2019 Heart of Show Business Award Honoree, Stella Burks
So many amazing opportunities have come my way during the forty-plus years I’ve spent in the industry. I never would have imagined I’d come this far in the film business and had the privilege of working with so many amazing people. Especially since I was originally aiming for a career in a completely different industry.
I grew up in the suburbs of LA and dreamed of a career in the fashion business I couldn’t wait to move closer to the bright lights of the big city. At age 16 I graduated from high school and took a job at a high-fashion women’s store. I worked my way through college while earning money in fashion retail. By age 21, I had moved to Los Angeles and was running the flagship store for the nation’s top fashion retailer managing over 200 employees while catering to the needs of well-to-do clients and high-profile celebrities.
After making my mark in fashion, I was ready for a change. When I learned there was a job with AMC in the West Coast Film department, I took the leap to the entertainment business working with Stan Durwood and Arnold Shartin. This began what would turn out to be a long and fruitful career.
After working at AMC for 14 years, I made the switch from exhibition to distribution when I accepted a job in the Warner Bros. Encino office. I soon moved over to a position at the studio working in New Technology. This was a great opportunity, given the fact that the world of digital cinema was in its early formative stage. Little did I know that the experience I received in this emerging field would prepare me for the technological revolution that was to follow.
I worked in the Exhibitor Relations department for a time, which gave me the opportunity to do business with all our great exhibitor partners. Then ten years ago, I was put in charge of the Distribution Services department which is responsible for the delivery of all film and digital content across the United States and Canada. I quickly became aware that this part of the business was changing more rapidly than any other as the industry migrated to new digital formats and delivery systems.
I worked tirelessly to stay ahead of the curve and maintain the studio’s position as innovator and industry leader in the fields of digital content delivery, information management, and new premium formats in partnership with exhibition. I am proud of the fact that I also helped WB set the standard for special 70mm and 35mm runs of select major releases. Looking back on my 27-year career at Warner Bros., I’m now able to see that each experience I had along the way prepared me for every one that followed. I dedicated myself to serving the needs of talented film makers whose releases were entrusted to me, while also meeting the demands of exhibitors who depended upon the timely delivery of the studio’s content. I also considered it my responsibility to recruit talented individuals and help them develop their skills so that they could be counted among the next generation of influential industry executives. Throughout all of this, my love of film, fashion, art, music and culture informed the way I approached every aspect of my career. The strong work ethic and guiding principles of decency and fairness I learned from my parents also served me well. I am grateful for the career opportunities afforded me at such a pivotal time in the industry’s history. But I’m also thankful that I’ve been part of this industry’s efforts to offer aid to those in need. I have always answered the calls to action in service of Variety the Children’s Charity, as well as the many other fine organizations I support. And I pledge to keep answering those calls in the future.