By Audrey Rock
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/13/18 – The Los Angeles Press Club is ahead of the mainstream awards game. Before the WGA honored the writers of “The Post” on Sunday, the L.A. Press Club gathered February 2nd to present its 3rd annual Veritas Award to the highly acclaimed 2017 Steven Spielberg film. The club’s new headquarters on Sunset Boulevard played host for the intimate, low-key ceremony and panel discussion. The event featured a red carpet, reception, awards ceremony and panel.
The Veritas Awards acts as an opportunity for the professional journalists of Los Angeles to recognize a project that embodies “truth.” The film chosen must be “based on or inspired by real events and people.”
“First of all we chose the name “Veritas” for the Latin word for truth—or more correctly the elusive Roman goddess known for her beauty and purity,” states the club’s website. “As journalists, our job is to find the truth following the path to her wherever it may lead and to delivering to our readers and audience whatever her form may be—even when she is ugly or painful.”
There is no question that the remarkable film captures the value of “truth” in profound and indelible ways. It is a movie not only widely commended for its historical perspectives, but also for its celebration of the values of a free and honest press.
Meryl Streep, who plays Washington Post publisher and pioneer Katharine “Kay” Graham, was scheduled to appear, but had to cancel her appearance at the last minute. Nonetheless, an appearance by the iconic Daniel Ellsberg, the activist and former U.S. Military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971 made the event a highly anticipated and enriching experience. Ellsberg attended alongside his diminutive wife, Patricia.
Ellsberg caused a sensation of curiosity, sometimes overshadowing interest in even the film’s accomplished young screenwriter, Liz Hannah; who also appeared to be deeply engrossed in Ellsberg’s musings during the post-reception panel. Hannah was accompanied by Oscar winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight), who was brought on to help tighten up the script after it went into development.
Hannah told the audience in depth about her interest in the film’s main character, Katharine Graham, played by Streep. Graham was the first female publisher of a major U.S. newspaper. “I was just captured by her voice, I was captured by her story,” said Hannah. “I was working in film at the time (that she first learned about Graham) and I was like ‘how is there not a movie about this woman?’”
Hannah set to work making sure that happened. She still seems unsure of how the whole thing came together in her favor so beautifully. Spielberg, Streep and Hanks signed on; then Singer was brought on to help tighten up the script, and has been along for the journey ever since. Now, Hannah’s life is a whirlwind of awards shows and new opportunities. She can safely say she came up with one of the year’s most arresting and celebrated films—certainly the most relevant for the world of journalism.
As for Daniel Ellsberg, his real-life story is far more harrowing; he says the risks he took getting the Pentagon Papers to the public were formidable—he was looking at multiple felonies and decades in prison. Indeed, his very life was at stake; he’d married his wife, journalist Patricia Marx, only a year earlier. He said the reason she was never tried had simply to do with the fact that she’d never been fingerprinted. So although she extensively handled the documents, authorities were unable to match prints on her.
According to Ellsberg, (who is played by Matthew Rhys,) it was worth it. And it should be done again, where necessary. “I had to do whatever I could,” he said. “Just what I would hope that somebody in that position right now in the White House, who can see us moving towards a two-sided nuclear war with North Korea, would be willing to go to prison for life would do.”
His hardcore activism made him a hero of the time, and in the film, he is portrayed as a dangerously effective rebel.
“It’s a wonderful, timely movie for this moment, obviously” said Ellsberg. “Even more than I imagine you could’ve foreseen.” Ellsberg directed many of his comments toward Hannah. “Working on this you couldn’t have foreseen the sexual aspect.”
Aside from the film’s feminist themes, Ellsberg noted the importance of its message regarding freedom of speech in the media. “You can see the campaign against the free press,” he noted.
Along with the film’s screenwriters, producers Tim and Trevor White of Star Thrower Entertainment joined the lively discussion, moderated by LAPC President Chris Palmeri. Palmeri and Vice President Cher Calvin co-hosted the celebration and ceremony.
More information on The Los Angeles Press Club and its mission can be found at www.lapressclub.org. “The Post” is playing in theaters nationwide.