Winners of Scriptwriting Competition Showcasing Women in Film & TV Announced
A script about a mother trying to re-start her stalled career and another about a young woman who moves to New York to work at a Bronx nursing home have won a first-of-its-kind citywide screenwriting CONTEST highlighting stories by, for or about women. The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema today announced that Patty Carey-Perazzo's HALF-LIFE and Robin Rose Singer's ADULT BEHAVIOR were chosen from a pool of over 300 scripts by a distinguished panel of industry leaders to be developed into pilots that will air on NYC Media, the City's official broadcast network with a reach of 18 million households. One of the two winning pilots will be selected for the creation of four additional episodes, to air on NYC Media in the summer of 2018.
"Congratulations to Patty and Robin, whose work stood out in a competitive field," said Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. "The CONTEST they have won, as well as four other women's initiatives our office is rolling out, reflect our commitment to addressing the well-documented underrepresentation of women in the film and television industry - both on and off the screen."
"This opportunity is unparalleled," said Patty Carey-Perazzo, who took time out from her day job as a location manager to write about a woman's attempt to lean back into her career after leaning out to raise her children. "I've been working in film and television production right here in NYC for over 20 years, but I've always worked on someone else's show. To have this opportunity to break through to another level and see my own project come to fruition means everything to me."
Robin Rose Singer, who makes her living as an actress and filmmaker in the city, says the CONTEST marked the first time she has written something for broadcast TV. "It was crazy . . . I was so shocked," she said about hearing she had won the CONTEST for her pilot inspired by a visit with her grandmother. "I like art that is both commercial and has the potential to change people. First you make them laugh, then you hit them with some truth. As a writer, I'm the ground zero for bringing diverse stories to the screen and showing people worlds they might not normally see."
The two winning scripts will be produced as pilots this summer by teams of Feirstein graduate students under the mentorship of Jonathan Wacks, founding director of the school, and Jamie Zelermyer, former Vice President of Physical Production at Focus Features/Rogue Pictures. Wacks and Zelermyer serve as Executive Producers on the project.
"Thanks to the vision of Julie Menin and her team, students at Feirstein have been granted an extraordinary opportunity to produce original shows for broadcast," said Jonathan Wacks, Founding Director of the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. "This project resonates powerfully with our commitment to advancing the careers of women in the industry and to diversity and inclusion in all its facets."
The Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, which opened in 2015 in a brand new, purpose-built facility at Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offers a three-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cinema Arts and a two-year Master of Arts (MA) in Cinema Studies. It is the first public graduate school of cinema in New York City and the only film school in the country located on a working film lot. Founded with a strong commitment to elevate the diverse voices of people traditionally left out of the film and TV industries, Feirstein's student body consists of 170 students, of which 50% are women and 45% are from underrepresented groups.
"I was blown away by the quality of the hundreds of submissions we received for this first-ever competition," said Jamie Zelermyer, who will serve as Executive Producer on the two pilots. "We are beyond excited to work with both Patty and Robin, who competed against a very talented group of emerging writers, as we bring their scripts to life."
This scriptwriting competition is one element of a groundbreaking series of initiatives announced by MOME earlier this year, targeting the underrepresentation of women in the film, television, and theater industries. These initiatives, which also include a $5 million dollar women filmmakers fund, mark the first time a municipal entity has TAKEN on gender inequity in these fields. In both New York City and the larger American entertainment landscape, women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups are consistently underrepresented, both on screen and behind the scenes.
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 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 female; 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.
Other elements of MOME's programs to elevate the role of women in the entertainment industry include a $5 million grant fund to support film and theatre projects by, for and about women; pitch workshops for women filmmakers, and a film financing conference connecting women filmmakers with funding for their projects; an inspiring new block of programming on Channel 25 focused entirely on women and their perspectives; and a report analyzing the gender imbalance of directors in the film industry.
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; 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.