NYWIFT Blog

NYWIFT Member Spotlight: Eileen Newman
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New York Women in Film & Television includes many powerful, dynamic and diverse entertainment industry leaders among its membership. As we celebrate our Spring Membership Drive – with 50% off our initiation fee now through May 15 – we’re spotlighting several members this month.

Second in our series spotlighting NYWIFT Board Members is an interview with Eileen Newman. Eileen is currently the Executive Director of the Center for Bronx
Non-Profits and previous to that served as Managing Director of the Tribeca Film
Institute, Executive Director of the National Board of Review and Senior
Director of Programming at the Independent Feature Project. She also earlier in her career served as the Executive Director of Film/Video Arts. Active in the New
York film community, she serves on the Boards of the New York Production Alliance,
Manhattan Neighborhood Network (Board Chair) as well as on the Advisory Board of NYWIFT.
She often speaks on panels about independent media and has been a juror and
panel member for the Miami International Film Festival, the Jerome Foundation
and the Department of Cultural Affairs.

When did you join NYWIFT? What was
happening in the industry at that time and where were you in your career?

I honestly
can’t remember when I joined, it was so long ago! I was working in a junior
high school as a librarian and running a visual literacy program using
independent films with students. It was a program funded by NYSCA in
partnership with a wonderful place called the Media Center for Children. I was
on the board of that organization and another board member said that I “had to
join New York Women in Film” (it didn’t include television then), so I did. The
industry was not going through the huge changes that came later and led us to
where we are now. I was also teaching film at Adelphi University, and had to
carry the 16mm projector from the film office to my classroom.

Can you share the top three things you get out of your membership?

It has
always been the community, the community, the community for me. Even when I
first joined and I wasn’t as entrenched in the film community as I became
later, I loved being able to work on programs with other women who loved film
and were committed to finding ways for women to have a voice. It is still the
relationships with terrific women that make me value my membership.

What excites you about the network
of women you’ve met?

I think it
is the diversity of the kind of work they do, everything from making their own
films, to working for Planned Parenthood to include their message in various
media, to the below-the-line women, to television executives – many of these
women I would never have met without NYWIFT.

How has NYWIFT helped your career
and professional development?

NYWIFT was
directly responsible for my going from part-time work in the sector to running
Film/Video Arts. Beth Dembitizer was the president and I was on the board, she
was on the Board of Film/Video Arts and asked if I would meet with people from
F/VA to give them suggestions on grant-writing. I spent some time doing that,
then was asked to join the board, then became president of the board and
eventually became the Executive Director. In true New York six degrees of
separation fashion, I worked closely with Duana Butler who is now working at
NYWIFT as the Program Coordinator. From F/VA I worked at IFP and eventually at
Tribeca Film Institute.

Have you worked on committees?

Yes, at a
certain point early in my membership I realized that I wasn’t meeting as many
people as I wanted to, so I joined the Program Committee so that I could work
on programs and meet new people. I loved it and it totally changed my relationship
with the organization, leading to my being asked to run for the board. I have
also over the years been on the Membership Committee.

How has NYWIFT been involved at
different stages of my career changes?

When I was
working directly for film organizations, my membership had a constant connection
to my work. Now I am running the Center for Nonprofits at Hostos Community
College in the Bronx. I work with nonprofits across all sectors from social
service organizations to arts organizations. I have been able to bring some of
my contacts and expertise to bring films and filmmakers to the college. It’s a
fun part of being here.

Can you share an important NYWIFT
moment with us?

I have
always been a huge fan of the Film Forum and when I was on the board years ago,
I lobbied with another board member to have Karen Cooper, the ED, receive a
Muse Award. When she received her award, I was sitting next to her on the dais
and she told me how happy she was that there was a fan on the board.

Where do you see the opportunity
for women in the industry today?

It certainly
is not an easy road, but I think women who are using a variety of ways to raise
money to get their work done (Kickstarter, etc.) have a better chance of having
their voices heard. And yay for organizations like Tangerine Entertainment and the long
standing Women Make Movies for helping women make their work and have the work
seen. In some ways, what works is “doing it for ourselves.”

What are your thoughts on all the
recent buzz around the dearth of women in front of and behind the camera? How
would you shake things up?

This is a
regrettably tough time for women in the media. I am happy that at least there
seems to be some attention being brought to the fact that the numbers are awful
in terms of women working in the business. I am glad that organizations like
Tangerine Entertainment and other organizations dedicated to work by women exist and I hope
that NYWIFT becomes an even louder, more aggressive voice advocating for
necessary change.

– ANNETTA MARION @AnnettaLM

Want to join New York Women in Film & Television as we fight for equality in the entertainment industry? Meet and network with amazing members like Eileen? Visit nywift.org/join now through May 15 and take advantage of our special Spring Membership Drive discount.

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nywift

nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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