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The Crowd: Women of Chapman luncheon celebrates support of university, student filmmakers

Women of Chapman luncheon 2019
Among the attendees of the 2019 Women of Chapman summer luncheon were, from left, R.J. Brandes; Adrienne Brandes, the student filmmaker endowment chairwoman for Women of Chapman; Bob Bassett, founding dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts; and Janell Shearer Bassett, chairwoman of the Dodge College Media Arts Division.
(Courtesy of Tony Lattimore)

They gathered in the bayfront Commodore Room at Newport Beach’s Balboa Bay Resort — sharing late-morning champagne toasts on the occasion of the annual Women of Chapman summer luncheon.

About 100 stylish women joined forces to celebrate the 48-year-old organization that has contributed roughly $7 million to multiple projects at Chapman University in Orange.

Presently, Women of Chapman is raising funds to honor its $1-million pledge to the university’s Keck Center for Science and Engineering, along with a continuing annual commitment of $30,000 earmarked to support student filmmakers working at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, among other projects.

One of the Dodge College commitments is known as the Filmmaker-in-Residence program. Funds are distributed annually among student filmmakers who apply and audition for financial backing — enabling them to shoot senior film projects as part of their graduation requirements.


In a direct sense, the process relates to the real-world obstacles faced by professional producers seeking financing from investors and/or studios. Of course, in the professional world there are sometimes seven zeros added to the total amount of funding needed to make a movie.

The 2019 summer luncheon focused primarily on the organization’s support of the Filmmaker-in-Residence program. Led by Women of Chapman President Anne Manassero, the afternoon confab informed donors that the money used to support student projects is the result of many years of fundraising that has established a $1-million endowment fund.

Manassero joined program co-chairwomen Donna Bunce and Kiki Rhynerson in welcoming the crowd and recognizing 18 new members joining the ranks to carry on the Women of Chapman tradition.

From left, Dodge College founding Dean Bob Bassett, Women of Chapman President Anne Manassero, Chapman University President Daniele Struppa, Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Dean Janeen Hill and Kate Berry, representing the Keck Center for Science and Engineering, pose with a check during the luncheon.
(Courtesy of Tony Lattimore)


In the VIP crowd were Chapman President Daniele Struppa, along with university dignitaries Sheryl Bourgeois, Janeen Hill and Kate Berry. Also in attendance were Dodge College founding Dean Bob Bassett and his wife Janell Shearer Bassett — chairwoman of the college’s Media Arts Division.

Longtime Women of Chapman advocate and Student Filmmaker Endowment Chairwoman Adrienne Brandes delivered a warm and passionate address about the importance of the endowment fund and how it provides life-changing opportunities for students.

Along with the annual funding of $30,000, she announced that additional monies raised provided a total of $55,000 in filmmaking grants for young directors.

Brandes then introduced each student filmmaker and showed clips from their projects. Applause rang out for Kiley Callahan, Morgan Barraza, Jesse Hallen, Emma Hall, Madeline Davies, Ciani Walker, Jerry Hu, Julia Elihu and Leslie Susman.

Dining on the Balboa Bay Resort’s legendary mariners salad were Women of Chapman President-elect Laura Baratta, Lauren Peterson, Barbara Eidson, Kristin Martin, Lauren Johnston, Mona Lee Nesseth, Sheri Nazaroff, Janet Curci, Sue Hook, Kathy Hamilton, Kim Smith and Carol Lee.

Also front and center were Carol Fullman, DeeDee Sodaro, Carol Wilken, Leslie Cancellieri, Donna Hood and Susan Villeneuve.

To cap off the luncheon, Manassero presented a $264,100 check to Struppa. Bob Bassett also was given a standing ovation for his 38 years of commitment to the university and its students.

“In the beginning, the entire film department was in my office,” Bassett said.


He continued, “I was hired as Chapman’s sole full-time film professor with no students and no film major offered.”

Fast forward to 2019 and Dodge College now has an international reputation and has been rated the No. 6 film school in the country by the Hollywood Reporter.

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B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.