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Power players: four years after founding POWER UP, Stacy Codikow and friends are getting respect.

Back when Stacy Codikow was a production assistant on Cagney & Lacey, she was already trying to get women to pool resources and help each other succeed in the film business. Nobody would listen.

They're listening now. In the four years since Codikow founded the non-profit organization POWER UP (Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up), she and a growing posse of gay and straight women and men have won respect in Hollywood by mapping out specific goals that put careers in motion.

"Stacy is a total powerhouse," enthuses director Angela Robinson, the organization's wildest success story so far. Robinson's short film D.E.B.S.--a pop confection about high school lesbian secret agents in love--screened at POWER UP's first Power Premiere gala, in 2002. By the time guests were finishing their dessert, Robinson was in business. She's since shot two upcoming features: a full-length D.E.B.S. and Disney's Herbie: Fully Loaded, starring Lindsay Lohan.

Other organizations with more diffuse missions have made gains for women in film. But Codikow, a producer with the moxie of an old-time studio mogul, instinctively grasped that Hollywood likes results. She decided to focus on two things only: helping filmmakers make movies and getting the movies seen.

The gay aspect of POWER UP fell into place because Codikow, who was 38 when she founded the organization, was just coming out. She quips that she started the group partly because "I never knew any gay people besides the girls that I went out with."

Her first phone call in assembling a board of directors went to out writer-director Lee Rose. "She had made [the family coming-out TV movie] The Truth About Jane," Codikow says, "and I had watched it with my mother." Rose said she was too busy. Codikow persisted. "You changed my life, and I'm not hanging up until you say yes!"

Nowadays Rose is one of POWER UP's staunchest volunteer participants, along with director Jamie Babbit and producer Andrea Sperling. And Codikow's romantic partner, Lisa Thrasher, now works alongside Codikow as full-time director of film production and distribution.

POWER UP professional members can apply for one of three annual $20,000 grants--as writers, directors, or writer-directors. Winners don't do the project alone, Codikow stresses. "We're more like a studio," with final cut and close supervision, she says.

"It's one step better than film school," adds Thrasher, "because you learn business protocol along with the creative process. We do all our own PR and distribution too." The formula has produced films good enough to get into the Sundance Film Festival every year since POWER UP's founding.

Now Codikow is upping the ante again. This year, instead of three shorts, POWER UP is making a full-length feature. Will it work? Codikow has no doubt. "I've always said to people, 'Things move like a train. Don't ask questions. Hang on. We're going somewhere.'"

Stockwell was voted one of POWER UP's "10 amazing gay women in showbiz" for 2004.
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Title Annotation:The Hollywood Issue
Author:Stockwell, Anne
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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