CHARLOTTE — The celebrities, Hollywood-hip division, rolled into town Wednesday and headed straight to Kimball Stroud’s party: Elizabeth Banks, radiant star of all the big-budget comedies; ingenue Alexis Bledel, most recently of “Mad Men”; Zach Braff, late of “Scrubs,” with smart-guy glasses and a pink-haired model girlfriend; world-class pretty person Jessica Alba.
The host was Impact Arts + Film Fund, a D.C. nonprofit launched in 2008 by Stroud and friends Jody Arlington and Jamie Shor, whose stated goal is to promote indie filmmakers with a policy bent — but which is known for throwing some of the slicker Washington-meets-Hollywood parties around.
In Tampa and Charlotte, Impact offered screenings and Q&As for documentaries on AIDS, poverty, drug policy and rape. And it served up cocktails and canapes in swank nightclub settings that drew an array of political and showbiz scenesters.
For Stroud, a well-connected event planner/fundraising consultant (she was hired to organize the Democratic Super PACs’ closing night concert party here with Pitbull and Scissor Sisters), drawing celebrity guests — which in turn draws the corporate sponsors who underwrite the parties and screenings — is a skill first mastered in politics, at the DNC during the Clinton years and later for Sen. Barbara Boxer.
“When you work with elected officials, you need to make sure they’re taken care of,” she said: arranging the car service, prompting them on names, getting them fed. For the celebrities — whom Stroud fixes up with convention credentials, White House Correspondents’ dinner tickets and introductions to Beltway power players— it’s “do they have their passes, do they have seats, making sure their needs are handled,” she said. “You have to go over and above and overdeliver.”
Impact is not an actual film festival — screenings are invitation-only — and the filmmakers are not always center stage amid the cocktails and movie-star photo-ops. But Bennett Singer, whose “Electoral Dysfunction” was getting an Impact screening, was pleased with the exposure at the white-hot center of convention activities. “We thought this would be the perfect venue to debut it,” he told us.
But that was at the party the night before. We dropped in on his screening Thursday afternoon — would anyone actually break away from the convention fun for a wonky, cocktail-free documentary screening?
Believe it or not, Reader, the theater was packed. Stroud was not surprised: “We do a lot of outreach,” she said.
Read earlier: Celebrities don’t shine as bright at DNC convention, 9/5/12
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