New York is set to become the first city in the country with a major municipal program geared toward helping female filmmakers and theater-makers. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is to announce on Thursday a new five-part initiative to promote equality behind and in front of the camera, in film and television, as well as onstage.
“Whether they were directors or writers or characters onscreen, we’re simply not seeing as many women get to the top of their field as men, and we felt that it was our duty to address that,” said Julie Menin, the commissioner of the office.
As part of the new initiative, the office will create a $5 million fund for female film- and theater-makers, administered over five years, to help them complete projects that are “by, for, or about women,” Ms. Menin said. The initiative will also sponsor sessions for directors to hone their story pitches, as well as connect them with financiers because, Ms. Menin said, research shows that financing is a major hurdle for female filmmakers.
There will also be a writing contest, in which two winners will make a pilot for NYC Life, the city’s local TV channel; one will eventually be picked up for more episodes. (The Made in New York Media Center by IFP will help judge the contest.) “We’re basically greenlighting a series,” Ms. Menin said. Production help for the show will come from students at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, a CUNY school at Steiner Studios, where the city’s film office has also endowed scholarships.
The city office, which recently expanded to cover more creative fields, including advertising, digital distribution and music, was traditionally used to promote the TV and film industry in New York. Local production is already at an all-time high, Ms. Menin said; there were 336 films shot in the city in 2015, compared with 242 in 2014, and 52 episodic prime time TV shows. “We believe we have a responsibility as an office to focus on other initiatives, such as diversity and inclusion, and so that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said. The initiative will also include a research study comparing the career paths of female and male directors nationwide, which Ms. Menin hoped would identify other ways her agency could help.
The TV and film businesses contributed $8.7 billion to the city’s economy last year, a 21 percent increase from 2011. The agency’s budget is about $30 million, Ms. Menin said, and the gender initiative is among its largest endeavors. “It’s the first time that we have ever done anything remotely like this,” she said, adding, “This could absolutely serve as a blueprint and a paradigm for what we want to do in these other fields.”
Ms. Menin was appointed the media and entertainment commissioner by Mayor Bill de Blasio in February, and began her tenure by meeting with entertainment industry guilds and prominent players in the field.
She was previously the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs; under her watch, it led a study that found that women’s versions of goods like clothing and toiletries were often priced higher than those for men.
The film and theater initiative, Ms. Menin said, “is very much in keeping with the goals” of the de Blasio administration for more equity citywide. “We’re trying to fire on all cylinders to address this issue of lack of diversity,” she said.
Date Posted: Thursday, September 29th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 1220
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