I was nervous, as I had only a little film experience and certainly nothing where I played the leading character,” the award-winning actor confessed. “However, a couple of incidents totally changed how I felt. The Los Angeles Times had written a long Sunday piece about The Next Generation, concluding with the words ‘the captain of the Enterprise is played by the unknown British Shakespearean actor, Patrick Stewart,’” he continued. “When I arrived at my trailer after lunch that day, I found a notice pinned to the door, which read, ‘Beware: an unknown British Shakespearean actor.’ I was to learn that this notice had been placed by Brent Spiner.”

Stewart laughed as he added, “After I shot my scene, I encountered Commander Riker. He spoke a few words to me, and I reflected on what he had said for a few moments and then walked away. The director called ‘cut,’ but [Jonathan] Frakes stopped, turned around, and said, ‘Is that what is called British face acting?’ There was a roar of laughter, and I tried to smile, but it was challenging. I had my payback many times over the next seven years – those two and the others – LeVar, Gates, Marina, Michael and Whoopi. They are now my nearest and dearest friends. I love them all and must thank everyone else – executives, crew, and publicists – for their help. Especially my long-term personal publicist, Kelly Bush. I am so proud to receive this award.”

The afternoon was rounded out with the presentations of The Maxwell Weinberg Awards for Motion Picture and Television, Barbie (Warner Bros.) and Ahsoka (Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm/Disney+); the Les Mason Award for Career Achievement to Gabriela Gutentag (unit publicist) and the Publicist of the Year Award to Julia Neal (Paramount Pictures).

Claudette Barius took home the Excellence in Unit Still Photography for Motion Pictures, and Justin Lubin won the same award for television. Jen Yamato won the Press Award, and Baz Bamigboye was honored with the International Media Award. As the event broke up, the giddy crowd pressed one last time for a reappearance from the true star of the day (among many, many shining stars): Ukai.


ICG National Executive Director Alex Tonisson  told the audience that “becoming a Local 600 member not only brings a sense of professional status but also offers a supportive community that provides mentorship and guidance. The events of this past year demonstrate that we’re also a community that stands up and supports each other during challenging times.” / Photo by Evans Vestal Ward


Three members of the publicity team from Ahsoka (Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm/Disney+), which was given The Maxwell Weinberg Award for Television Publicity, gather at the pre-event cocktail party. (L to R:) Senior Photo Editor Riki Leigh Arnold, Director of Publicity, Lucasfilm, Tracy Cannobbio, and Unit Publicist Gregg Brilliant. / Photo by Evans Vestal Ward