Thursday, July 2, 2020

Females in Entertainment: From HR to Hollywood: Rutgers Alum Beverly Aisenbrey is Now Producing Movies and Helping to Produce Bright Minds with a Scholarship for Rutgers Fashion Program

Jamie Lee Curtis with Beverly Aisenbrey on-set of An Acceptable Loss
By Suzanne Ordas Curry

I don't think that when starting a career in business many years ago Beverly Aisenbrey thought she woud be hanging with Jamie Lee Curtis on a movie set. But, you never know where life will take you when you just keep persisting and work hard.

As most people know, making contacts and keeping those contacts can open doors. Little did Beverly know that through a female investment banker friend she would one day be hob-nobbing with celebrities and attending film festivals as a producer on independent films with major stars in them. But Beverly is a woman of many talents and is very hard-working. She spent most of her career helping to build a company and now she is giving back to her alma mater, Rutgers University in New Jersey. After years of serving on a Rutgers Board, she has now started a Fellowship (scholarship) for students in the new Rutgers Master of Science in the Business of Fashion. Read on to see how this unfolded and how to apply for the Fellowship.  
Suzee: You are a Rutgers alum as am I. How did your RU education help you in your career?  

Beverly Aisenbrey: The education I received from Rutgers Business School, where I completed my MBA, helped me transition from a career as a researcher in the field of biology to management consulting at a private, boutique company specializing in executive compensation consulting. I was offered an ownership position in the firm after several years and stayed with them for my entire 34-year career.  I feel that I used all the education I received in finance, marketing and human resources in my career.

Suzee: After this career, you became a movie producer.Tell me how you first started in the film industry. It's all about contacts, right?

Beverly Aisenbrey: My involvement in the film industry began with a conversation with my long-time good friend, Candy Straight. She was the Executive Director of both films in which I invested. Anyone who knows Candy, knows that when she develops a passion for a cause, she can be very energizing. I wasn’t an initial investor in the film, Equity, because she reached out to other investment banking women for initial funding.

I kept asking her about the movie and was really interested in their desire to portray a high-powered woman on Wall Street. When the movie got accepted into Sundance Film Festival and she needed some funds to help polish it, she asked me once again if I was ready to invest.

Suzee: And you did, (and we had a great time at Sundance!).

Beverly Aisenbray: Yes. I immediately invested and went to Sundance. 

In advance of the public opening, we had  several private screenings of the film.  At these screenings, we had panels of women to discuss the film after the showing.  I was able to recruit a high-powered woman for the panel at our Chicago pre-screening event and felt that I should be there.  

At the Chicago Film Festival with An Acceptable Loss Director Joe Chappelle, Producer Colleen Griffin
and An Acceptable Loss/ Equity Executive Producer Candy Straight
Suzee: And that lead to your next venture?

Beverly Aisenbrey: The day after the screening we met with the head of the Illinois Film Board at a breakfast with Chicago women in film.  That’s where we met Colleen Griffen, the producer of An Acceptable Loss.  She and her husband, Joe Chappelle, the film’s director, later sent us the script and we bought in fairly quickly after that.  Both of these films are produced by women, deliver important messages and have women in the starring roles, so I was happy to support them. (Note: You can see Beverly in the situation room in the movie.)

Suzee: You are a strong supporter of women. Do you think that women are portrayed accurately in film?

Beverly Aisenbrey: Unfortunately, when films are made, in my view they do not show the full character of women.  Most of the women I have admired over time were much more multi-dimensional than the women we see in film.  

Suzee: Are there any films in particular that you think rise women? 

Beverly Aisenbrey: I can’t name any particular films that I think rise women, but most of the roles played by wonderful actresses like Katherine Hepburn, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep portray women of character.

Center: Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner (EP's of Sony Pictures Classic' Equity)
with Co-Producer Beverly Aisenbrey (R) and Rise Argyle (Left)
Suzee: Tell me about when you became involved at Rutgers as an alum.  

Beverly Aisenbrey: Right after I graduated from RBS in 1982, I contacted the professor who linked me to Fred Cook & Co., telling him that I was happily employed and asked how I could thank him.  He immediately said: “You need to get involved with our alumni association.  Right now, all the officers are older men and we need to see some young women on that Board.  I have been involved in one way or another ever since, including as a Trustee of the University, on the Board of Overseers, and for the last 20 years, on the Business School Dean’s Advisory Board.

Suzee: Tell me about the fashion major. 

Beverly Aisenbrey: About 6 years ago, Professor Tavy Ronen, of RBSs Finance Department, made a presentation to the Dean’s Board about a new and innovative program she wanted to start. Its main goal is to bridge the gap between the creative and business sides of the fashion industry.  

Students can minor in the program as undergraduates, but the gem in the program is the Master of Science in the Business of Fashion (MSBF).  It’s a one-year program with all the courses customized to meet the special needs of the fashion industry.

Professor Grace Lepone of Macquarie University (Australia), Professor Tavy Ronen, Founder of the Fashion Program and Beverly Aisenbrey
Suzee: And now you are investing in young women. Tell me about your Fellowship.

Beverly Aisenbrey: Ive been thinking about a Fellowship for the business school for some time. As a Board member of the Center for Business of Fashion (a New York-based center for the program which promotes research in the industry), I watched the program develop and thrive and attract many amazing fashion executives to the Center Board. Their enthusiasm was a factor in helping me decide that this is where I wanted to help the school.

Suzee: What do you hope that these women, especially the ones receiving your scholarship, can do to make a diffeence? 

Beverly Aisenbrey: The goal of this program is to educate future executives and I think that by combining such a strong business education with the creative talent that these students all have, they will have a better chance to rise to a top position.  I do need to point out that the Fellowship is not just limited to women, but the recipient must demonstrate that they have worked to help promote women.

Suzee: What are some of your favorite movies shows that you think that showcase fashion in a huge way. For instance, I can't stop marveling (no pun intended) at the period clothing and hats on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!

Beverly Aisenbrey:  I am also a huge admirer of period clothing, and couldnt get enough of Downton Abbey. It is impossible for me to give you a short list.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The September Issue, Coco before Chanel, Pretty Woman, Rear Window, and a current Spanish series - The Cable Girls, come to mind.

For more on the Rutgers 
Master of Science in the Business of Fashion 

To Apply:

Watch Beverly in An Acceptable Loss

Now Streaming on Showtime
Amazon and other Platforms

Trailer Here: