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An image from Riding My Way Back, one of the films supported by the Berkeley Film Foundation. Photo: Riding My Way Back

It’s 342 miles between Berkeley and Hollywood, but on Oscar night, Sunday, Feb. 22, that distance will be shortened for those who flock to the live Academy Awards telecast at A Night in Berkeleywood at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza.

The Berkeleywood celebration, in its second year, benefits the Berkeley Film Foundation, which has been supporting independent filmmakers in Berkeley and the East Bay since 2009 (Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of Berkeleywood). Nearly $800,000 in grants have been made to 90 film projects by the foundation in six years.

“It’s important to take care of our artists,” said David Bergad, executive director of the BFF. “People really look to us for support.” 

Yes, there's a red carpet at Berkeleywood. Photo courtesy Berkeleywood
Yes, there’s a red carpet at Berkeleywood. Photo courtesy Berkeleywood
Yes, there’s a red carpet at Berkeleywood. Photo courtesy Berkeleywood

The foundation, a public private partnership between Wareham Development, the Saul Zaentz Company, and the City of Berkeley, is one of the major funders of film in the Bay Area. According to Bergad, it’s probably the only public/private collaboration of its kind in the country. The BFF is posed to provide $150,000 in funding this year in a grant cycle that opens in April, with recipients announced in the summer.

Bergad said that the foundation typically receives around 60 applications for grants each year, and gives out 10 to 12. Student grants are for $5,000, while grants to professional filmmakers are typically in the $10-12,000 range. In addition, the foundation awards an annual Saul Zaentz Award of $25,000 to honor Zaentz’s legacy.

Bergad was reluctant to pick favorites from the many projects the foundation has supported, but he did single out Riding My Way Back, by Robin Fryday and Peter Rosenbaum, which chronicles one soldier’s journey from the brink of suicide, largely thanks to equine therapy. “This really helped save lives,” Bergad said.

The Berkeleywood event features big screens showing the Oscars (of course), Berkeley’s own red carpet, a chance to have your picture taken with a real Oscar statue, and food and wine provided by Stephane Tonnelier, executive chef of FIVE Restaurant. Black tie, blue jeans or ballgowns are welcome. The evening is a collaborative effort of the Berkeley Film Foundation, The Hotel Shattuck Plaza and the Berkeleywood organizing committee. Tickets are $100. Visit the Berkeleywood website for details and to buy tickets

The Oscars come to Berkeley in film foundation benefit (02.19.14)
Oscar nominated film ‘Facing Fear’ tells story of forgiveness (01.30.14)
Big Screen Berkeley: Oscar-nominated short subjects (01.29.14)
Berkeley’ legendary producer Saul Zaentz dies (01.04.14)
Berkeley Film Foundation to air powerful documentary (01.16.12)
Berkeley’s rich tradition of documentaries finds support (07.11.11)
Berkeley filmmakers’ movie on Latino legal pioneer to air (09.19.11)
Berkeley filmmaker makes comedy about teenage angst (09.12.11)

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...