NEW YORK — On January 19 and 20 at 10 PM, the two finalists in a groundbreaking women's screenwriting contest launched by the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema will air on NYC Life, the flagship channel of the City's official broadcast network. For a week following the broadcast, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite of the two shows and the winner will be selected for four additional episodes. Starting January 19, New Yorkers can visit NYC.gov/GreenlightHer to watch both shows on demand, and vote for the one they want to win the contest and be turned into a series with four more episodes.
Both winning scripts are comedies with women as the main characters. Half Life by Patty Carey, centers on a mother trying to restart her stalled career as a writer, while working as a location scout and making sure her children are fed. Maturity, by Robin Rose Singer, relates the adventures of a Midwestern woman who moves to New York to work at a Bronx nursing home, the lively residents she meets, and the past she is trying to flee. After a call for screenplays by, for or about women last year, the two scripts were selected from a pool of more than 300 submissions by a distinguished group of industry leaders. Last summer they were produced by diverse, women led crews of students from the Feirstein School.
"Women all across the entertainment industry are standing up and saying, "Time's Up" for misogyny, sexism, harassment and violence. Given the domination of men in the field, it is more important than ever for New York City to cultivate leadership opportunities for women in television and film. Together, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment and Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema have deepened the City's commitment to this effort by creating a newly minted platform to showcase the diverse talent of women writers," said First Lady Chirlane McCray who is also a poet and writer.
"It has never been more important to expand opportunities for women in the television and film industries," said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin. "We are proud to present the work of these two talented women writers and the students from Feirstein. We remain intent on providing pathways to leadership for women in the filmed entertainment industries, which is why this is just one among ambitious programs we've launched to address gender inequity on and off the camera. The more women's stories get 'greenlit,' the more we'll see the industry's culture change."
The screenwriting and pilot competition is one element of a groundbreaking five-part initiative announced by MOME in September, 2016 targeting the underrepresentation of women in the film, television, and theater industries, which also includes a $5 million dollar women filmmakers fund. These programs marked the first time a municipal entity has taken on gender inequity in these fields, and in light of the recent sexual harassment scandals that have rocked the entertainment and media fields, seem both prescient and more vital than ever.
"It was such an incredible experience to bring Maturity to life," said writer Robin Rose Singer. "We had so much support from MOME, IFP, NYC Media, and our EP team from the very beginning— I'm extremely grateful for that, because that's not always easy to come by when you're developing a new show. And the Feirstein grad students— I've worked in film and commercials in New York for years, and I didn't even realize a few of them were students at first— I thought my pro crew members had brought them on. I'm so proud of the show, and I can't wait for people to see it!"
"Getting Half Life produced, and realizing my dream of being a television writer has been such an incredible ride, and I am so grateful to the Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment for seeing my potential and giving me this unprecedented opportunity which is so important right now as we all rethink and reshape the entertainment industry," said writer Patty Carey. "My team from Feirstein brought so much insight with regards to developing Half Life's main character into a powerful, modern woman that the next generation of filmmakers want to see when they make and watch television."
Jonathan Wacks, founding director of the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Steiner Studios, and Jamie Zelermyer, former Vice President of Physical Production at Focus Features/Rogue Pictures served as executive producers on the two pilot episodes. This first-of-its-kind competition offers the winning writers and the student production teams with an unparalleled opportunity to have their work seen by NYC Media's audience, which reaches up to 18 million viewers in the greater metropolitan area.
"It is a distinct honor for the Feirstein School to be selected by Media and Entertainment Commissioner, Julie Menin to produce these shows at Feirstein," said Jonathan Wacks. This is an extraordinary opportunity to advance the careers of our women students in an industry that is sadly lacking in diversity. Wake up! It's 2018!"
The two pilots will debut back-to-back on NYC Media on Friday, January 19 at 10:00 PM, and will re-air at the same time the following evening. At this point, a new phase of the contest begins: a public vote to select the show that will be extended for an additional four episodes. It's up to New Yorkers to decide.
The contest webpage – NYC.gov/GreenlightHer – features information about the contest, profiles of the finalists, and behind-the-scenes photos of the production process. Starting January 19, New Yorkers will be able to watch the two pilots on-demand on this site, as well as vote for the pilot they want to win. Voting ends January 28 at midnight.
"Women who pursue careers as screenwriters, actresses, and directors are uniquely positioned to shape the narrative by elevating our voices and addressing the issues that not only affect women and families, but everyday people. As chair of the Committee on Women's Issues and co-chair of the Women's Caucus, I want to thank the de Blasio Administration and Commissioner Julie Menin for advancing gender equity in the film and television industry. Through the culmination of #GreenlightHer, the City of New York has taken a leading role by investing in the success of women - on and off screen," said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.
"As an immigrant woman of color, I know what it feels like to not feel represented in media. And that is why, at the state level, I have pushed for the creation of a Television Diversity Tax Credit that would incentivize television production companies to hire more minority and women writers and producers. As a legislator and a champion for diversity I am very pleased that the Mayor's Office of Film and TV is directly giving female artists opportunities to produce work that speaks to womens' experiences. As the #MeToo movement has shown, patriarchal control is still the norm in many Hollywood workplace settings, and I fully support efforts to change that culture and tell womens' stories," said Senator Marisol Alcantara.
A key focus of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment is encouraging greater inclusion across all sectors of the entertainment industry.
Some of 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 Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, the first public graduate school of cinema in New York City, and a school committed to cultivating new and diverse 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.
Robin Rose Singer's MATURITY
Brian Petersen, Producer; Rose Haag, Director; Alexandra Brown, Director of Photography
Nurse Jessica Applegate of Merrittville, Kansas (population 5,137) is one week into her brand new job at Shady Breeze, a senior housing facility in the Bronx. But if she expected anyone to lay out the welcome mat, she expected very, very wrong. Her supervisor Lynnetta is tough as nails, the only person she seems to connect with in New York is aged 76, and the other senior residents are not above a little good-natured hazing. As Jessica struggles to acclimate to life in the Bronx, she starts to realize that the life she imagined for herself might be an impossible dream in the modern world.
Patty Carey's HALF LIFE
Mary McCune, Producer; Amanda Nicole Reyes, Director; Antonia Colodro, Director of Photography; Kaitlyn Cortes, Editor
Torn between the demanding worlds of family and film production, Patty is a working mom from Manhattan who wants to have it all and needs to do it all. She's just not certain she can. On Manhattan's Upper West Side, a mom needs to bring her A game, but Patty's feeling like a C. Her kids just want a hug and maybe a slice of bacon, but who's got time to grocery shop? Her director needs his cinematic vision brought to life on the streets of New York, and it is Patty's job to make that happen, if she can win his trust. And what about her own creative self that's been simmering on the back burner? Can she turn up the heat and break through the celluloid ceiling, or is it time to call it quits? Moms can have a mid-life crisis too.