City awards $1.5 million to help 63 women finish film, TV and theater projects

In the film, TV and theater industries, we know that women are historically underrepresented. But in New York, a new initiative has set out to put more women in the spotlight.

Sixty-three projects by women or female-identifying creators in TV, film, theater, and digital media were awarded a combined $1.5 millionthe first round of a $5-million, three-year program designed to provide more opportunities to NYC-based female creatives in the entertainment industry.

On Thursday, February 28, in partnership with women.nyc and the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) announced the recipients of the Made in New York” Women’s Film, TV & Theatre Fund.

“Today, exceptional women creators, directors, and producers are still not getting the recognition and professional success they deserve,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. “With our groundbreaking Women’s Fund for Film & Theatre, more women will be able to fund their creative ventures and secure the resources they need to see their work on the big screen or stage. We are proud to close the industry’s opportunity gap and open doors for women of all backgrounds.”  

The stats are bleak: Of the top 100 grossing films in 2018, only 4 percent were directed by women, and only one woman–Kathryn Bigelow–has won an Oscar for Best Director. In the 2017-2018 television season, women comprised less than 30 percent of writers, creators, directors, and other leading positions; and theater isn’t any better. This past Broadway season, less than 20 percent of productions were helmed by women.

“I’ve been working in New York since 2005, and when you don’t have the resources it can be the most lonely, frustrating, and sort of self-sabotaging situation. But when you have the City itself saying, ‘We believe in this work,’ it adds magic to the room,” says playwright Antoinette Nwandu.

But the talent is obviously there. When MOME and NYFA put out the call for submissions, they received 544 applications. The grant-winning projects, which included documentaries, fiction features, shorts, theater productions, and webisodes, were selected by a panel made up of female industry leaders, from executive director of Lincoln Center, Lesli Klainberg, to Tracey Scott Wilson, executive producer on “The Americans.”

To qualify for the grants, projects had to be “made by, for or about” women; and production of the film, TV, and theater had to take place in New York City. (Find more more details on the guidelines here.)

Playwright Antoinette Nwandu received a grant for The Saddest Song, a coming-of-age play about a black girl growing up with a mother battling depression and domestic violence that’s set against the backdrop of the OJ Simpson trial.

“I’ve been working in New York since 2005, and when you don’t have the resources it can be the most lonely, frustrating, and sort of self-sabotaging situation. But when you have the City itself saying, ‘We believe in this work,’ it adds magic to the room because everyone knows the work is supported,” Nwandu said. “The grant will allow us to bring in the people and the resources we need to tell this story and to scaffold the process.”

“By making significant investments in women-led projects, the Women’s Fund seeks to increase the pipeline of female creatives in front of and behind the camera, and on stage,” said Mome Acting Commissioner Anne del Castillo. “The 63 projects receiving this first round of grants portray the complexity and variety of human experience as told by an incredibly diverse group of women. This milestone affirms New York City’s commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry.”

MOME will continue its efforts to fund and support entertainment made by women in NYC. The next awards cycle begins in Summer 2019; to keep updated, visit MOME.

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