Women in Film and Television Offer Insight into Their Careers

December 4, 2013 - A talented group of women who have made their careers in film and television in New York City gathered on a blistery evening at Museum of the Moving Image for an in-depth conversation about their careers as part of “Made in NY” Talks. Presented by the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment and the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues, in partnership with Museum of the Moving Image, Scenes from the City: Women in Film and Television attracted an audience eager to hear behind the scenes stories and glean advice from the panelists.

The discussion, which took place on November 21, was introduced by Carl Goodman, the executive director of the Museum, and Anne Sutherland Fuchs, commissioner of the NYC Commission on Women's Issues. As the panelists came on stage to join moderator Katherine Oliver, the audience was able to see clips from their collective credits.

Throughout her career, Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films and a recipient of the “Made in NY” Award earlier this year, has received 26 Primetime Emmy Awards, 28 News and Documentary Emmys and 37 Peabody Awards. “It took me 15 years in the business to talk back,” she told the audience.

She recalled her first production job in New York as a researcher for “The Great American Dream Machine” and how, out of desperation, she was inspired to hire the Maysles Brothers to interview everyday people on the street to share their American dreams. The sequences were a hit and helped launch her career. “Sometimes you can’t take too much credit,” she said. “You have to wait for accident and timing.”

Brooke Kennedy, who has built her career working behind the camera on “Made in NY” productions and is currently the executive producer on “The Good Wife,” spoke about the increased number of women working in the production industry today. She noted that it’s a much nicer environment though she didn’t spend time thinking she was being discriminated against. “Before everyone talked in sports metaphors,” she said. “Now we use child-raising metaphors.”

Dee Rees, whose film Pariah filmed in 19 days in Brooklyn on a shoe-string budget before receiving critical acclaim, spoke about the differences of filming in LA versus New York. “The attitude is something I missed,” she said. “In LA, you say, ‘I’ve got 50 grand to make a movie, and they go, ‘You’re crazy.’ In New York, they go, ‘Hooray!’ I know [Pariah] wouldn’t have been made in LA.”

Desiree Gruber, who in addition to being the executive producer on “Project Runway” is also the president and CEO of Full Picture, a creative agency, explained how she manages the many projects she oversees. “I don’t feel overwhelmed,” she said. “I look at each individual project and learn from each of them.” She also spoke about how you have to be willing to ‘wing it’ in television.

The women who took part in Scenes from the City: Women in Film and Television are also featured in the upcoming revised and expanded edition of Scenes from the City: Filmmaking in New York. Published by Rizzoli and available in spring 2014, the book includes a new decade of filmmaking in NYC, a section on women filmmakers and rare, behind-the-scenes shots directly from studio archives

Sharing advice with the audience, Rees said, “You have more assets than you think. No one’s going to be a better advocate for you than you.”

Added Kennedy: “You have to feel at the moment, that the cards are lining up. We’re falling forward. Life is taking you to a better place. And I don’t mean the afterlife.”