PBS’s Sara DeWitt Presented With DEG’s Hedy Lamarr Award

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Nov. 9 presented its fourth annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

DeWitt was surprised by presenters in masks and gloves who gave her the award in her home during the virtual event.

“A fun thing about this being virtual is that my whole family is here with me,” DeWitt said, surrounded by her kids and husband.

“Sara oversees PBS kids streaming video services, the PBS kids games app and PBSkids.org, which collectively serve over 13.5 million visitors each month,” said PBS CEO Paula Kerger, who introduced DeWitt. “Under her leadership PBS Kids has produced and published cutting-edge experiences for children from AR games and podcasts to game video hybrids and texting programs. Her drive to understand how digital media can impact children’s learning has yielded profound findings from a variety of research studies, and she’s established the gold standard for children’s digital privacy and security.”

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DeWitt paid tribute to Lamarr, an Austrian-American actress who was a Hollywood legend and lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications. PBS chronicled her life in the “American Masters” documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

“I loved this story of this glamorous movie star moonlighting as a technological powerhouse, but I think what struck me the most as I watched that ‘American Masters’ documentary Bombshell was how long it took for her contributions to come to light, that silence of 50 years from the time that she received her patent for the idea of frequency hopping to the time of actual public recognition for it,” DeWitt said. “And when I think about that piece of the story I get really frustrated. I hope many of you are as well. It just reemphasizes for me the importance of amplifying the successes of women here and now, women in technical fields, women in my own organization, women in our community. It reaffirms to me too how critical it is to provide opportunities for more voices, for those underrepresented in our industry to be heard and celebrated so that no one has to wait 50 years for their groundbreaking work to come to light.”

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DeWitt, who was a teacher before joining PBS, stressed the power of programming in helping kids envision their future.

“The media that we create has so much power to introduce kids to places and to people that they’ve never know about before,” she said. “Good storytelling has the power to help children imagine exciting possibilities for themselves and good technology can help even more children gain access to the tools and the resources that they need to realize these possibilities. I hope that our innovation at PBS Kids can inspire all children and all of those little girls in our audience to think big and to think about their own future to create new inventions and new art and new discoveries that won’t take 50 years to be recognized.”

The DEG also virtually presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. The Emerging Leader award was presented to Molly Mielke, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in film, TV and digital media at UCLA. Mielke will receive a financial award to continue her education. Her work can be found on her website, mollymielke.com.

Lamarr’s son Anthony Loder also joined the virtual event.

“It’s wonderful that you’re sharing her legacy forward in history while making history of your own,” he said.

Nominations for the 2021 awards are open Nov. 10 on the DEG website.

In Conversation: Sara DeWitt of PBS Kids Digital, Winner of the 2020 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation

On the eve of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group hosting its fourth annual Hedy Lamarr Awards presentation on Nov. 9, Media Play News sat down with the winner of the 2020 Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology, Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital, for a discussion of her career path.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

Media Play News: What are your thoughts on winning this year’s Hedy Lamarr Award, and why is a program such as this important?

DeWitt: I am honored to receive this award; I’m truly amazed to be associated with Hedy Lamarr and the other pioneers recognized by DEG through this program. I know that I am fortunate to work with a team at PBS Kids that is passionate about improving technology and media for young children, and I am so grateful for this recognition. Women have accomplished great things in this industry for a long time, but are historically underappreciated and still underrepresented in its leadership. It’s important to highlight their accomplishments, and help support other women as they build their careers in media.

Register HERE for the Fourth Annual Hedy Larr Awards Online Event Nov. 9

What inspires you most about Hedy Lamarr?

I’m inspired by how Hedy Lamarr forged her own path in a new country, building an acting career while also pursuing her interests in science and invention. I love that she excelled both in the creative arts and in science and technology.

Tell us about your career path.

As an English major with a concentration on children’s studies, I was focused on children’s books and early literacy development. My senior year at Stanford, I took a class called Interactive Narrative and Artificial Intelligence, which was cross-listed between Computer Science and English. Not only did I learn HTML, but I also became fascinated with digital games and storytelling, and the ways they could help kids explore new concepts and skills. Over 20 years ago, I was hired by PBS to work on their relatively new website for children; I was a good fit for the job because I had both a child development background and knew some basic programming! I’ve always been focused on children’s content and, specifically, on how kids can learn through different types of media and technology. I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders — many of them women — who have encouraged me in this path, and taught me to have confidence in my own expertise as I’ve grown.

If you had to pick one career highlight, what would it be?

In 2009, I recommended to senior management that we launch a streaming video player for the preschool audience. My boss was skeptical that such a young audience would access video this way. I felt differently; my amazing team and I secured funding, designed, and launched the service, predicting we would deliver 5 million streams per month. In its first month, the PBS Kids Video player served 84 million streams. Today, the PBS KIDS Video player is available on mobile and OTT platforms as well as Smart TVs, and averages 359 million streams per month.

How important is technology and innovation to your job?

My role at PBS Kids is focused on helping children learn through media. As children’s use of media evolves and new platforms emerge, we have even more opportunities to consider how that media can help children learn, discover a new passion, or see characters like themselves reflected on screen. By being innovative with technology, we have the opportunity to better serve all kids with content that resonates with them, and helps them better understand the world around them.

How important is technology and innovation to our industry, overall?

Our industry has been innovating from the beginning. In fact, 50 years ago, PBS launched with a mission to reimagine the television medium. Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was one of the pioneers in this space, recognizing that new technology had the power to help children understand their emotions. PBS is constantly innovating both technologically and in our content, across more platforms and media types than ever.

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What’s next on your agenda?

The kids media landscape has shifted dramatically in the last eight months, as stay-at-home orders and distance learning have gone into effect. I’m very focused on how we can best meet the needs of kids and families in this new environment, especially those who may not have the latest devices or most reliable Internet access. We have the opportunity to be creative with technology as a means to help reach as many kids as possible with shows and games that can help them learn and grow.

DEG to Present Hedy Lamarr Award to PBS’s Sara DeWitt Nov. 9

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present its fourth annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Sara DeWitt, VP of PBS Kids Digital.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also will present the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology, which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. The Emerging Leader award will be presented to Molly Mielke, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in film, TV and digital media at UCLA. Mielke will receive a financial award to continue her education.

Sony Electronics is presenting sponsor of the awards, which will be presented during an online event Nov. 9, to coincide with the 106th anniversary of Lamarr’s birth (Nov. 9, 1914).

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“We are thrilled to present DEG’s 2020 Hedy Lamarr Innovation Award to Sara DeWitt, who is a potent example of the power of media, and of women in media, to push technological innovation forward and at the same time, benefit society on a larger level,” Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of DEG, said in a statement. “I’m equally excited to present our Emerging Leader Award to Molly Mielke to support her vision for immersive storytelling. These communicators embody Hedy Lamarr’s dedication to progress through innovation in media and technology.”

“I am honored to receive this award,” DeWitt said in a statement. “I am truly amazed to be associated with Hedy Lamarr and the other pioneers recognized by DEG through this program! I know that I am fortunate to work with a team at PBS Kids who is passionate about improving technology and media for young children, and I am so grateful for this recognition.”

Austrian-American actress Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in film classics including Samson and DelilahThe Strange Woman, and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

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To honor Lamarr, the Innovation Award seeks to recognize and commemorate female industry leaders who have made a similar impact in the field of entertainment technology. Past honorees include Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Nonny de la Peña, CEO of Emblematic Group; and Dean Willow Bay of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

To determine the award winners, DEG enlisted its Canon Club Advisory Board, which comprises a cross-section of leaders representing the entertainment, technology, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the following principles: Innovation, Engagement and Excellence.

Apple TV+ to Bow ‘Hedy Lamarr’ Starring Gal Gadot

“Hedy Lamarr,” an eight-episode limited series starring and executive produced by Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman” franchise), will premiere globally on Apple TV+.

The series is written and executive produced by Golden Globe Award winner Sarah Treem (“The Affair,” “House of Cards,” “In Treatment”).

Hailed as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Hedy Lamarr was first exalted and iconized, then destroyed and eventually forgotten by American audiences, all the while keeping her brilliant mind active through a series of inventions, one of which became the basis for the spread spectrum technology used today. The series will follow the life story of the Hollywood glamour girl, spanning 30 years from Hedy’s escape from prewar Vienna, to her meteoric rise in the Golden Age of Hollywood, to her fall and eventual disgrace at the dawn of the Cold War.

The notion for the historical drama originated from Gadot and producing partner Jaron Varsano (“My Dearest Fidel”), who then partnered with Emmy and BAFTA Award winner Warren Littlefield (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and Treem, the latter of whom created the series, according to an Apple release.

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In addition to Gadot and Treem, “Hedy Lamarr” will be executive produced by Littlefield and Katie Robbins (“The Affair”). Gadot and Varsano will produce through their production company, Pilot Wave. Adam Haggiag (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story) and Alexandra Dean (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story) will serve as co-producers, with Hedy Lamarr’s children Anthony Loder and Denise Deluca consulting on the series.

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Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, as well as at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. The Apple TV app will be available on Sony and VIZIO smart TVs later this year, according to the release.

Willow Bay Recalls Career, Praises Young People in Accepting DEG’s Hedy Lamarr Award

Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, received the third annual “Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology” from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Nov. 12 on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

Presenter Robin Tarufelli, managing director of Deloitte and chair of the DEG’s Canon Club, noted that “Dean Bay is widely known for her journalism work on camera as a reporter and anchor at various news agencies, including ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ NBC’s ‘Today Show’ and CNN’s ‘Moneyline.’”

She also noted her contribution to digital journalism.

“Like Hedy, few people know Dean Bay is also a powerful inventor in the field of digital communication,” she said. “As a senior editor, she helped pioneer Huffington Post online, where she led various verticals including the launch of business and lifestyle. At USC, she launched the USC Annenberg Center.”

In accepting the award, Bay expressed the regret of husband Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., that he couldn’t attend the event.

“My husband Bob had to launch Disney+ today,” she said. “He really wanted to be here, but they’ve got something else going on.”

Bay praised the career of Lamarr, a Hollywood actress who was also an inventor with several patents.

“I got no patents,” Bay joked, adding, “I’m blown away to be mentioned in the same sentence as Hedy Lamarr, a true pioneer not just in her inventions but in forging new ways to be a woman fully in all dimensions.”

She noted that Lamarr is “the mother of Wi-Fi” and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“I bet not a lot of those inventors looked like Hedy,” Bay said, noting “how much all of our lives thanks to digital and wireless are advanced because of her and how much my career actually was inspired from her scientific advance.”

Bay recalled her days as the first female anchor of CNN’s “Moneyline,” where she interviewed Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and others in the late 1990s.

“In those days they would say things like, ‘I don’t know whether men, when the markets are heading downward, we just don’t know whether men want to get bad financial news from a woman,’” she recalled. “Somehow they managed.”

She also worked alongside The Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington, who she called “one of the great digital media pioneers.”

“It was when blogs first came about,” she recalled. “It was when comments first came about. It was really in many ways one of the precursors of social media.”

She then went on to become the first female dean of the USC Annenberg School.

During her acceptance speech, she praised members of the younger generation, including her students at USC, for their passion.

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“We are watching a very young generation emerge into their roles as innovators and leaders on a very public stage,” Bay said. “We know them on a first name basis — Malala, Emma, Greta, Chanel. Malala used her voice to educate us about women’s education. Greta [Thunberg] stunned the world with her speech before the U.N. on climate change. Emma Gonzalez in Parkland is becoming one of this country’s leading voices on gun control. And there’s Chanel Miller, who wrote Know My Name, in which she courageously uses her voice and shares her story of sexual assault. These young women are making their mark in the public sphere, and they are inspiring so many of us.”

She exhorted the audience to help the younger generation to make their mark.

“Find a young person in your orbit and reach out to them,” she said. “We need to help them live up to their potential, and in doing that, we will live up to ours.”

Bay shared the spotlight with a student from her school. The DEG also presented the “Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology,” which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise, to Maya Tribbitt. Tribbitt is earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations at the USC Annenberg and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and will receive a financial award to continue her education.

Tribbitt interned at Amazon and worked for Kamala Harris in her Los Angeles office.

DEG Fetes 2019 Hedy Lamarr Award Recipients

Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, received the third annual “Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology” from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Nov. 12 on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

In her acceptance speech, Bay said her husband Bob Iger unfortunately couldn’t attend as he had another engagement, launching the new streaming service Disney+.

The DEG also presented the “Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology,” which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise, to Maya Tribbitt. Tribbitt is earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations at the USC Annenberg and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and will receive  a financial award to continue her education.

USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay to Receive DEG Hedy Lamarr Award

Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will receive the third annual “Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology” from DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group this fall.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also will present the “Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology,” which recognizes female college students whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. Maya Tribbitt, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations at USC Annenberg and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, will receive the Emerging Leader honor along with a financial award to continue her education.

The awards will be presented in Los Angeles to coincide with the 105th anniversary of Lamarr’s birth Nov. 9, 1914.

“We are thrilled to present DEG’s 2019 Hedy Lamarr Awards to Dean Willow Bay, for her traditional and digital platforms, and USC student Maya Tribbitt,” said DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith in a statement. “These communicators truly embody Hedy Lamarr’s dedication to innovation in media and technology.”

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Bay, a broadcast journalist, is the first female dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and holder of the Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication. Since joining the USC Annenberg faculty in 2014 as director of the School of Journalism, she has launched the school’s state-of-the-art Media Center in Wallis Annenberg Hall, expanded the school’s partnerships with key media and technology partners, and accelerated curricular innovations, including an expansion of the school’s experiential education and career development programs, according to the DEG. Bay’s work to ensure that current and future communicators are fluent writers across many digital platforms was recognized with the Award of Honor from the PEN Center USA. She is married to Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.

“I am honored to receive this award inspired by Hedy Lemarr’s relentless commitment not only to pushing the boundaries of invention, but also to forging new roles for women in the entertainment and technology industries,” Bay said in a statement. “At USC Annenberg, we prepare our students to lead with this same level of intelligence, curiosity and courage as they shape the future of media, technology and culture.”

Austrian-American actress Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in film classics including Samson and Delilah, The Strange Woman and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this highly secure technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

To determine the award winners, DEG enlisted its Canon Club Advisory Board, which comprises a cross-section of leaders representing the entertainment, technology, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the principles of innovation, engagement and excellence.

DEG Presents Hedy Lamarr Awards to VR Pioneer, Carnegie Mellon Student

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presented its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña, a leader in virtual reality, in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1. The award recognizes female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG also presented the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leader in Entertainment Technology to Carnegie Mellon University student Cassidy Pearsall, who will receive a financial award to continue her education.

“Thank you for thinking about women and technology,” de la Peña said in accepting the award. “The numbers are appalling. In 2017, 98% of venture funds went to men. In 2016, in 2015, the same — it’s brutal. To celebrate women’s contribution to technology helps change their story to venture capitalists. They always say they invest in founders of the company. Putting women out there like this and talking about Hedy Lamarr and putting people like me and Cassidy out there, you start to change that story, you start to change what they expect a founder to look like, so it’s really important what you’re doing here. This work is important, and I really appreciate that I’ve been able to be a representative of that ongoing attempt to show the world how much we can contribute.”

DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith said the awards were created “to celebrate the memory of Hedy Lamarr,” who was both a Hollywood actress and an inventor.

“Louis B. Mayer famously was one of the first people to call her the most beautiful woman in the world and of course many people followed thereafter, but Hedy wasn’t just a beautiful, talented film star,” Smith noted. “She came up with a way of actually making sure torpedoes would hit their destinations during World War II. This highly secure technology, radio frequency hopping, is the foundation on which technologies such as wi-fi, bluetooth and cellular technologies, technologies that we use every single day, are based.”

After reminiscing about finding his mother’s patent as they went through boxes of magazine covers and photographs in the attic, Lamarr’s son Anthony Loder congratulated the 2018 winners.

“Cassidy, my mother would be very proud of you,” he said to Pearsall. “She’d be a fan, and she’d be impressed.”

“To be compared to someone as talented and as driven as Hedy is really an incredible honor,” Pearsall said in accepting her award.

De la Peña was named “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by The Guardian and Engadget, while Fast Company recognized her as one of the people who made the world more creative for her groundbreaking work in immersive journalism. A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine, de la Peña founded Emblematic Group in 2007. The company became an innovator in walk around virtual reality with the first-ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Emblematic has also produced Project Syria, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum, Use of ForceOne Dark NightOut of ExileAfter Solitary and Greenland Melting.

Pearsall is a student in Carnegie Mellon’s Theatrical Video and Media Design program, and a recipient of the university’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. She is training as a theatrical designer and technician in scenic design and construction and lighting design and programming.

Deluxe Entertainment Services Group hosted the reception and Sony, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Corp. of America, was a presenting sponsor.

See photos from the event here.

DEG to Honor VR Innovator, Carnegie Mellon Student With Hedy Lamarr Awards

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present its second annual Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Emblematic Group CEO Nonny de la Peña.

De la Peña is often recognized as the “Godmother of VR” for her pioneering work in immersive film, according to the DEG.

The DEG created the Innovation Award to recognize female executives in the fields of entertainment and technology who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The DEG will also present the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology to Cassidy Pearsall of Carnegie Mellon University. This award recognizes female college students in their junior year whose studies in the fields of entertainment and technology have shown exceptional promise. Pearsall will receive a financial award to continue her education. The DEG will also recognize Finalist with Distinction Lucy Scherrer, also of Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Finalists Katharine Derringer of the University of Michigan and Marissa Dianas of Boston University.

“We are proud to present DEG’s 2018 Hedy Lamarr Awards to Nonny de la Peña, for her profound commitment to immersive storytelling through virtual reality, and Cassidy Pearsall, a student with extraordinary potential,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO, DEG, in a statement. “Each woman reflects the spirit of Hedy Lamarr and honors her legacy of innovation in entertainment and technology.”

The awards will be presented at a reception in Santa Monica, Calif., Nov. 1 to coincide with the 104th anniversary of Lamarr’s birth (Nov. 9, 1914). Deluxe Entertainment Services Group will host the reception. Sony, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Corp. of America, are presenting sponsors.

“I’m honored to accept this award inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of Hedy Lamarr,” said de la Peña in a statement. “As a Hollywood actress, she was defined primarily by her appearance, but it was what was beneath the surface — her accomplishment as a scientist and inventor that most dramatically impacted the world. At Emblematic Group we too are always trying to get beneath the surface by using immersive journalism to put spectators into environments they never would have been able to experience otherwise, allowing people to empathize and understand others through the lens of VR and AR.”

Lamarr was a Hollywood legend who is best known for her roles in a number of film classics, including Samson and DelilahThe Strange Woman, and Tortilla Flat. She was also a lifelong inventor whose innovative work included pioneering “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for spread spectrum technology. Conceived by Lamarr and composer George Antheil for radio guidance systems and patented in 1942, this technology resists interference and dropout, and is utilized today for a variety of cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications.

To determine the award winners, the DEG enlisted a judging panel comprised of a cross-section of leaders representing the entertainment, technology, academic, IT and consumer electronics industries. Among other factors, the judging panel based its decisions on the candidates’ embodiment of the principles of innovation, engagement and excellence.

De la Peña was named “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by The Guardian and Engadget, while Fast Company recognized her as one of the people who made the world more creative for her groundbreaking work in immersive journalism. A former correspondent for Newsweek magazine, de la Peña founded Emblematic Group in 2007. The company became an innovator in walk around virtual reality with the first-ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Emblematic has also produced Project Syria, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum, Use of ForceOne Dark NightOut of ExileAfter Solitary and Greenland Melting. Emblematic is currently launching the REACH web platform, which allows anyone to tell their story in room-scale VR.

Pearsall is a student in Carnegie Mellon University’s Theatrical Video and Media Design program, and a recipient of the university’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. She is training as a theatrical designer and technician in scenic design and construction and lighting design and programming. She is currently developing a video design, including animation integrated with documentary style interviews and live filming, for a new play, I’m Sure I’ll Figure it Out.

For information, visit DEGonline.org.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Documentary;
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated. 

Direct from its 96% Rotten Tomatoes huzzahs (and you’d have to be a real prune not to take to it), Alexandra Dean’s Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story deftly walks the dividing line between chronicling the actress/raving beauty’s screen career and — now much more notably — the scientific achievements for which she’ll ultimately be remembered.

A little chilly on screen for my taste — though an excerpted clip here seems to bear out memories of her being better than respectable in King Vidor’s H.M. Pulham, Esq. — Vienna-born Lamarr was initially best known for the once scandalous Czech film Ecstasy from 1933 (in which she frolicked naked and even simulated an orgasm) and for being Charles Boyer’s co-star mannequin in 1938’s Algiers (say, why don’t there seem  to be an even average print of this, anywhere?). But post-breakthrough, even her more indelible landmarks were parody-bait. There was, of course, the top-billed role as Cecil B. DeMille’s Delilah opposite Victor Mature’s Samson in Lamarr’s one certified box-office blockbuster other than maybe MGM’s Boom Town — though it inspired Groucho Marx’s famous crack that he’d never go to a movie where the actor had bigger breasts than the actress. And there was her “I Am … Tondelayo” introductory hello in MGM’s camp-fest White Cargo ( there’s a TV clip here of Lucille Ball sending it up).

No wonder, then, that Lamarr took her real enjoyment from scientific “tinkering” that ended up reaping prodigiously significant rewards (but  belatedly — and not to her), offering a lot more satisfaction than a patronizing “know-your-place, honey” Hollywood and, to be sure, six husbands. The successful conversation-stopper of her experiments, intended for World War II usage, is the patent she and composer/lab partner George Antheil got for the technology — inspired by what a player-piano does — meant to prevent jammed frequencies from imperiling the trajectory of Allied torpedoes. The military sat on it, later utilized it as standard practice after the patent may or may not have expired, and she never got a cent when, late in life, she needed a lot of them. Not exactly incidentally, this is also the technology that later led to Wifi and Bluetooth. So when I’m out on my deck and under BOSE wireless headphones listening to Bill Evans play Polka Dots and Moonbeams, I should say, “Thank you, Hedy.”

Accessibility may not be everything, but it comes mighty close to being so in a doc biopic. To this end, filmmaker Dean has Lamarr’s three children (including one who was treated shabbily, though he seems philosophical about it); her biographer Richard Rhodes (whose Pulitzer merely came from writing The Making of the Atomic Bomb); the universally revered film historian/academic Jeanine Basinger; the late Robert Osborne, in what is said to have been his last interview; and even Mel Brooks, who got sued by the actress (who seems to have had a strong litigious streak) for naming Harvey Korman’s character in Blazing Saddles “Hedley Lamarr.”

There’s no shortage of movie clips here, though missing is anything from swan song The Female Animal (1958), in which she plays, of all possibilities, Jane Powell’s mother (the movie is quite the curio because it’s Powell’s final movie as well). Surprisingly, there was a 15-year age differential between them, but this still wouldn’t have made Lamarr feel too great or secure — for as much as she disliked the industry’s all-too-common treatment of her, she did seem to have a taste for glamour. Though she did live long enough (to 2000, though barely) to experience the early innings of scientific recognition, she felt the money squeeze due a failure of income to materialize from any source. Glamour may have been kind of a last grasp.

There were a couple of shoplifting busts, though these likely stemmed from the unstable behavior that nearly every celebrity displayed when their attending physician was Max (Dr. Feelgood) Jacobson of amphetamine notoriety. (As in: “Gee, doc, your miracle vitamin shots are really giving me that same fountain-of-youth feel that they gave Eddie Fisher.”) There were also needless nips, tucks, lifts or whatever specialists of all capabilities do that bring to mind those awful tabloid front pages you see in grocery store lines devoted to botched plastic surgeries. The last is apparently what kept Lamarr from basking in tribute to her scientific work at a ceremony that at least had one of her sons acting as a stand-in — though there’s a surprising amount of home movie footage where she allowed herself to get within the camera’s eye. In audiotaped interviews, though (and there are quite a few here), she comes off as warm, polite, intelligent and sincere in the give-and-take.

At least there was a happy ending — at least in terms of justice and posterity, if not personal payoff. Though the comparison ends quickly when it comes to nourishing feedback, Lamarr was like Ronald Reagan in that she had one of the more interesting lives of the 20th century. When Criterion brought out Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words in 2016, I remember thinking that it was a going to be a long time before anyone gave that one a run for its money as a revelatory actress portrait. Overall, I prefer that doc, but Dean gives it a run for the money.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Gun Crazy’ and ‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’