Alicia Silverstone at the 18th Annual Genesis Awards
- Scroll half way down to read the paragraphs about Alicia...
18th Annual Genesis Awards: Passing Out Plaques and Inspiring Change
When Brad Woodard received his Genesis Award for Outstanding Local
News Feature, few would have raised an eyebrow if the Minneapolis
reporter and anchor had acted a little blase about his win. It was,
after all, his third Genesis victory.
But instead, Woodard waxed poetic about his latest visit to the
Genesis stage: "The first award changed my life. I knew I couldn't
continue to do what I was doing," he said on Saturday, March 20, to a
hushed crowd in the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom. "This is
the only award that matters to me."
Such a comment, of course, can only raise more questions. Backstage
in the media room, Woodard clarified his remarks about how his life
had changed after winning that first Genesis Award in 1995. Woodard
spoke of his rural upcoming in North Carolina and how he had
witnessed backwoods "veterinary services" at their worst. The effects
of those early experiences lay mostly dormant until the moment in
1995 when Woodard accepted his Genesis Award
"I came here and the whole thing made me see that I had to change the
way I was living my life," said Woodard, whose winning report this
year focused on an exotic cat breeder and the dangers these animals
pose as pets. "I haven't eaten meat since that first award."
That, in a nutshell, is the power of the Genesis Awards. It may be
the only awards ceremony that truly inspires personal transformation.
The Oscars may inspire moviegoers to fork out more money to see the
Best Picture winner and the Grammys may inspire more album sales, but
the Genesis Awards inspire people to make the world a better place
for animals. Once affected by Genesis, people may be inspired to
produce a film that stirs the next generation of animal activists to
action, much like Born Free did nearly 40 years ago, or they may just
change their personal habits, like Woodard did nine years ago.
You can experience the power of the Eighteenth Annual Genesis Awards
yourself. A two-hour edited version of the ceremony will air at 3
p.m. Sunday, April 25, on Animal Planet. A one-hour edited version
will air at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and 1 a.m. Sunday, May 2, also
on Animal Planet. All times are Eastern. (You can also check out our
online photo gallery.)
By the time Gretchen Wyler, HSUS vice president in charge of the
Hollywood Office, declared this year's Genesis Awards the "best yet,"
21 different plaques were presented in categories as varied as
Outstanding Children's TV Series and Outstanding Reality Programming.
A surprisingly large number of these winners, while clutching their
award, said they could think of no higher honor, mostly because they
know a Genesis Award means more than just "industry acknowledgement"
or "artistic achievement." It means you've helped make a difference
After Daryl Hannah, who gamely appeared at the ceremony despite being
ill, presented the Genesis Award for Outstanding Feature Film to the
creators of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde, screenwriter
Kate Kondell talked about a common dream for Hollywood filmmakers.
The writer noted how just about anyone who makes a movie aspires to,
one day, appear on stage at the Kodak Theatre to accept "an award
named after a guy."
But, Kondell quickly added, "As far as I'm concerned, it can't get
any better than this."
Watch just about any awards ceremony, and you can't help but note a
subtext of competition at each one. There are winners and losers, and
no doubt some losers (and their fans) go home disappointed, maybe
even a little jealous and angry. No such atmosphere exists at the
Genesis Awards. At Genesis, there's a communal feeling of promoting a
common cause. This ceremony is not about personal competition, but
about something much larger and more important; everyone in the room
seems to sense it.
Such an atmosphere led to some amazing moments of synchronicity on
this March evening. Early in the ceremony, actress Alicia Silverstone
accepted the award for Outstanding Children's TV Series for her work
in Braceface, which chronicles "the perils of adolescence."
Silverstone, who serves as executive producer of the show and
provides the voice of lead character Sharon Spitz, won for an episode
about how 14-year-old Sharon discovers the ugly truth about cosmetics
testing on animals.
Backstage, Silverstone elaborated on connection between the
uncorrupted innocence of children and a love of animals. "Kids are so
beautiful," she said, "because they really love animals. It's only
through conditioning that they learn not to [love them] We want
everyone to remember those original feelings, and let them know that
the kids are right."
Later in the evening, Silverstone's comments would be reflected in
young filmmaker Maria Brenner's Remembering Bob, which won the
inaugural Genesis Outstanding Student Award. The short film depicts a
farm boy's affection for a young pig and how the boy is forced, as he
grows into a hardened teenager, to accept his destined role as a hog
slaughterera role he ultimately rejects in the film's climactic
scene. It was as if Silverstone's thoughts about societal
conditioningand the need to reject such conditioningwere instantly
brought to life.
It was abundantly clear that Brenner herself hadn't been brainwashed
by society. "I hope to be a voice for animals for the rest of my
life," said the University of Southern California film student. The
crowd roared its approval.
And speaking of underlying connections, several winners felt a
special bond to the evening's Guest of Honor, Virginia McKenna, the
star of the 1966 film, Born Free, based on Joy and George Adamson's
experiences in Kenya raising a lion cub named Elsa. That movie
inspired a generation or two of animal activists, including McKenna,
who would found the Born Free Foundation in March 1984, exactly 20
McKenna's two-decade role in animal welfare is not a job, not even a
vocation, said her son Will Travers in an essay in the Genesis Awards
program. It is a "mission, passionately delivered with every ounce of
McKenna's eloquent acceptance speech was the very definition of
passion for a cause. Acknowledging all the complexities and
contradictions of modern lifethe "freedom we cherish so passionately
we deny to so many other creatures"McKenna offered a pure vision for
a better world. "It is love," she said, "sharing, respect and
compassion that must, and will, conquer the world."
Given McKenna's endearing commitment to animal welfare, not to
mention her stirring speech, it was little wonder that writer Chuck
Austen was awestruck to share the same stage with the legend. After
accepting the Genesis Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement for
his work on X-Men Unlimited, Austen commented, "To be on the same
stage as Virginia McKenna, whose film was such an inspiration in my
youth, is beyond words."
He wasn't the only one. The Beverly Hilton crowd was also basking in
McKenna's glow. Among those admirers were U.S. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-
CA) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA) as well as Sean Astin, William Baldwin
and Chynna Phillips-Baldwin, Linda Blair, David Boreanaz, James
Cromwell, Amy Davidson, Kelly Diedring, Shannon Elizabeth, Will
Estes, Jorja Fox, Matt Gallant, Alexander Gould, Valerie Harper,
Tippi Hedren, Kelly Hu, Angus T. Jones, Wendie Malick, Alexandra
Paul, Doris Roberts, Amy Smart, David Sutcliffe, Steve Valentine, and
Buster the dog from Bruce Almighty, who seemed to take direction as
well as anyone. The co-hosts were Michael Nouri and Melissa Rivers.
These politicians, celebrities and guests had plenty of reasons to
applaud, rise to their feet, and even occasionally shed a tear for a
departed soul mate, whether animal activist David Bale or the world's
most famous whale, Keiko, both of whom died last year. And who knows?
Perhaps a few of these gathered folks walked away from the Eighteenth
Annual Genesis Awards with a notion to change their livesor maybe
even inspire a legion to change the world.
- Pics of Alicia at the 18th Annual Genesis Awards:
More pics from the Genesis Awards: