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The New York City Office of Media and Entertainment this week announced the launch of a groundbreaking series of initiatives to target the underrepresentation of women in film and television.

Study after study has confirmed that women are consistently underrepresented both on camera and behind the scenes of media companies. For the first time ever, the municipal agency will be launching five initiatives aimed at addressing gender inequity in the film, theatre and television world—a $9 billion industry in New York City alone:

  1. A $5 million fund that will provide grants to support film and theatre projects by, for and about women (see below);
  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 six-episode series on New York City’s channel 25;
  4. A new block of programming on channel 25 focused entirely on inspiring women and showcasing their perspectives;
  5. A report analyzing the gender inequity of directors in the film industry and what can be done about it.

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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 Commissioner Julie Menin. “Women are not a niche market—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.”

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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.

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

The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment 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.

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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.

CORRECTION: We mistakenly published the figure as $500 million in funding, and later updated to the correct figure, $5,000,000.

(Source: Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment)

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