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New York City Launches Groundbreaking Series of Initiatives Targeting Underrepresentation Of Women In The Film & TV Industry

Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment takes most comprehensive action to date with 5 new initiatives addressing gender inequity in the entertainment sector


NEW YORK—Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) Commissioner Julie Menin today announced the launch of a groundbreaking series of initiatives targeting the underrepresentation of women in film and television. Study after study has confirmed that women - along with people of color, LGBT individuals, people with disabilities, and other groups – are consistently underrepresented both on camera and behind the scenes. For the first time ever, a municipal agency will be launching five initiatives aimed at addressing gender inequity in the film, theatre and television world: (1) a $5 million fund that will provide grants to support film and theatre projects by, for and about women; (2) pitch workshops for women filmmakers and a film financing conference connecting women filmmakers with financing for their projects; (3) a screenwriting contest for NYC screenwriters to broadcast a five-episode series on New York City’s channel 25; (4) an inspiring new block of programming on channel 25 focused entirely on women and their perspectives; and (5) a report analyzing the gender inequity of directors in the film industry.

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"The de Blasio administration is committed to expanding employment opportunities and making sure New York City is a great place to live for all," said First Lady Chirlane McCray, Honorary Chair of the Commission on Gender Equity. "As we grow our entertainment industry, it is only logical to make sure our women and girls have the skills they need to fill these jobs. We will encourage more women to follow their dreams of working in the entertainment industry and give them the tools to do so. And thanks to the good work of Commissioner Menin, our young girls will see more women in media and have more role models."

“We are thrilled to be launching these five groundbreaking initiatives –  concrete actions that will serve to elevate the role of women in the entertainment industry,” said MOME Commissioner Julie Menin. “Women are not a niche market. It’s incredibly discouraging that while women comprise 52% of the City’s population, less than 10% of the top grossing films are directed by women. I hope that our efforts pave the way for others to follow suit, and look forward to seeing these initiatives make a substantive impact on filmed entertainment in New York City.”

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film released results of its 2015 study showing that women made up just 7% of directors on the top-grossing 250 films, 18% of individuals directing independent narrative features, and 29% of directors working on documentaries. In February, USC’s Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication released a study that demonstrated “an inclusion crisis,” according to its author, Professor Stacy L. Smith. Only 33.5% of speaking characters in films are women; behind the camera, just 15.2% of directors and 28.9% of writers across film, television and digital series were female; 22.6% of series creators were women across broadcast, cable and streaming content. This May, the ACLU revealed that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is pursuing a comprehensive investigation of gender bias in Hollywood.

“Fostering talent and diversity is paramount to keeping media and entertainment engaging and reflective of the evolving world around us,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Through these initiatives, women, LGBT-identifying individuals, and communities of color will have access to the resources and mentorship necessary to thrive in the film industry. The work of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and MOME Commissioner Julie Menin is an innovative step toward expanding the representation of our diverse society across different broadcast mediums.”

“Gender equity is central to fighting inequality at large, and I am glad to see MOME make a concerted effort to increase representation of women in our media and entertainment industries,” said Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity. “This set of initiatives provides women with numerous and significant opportunities to gain exposure and recognition in this traditionally male-dominated field. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Menin for their continuing commitment to making New York City’s entertainment landscape more equitable and diverse.”

“Women should make up as central a role in the entertainment industry as they do in the rest of society,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “These initiatives exemplify the kinds of proactive actions that can be taken to support women workers in all industries. I look forward to seeing the great work that will come no doubt as a result from having a more diverse and representative media and entertainment sector.”

“The voices of women need to be heard. And in today's world the media and film industries are powerful channels for those voices. Yet the statistics for women at the top of the film industry are worse than those for women in finance. New York City’s $5 million fund for women writers will foster and free powerful stories to be told that will lift us all. Diversity of talent matters. Let's make it happen,” said Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairwoman of Banking at Barclays, and a producer of the film Equity.

"As issues of diversity are front and center at the Feirstein Graduate School this collaboration with MOME represents an incredible opportunity to have an impact on the film and television industries in a really significant way," said Jonathan Wacks, Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema Founding Director.

“The film and television industry have long been important economic drivers in New York,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “It is therefore all the more important we foster diversity in these sectors and this initiative takes laudable steps to advance that goal.”
“Just like government, our media and entertainment sectors can’t fully serve the public if they aren’t fully inclusive,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I thank the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment for its continuing efforts to promote women in the film and television industries.”

“I applaud these new initiatives from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, which will give women more opportunities in front of and behind the camera,” said Borough President James Oddo. “I encourage Staten Island filmmakers to take advantage of these new initiatives as well as the other programs that MOME runs to assist local artists. Encouraging filmmakers to shoot their productions here bolsters our local economy, and I’m happy to see the administration’s continued commitment to it.”

“The film and television industry is an important part of the economic engine of the Borough and City and as it continues to grow we must be sure that everyone has the same opportunities to participate and succeed in the industry,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “The round of initiatives announced today will go a long way toward addressing the underrepresentation identified in the report and give women a fairer chance to tell their unique stories. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, led by Commissioner Julie Menin, deserves to be commended for launching this innovative effort to help boost opportunities for women both in front of and behind the camera.”

“As every good producer knows, it takes the work of many talented teams coming together to make things happen in this business.  As such, it is gratifying to see offices like MOME zeroing in on the problems of representation and diversity in our industry,” said Lydia Dean Pilcher, Producers Guild Vice President of Motion Pictures and a New York-based producer.  “The PGA has developed several diversity initiatives such as The Ms. Factor Toolkit and its Diversity Producing Workshops, and we applaud new efforts to help in this area.  Access to capital is also a verified challenge for underrepresented voices and MOME is tackling this head-on by creating opportunities like the Speed Funding initiative.”

“Our greatest strength is our differences,” said Flo Mitchell-Brown, co-chairman of the New York Production Alliance. “It is time to capitalize on that and have this conversation.”

"The Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment and Commissioner Julie Menin have shown a strong commitment to equality for women in the entertainment industry through these extensive initiatives that will help women on all levels in their careers. From mentorships to production opportunities to exhibition of women’s work, these initiatives are the kind of powerful disruption of the status quo that New York Women in Film & Television supports. Our membership of over 2100 women in the industry will certainly be among those who take advantage of these opportunities,” said Terry Lawler, Executive Director of the New York Women in Film & Television.

"We are thrilled to continue our long standing partnership with the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment," say Joana Vicente, Executive Director of the IFP and Made in NY Media Center. "IFP and the Media Center has long since championed and supported emerging talent from underrepresented communities and look forward to continuing that work with these new important initiatives"

Given the continued gender inequity across many sectors of the economy, pursuing efforts to elevate women and other underrepresented groups has been a key focus of the de Blasio administration.  These initiatives will expand that focus to the entertainment sector, a $9 billion industry in New York City, where women’s voices remain underrepresented despite making up 52% of the City’s population. 

The concrete actions MOME is taking to address this inequity include:

  • The MOME Women’s Fund for Film and Theatre
    MOME is introducing a first-of-its-kind grant program for filmmakers, playwrights and theatre producers working on projects by, for, or about women. The grants will provide funding at strategic moments to help the applicants shepherd their projects to successful completion. The MOME Women's Fund for Film and Theatre will provide $5 million over 5 years to support film and theatre projects by, for, or about women over five years through cash grants.
  • Speed Funding” for Women Filmmakers
    Women filmmakers, especially those beginning their careers, face a formidable challenge in getting their projects funded. MOME will be hosting a film finance lab -- a “speed funding” event for 50 filmmakers –for projects directed by, for or about women. Participating filmmakers and their producers will be given an unprecedented opportunity to meet venture capital firms, angel investors and other funders. The MOME Finance Lab, which will be featured within the First Time Fest movie festival, will provide much-needed access to capital. The eligibility requirements include: at least one team member claiming NYC residency; one finalized script of 60 minutes or more by, for or about women; registration with the Writers Guild of America, East; and a director and producer attached to the project. Filmmakers will be invited to attend a pre-pitch workshop.
  • The MOME Script-Writing Competition
    MOME will hold a script-writing competition and production project, which will invite New York City writers to submit 30-minute pilot scripts for an episodic series spotlighting stories by, for, or about women rooted in NYC’s five boroughs. Two winners will be chosen. Both of the winning candidates will have their scripts produced as a pilot that will air on NYC Media’s Channel 25 (NYCLife) and later be used as an important career calling card. Given the 18 million household-reach of Channel 25, this is an opportunity for the winning scriptwriters to have their work viewed by millions of people and earn a much-needed credit, which will help propel them to the next rung in their careers. Of those two pilots, one will be chosen to be produced as an episodic series on channel 25. Advanced students from the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema will produce the winning scripts under the mentorship of Founding Director Jonathan Wacks and other industry professionals. The Made in NY IFP Media Center will administer the writing contest.
  • Launch of a Night of New Women-Focused Programming on NYC Media
    MOME has produced and will air two inspiring new documentary programs focused on women that will air on Channel 25 as part of a weekly evening of programs focused exclusively on women.
    • The Vanguard: Women in Media - This show will feature both pioneers and emerging stars covering several mediums, including broadcast television, radio, print, new media. Each 30-minute episode will feature several leading women in media from pioneering TV personalities like Connie Chung and Suze Orman to former NY Times editor Jill Abramson and Essence Magazine’s editor Vanessa Deluca.
    • Her Big Idea – This is an 8-episode, half hour show featuring NYC-based women entrepreneurs who transformed a concept into a thriving company. Featured entrepreneurs include the founders of: Sarabeth’s, BarkBox, Fishs Eddy, Yumi Kim, Laura Geller, and more.
  • Women in the Director’s Chair: The MOME Report on Fairness in the Film Industry
    MOME has commissioned an unprecedented and much-needed report analyzing the relationship between women and men directors based on an extensive database of information on the career trajectories of directors in the film industry. The study compares the career path of male and female film directors and tries to determine whether gender plays a role in determining their success. The study will be released in the late fall 2016.

A key focus of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is encouraging greater inclusion across all sectors of the entertainment industry.

MOME’s other initiatives to ensure greater representation in the film and TV industry include the Made in NY Writers Room, a mentorship program for TV writers from diverse backgrounds, launched in collaboration with the Writers Guild of America East and the NYC Department of Small Business Services; #NominateNYC, an initiative encouraging entertainment professionals from diverse backgrounds to nominate themselves or someone they know for consideration for membership by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; funding of over $8 million enabling the creation of the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, the first public graduate school of cinema in New York City, and a school committed to cultivating new and emerging voices in film; a $1 million grant to CUNY J-School’s Center for Community and Ethnic Media to bring a key sector of New York City’s media landscape into the digital age; and the Made in NY PA Training Program, which has trained more than 600 low income New Yorkers, many of whom were unemployed, for entry level jobs on film and television sets.

The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment does not discriminate based on race or gender. All programs and activities of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment are open to all eligible applicants, without regard to race, gender, national origin or other characteristic protected by law.