By Katie Chambers
As summer winds down, New York Women in Film & Television gears up for the start of our new year – and with it, new faces join our leadership team!
A 501(c)3 non-profit, NYWIFT is governed by an 18 member Board of Directors, elected by the membership in late Spring. This diverse, accomplished group of women are at the top of their game in TV, film and digital media. They steer NYWIFT in advocating for equality, providing unique professional development opportunities, funding women filmmakers, and celebrating women’s achievements.
Next up: meet Alex Cirillo, producer, director and co-founder of Big Vision Empty Wallet!
How did you first get involved with NYWIFT?
When I graduated college my first job was at Washington Square Arts and Films, and the Executive Producer there, Anna Gerb, was on the NYWIFT Board of Directors at the time. She encouraged me to join as a Next Wave number and tasked me with getting items for the Muse Awards gift bags. I dove right in and never looked back!
Years later I started Big Vision Empty Wallet with Dani Faith Leonard and we were honored to add Terry Lawler (then NYWIFT Executive Director) and Alysia Reiner (NYWIFT member) to our advisory board. My connection to the NYWIFT community has continued to grow throughout the years.
Why do you love NYWIFT?
What’s not to love about a bunch of badass women supporting each other and fighting to create change?!
Tell us about what you do outside of NYWIFT.
I am a producer, director and the Co-Founder of Big Vision Empty Wallet, an inclusion-focused incubator that produces content that keeps you at the edge of your seat. I am also on the Advisory Board for the WGA’s Made in NY Writers Room Fellowship and the Advisory Board for Catalyst Content Festival. So I’m usually working with an amazing group of diverse creators to develop, produce and release their films, but I also make the time to travel with my family and explore the city’s food and art scene with my fiancé, Anthony.
What is your fondest memory of working in the entertainment industry?
I remember at the beginning of my career when I was just an 18 year old intern for the PR firm that planned Kanye West’s birthday party, shortly after the height of Jay-Z and Nas’ feud, I was tasked with getting Jay-Z out of the venue before Nas arrived. No one can make Jay-Z do anything, certainly not a totally green teenager, but eventually he agreed to head out and as we were making our way to the door I could see Nas coming in. I tried to re-route Jay-Z to avoid the confrontation but he just brushed me off, smiled and kept walking toward Nas. At this point I am beyond panicking, assuming I was about to be fired and never work in the industry again if I even survived the impending brawl. But they just walked right up to each other, shook hands discreetly, and kept it moving.
I realized in that moment that the entertainment industry is just that – entertainment – not everything the public is led to believe to be true is true. And from that point on I knew I always wanted to be an industry insider.
Inequality in film, television and digital media has been a hot topic in the media in these last few years especially, and righting that imbalance has always been a big part of NYWIFT’s mission. What are your thoughts on the problem? And how should it be solved?
This is obviously a huge question and if it had an easy solve it would have been handled years ago by the incredible women (and men) who have been fighting for equality since long before I was born. I assume it will take the right combination of transparency, education, tenacity, visibility, alliances, patience and support from public figures. What I know for sure is now is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of such a powerful organization that continues to be instrumental in the forward progress for women and I’m honored to join the Board of Directors to continue doing my part!
What’s the best TV show/movie/web series you’ve seen recently? Why?
My first thought was Dark on Netflix, and then I thought of Brockmire on IFC, but I have to give it the The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. It’s poignant, riveting, gut wrenching, and brutally honest. I’m simultaneously entertained and enraged when I watch. And sadly, with our current administration, it doesn’t feel like a distant, dystopian future.
What are your plans for the summer?
Finalizing wedding plans, finishing post production on a feature film Coast, and raising the financing for Randy Wilkins’ Pray for a Little More Spring. But really my goals are to get to the beach at least once and eat lots of s’mores. And direct more. I really need to get back to directing so send your projects my way!
Learn more about Big Vision Empty Wallet at bigvisionemptywallet.com.
Journalist and author Charlayne Hunter-Gault began her career as a reporter to The New Yorker, where she still contributes, and was the Harlem bureau chief for The New York Times. She worked for 20 years with PBS NewsHour where she was a national and international correspondent as well as a substitute anchor.READ MORE