2020 NYWIFT Creative Workforce Documentary Summit


Join NYWIFT for our second annual Creative Workforce Summit: Documentary Makers, Industry and Funders in Conversation.

This four-day free virtual program consists of keynote speakers, panels, and film screenings, and will bring together some of the most unique and diverse voices of women working in the entertainment industry to establish forward-moving strategies to create change and mobilize support and leadership for the future.

The NYWIFT Summit takes place with support provided by the Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation as well as a curated film screening and panel series produced in partnership with International Documentary Association.

Advocacy through the Ages

This year the summit will be two-fold: first, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. Set just a few weeks prior to the U.S. election, the event will look at how to inform, update, and galvanize women voters about the history in securing the right to vote and highlight women in politics that have pushed for the women’s rights and for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The summit will also recognize the contributions made by female documentary filmmakers and their efforts to create social, cultural and economic change in history, specifically addressing the opportunities and challenges filmmakers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting financial crisis as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

Keynote speakers will include: 

  • Abigail Disney: CEO & Co-Founder, Fork Films
  • Sheila Nevins: Executive Producer, MTV Networks
  • Marcia Smith: President & Co-Founder, Firelight Media
  • Laverne Berry: Former NYWIFT Board President, Attorney and Central Character featured in Capturing the Flag


Visit our 2020 NYWIFT Summit Vimeo Channel



Review the schedule below, and click through to see speaker bios and register for each daily event.


DAY 1: Tuesday,  October 20, 2020 from 4-6 PM EST

Welcome Address by Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice

Maria Torres-Springer, Vice President of US Programs, Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice

Special Keynote Address: Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Panel: Women Documenting the Vote

This panel takes a critical look at films that address voter suppression and voter participation. These case studies will tackle issues of access, financing and urgency, and will encourage women filmmakers to use their craft to make a difference in the upcoming election. Moderated by Yahaira Jacquez, an award-winning journalist for Reuters.  


          Lisa Cortes & Liz Garbus: Co-Directors, All In: The Fight for Democracy
          Marjan Safinia: Director/Producer, And She Could Be Next
          Grace Lee: Director/Producer, And She Could Be Next
          Dawn Porter: Director,  John Lewis: Good Trouble

Closing Keynote: Laverne Berry: Former NYWIFT President, Attorney and Central Protagonist in Capturing the Flag

Register for Day 1


DAY 2: Wednesday,  October 21, 2020
from 4-6 PM EST

Opening Keynote: Nia Winston, President of UNITEHERE Local 24 

Panel: Unionizing Nonfiction Labor

This panel examines the lack of organized labor for documentary and reality tv makers, the benefits and potential pitfalls of organizing, and collective bargaining opportunities that could exist in the documentary world. Moderated by NYWIFT Board Member entertainment attorney Maria C. Miles. 


          Andrew Greenberg: Lead Organizer, WGA-East
          Susan Margolin: Founder of St. Marks Productions and of New Video/Docurama Films,
                    and Co-Chair of Documentary Producers Alliance Investment Waterfall Committee
          Johanna Vanderspool: Founder of The Non Fiction “Union”
          Maggie Bowman: Director of Programming, International Documentary Association (IDA)
          Caty Borum Chatto: Executive Director, Center for Media & Social Impact

Closing Keynote: Anne del Castillo, Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment 

Register for Day 2


DAY 3: Thursday,  October 22, 2020
from 4-6 PM EST

Opening Keynote: Marcia Smith: President, Firelight Media

Panel: Authorship: Our stories, directed, produced and written by us

Women and BIPOC documentarians discuss new opportunities to tell their own stories through traditional (feature films, streaming, and cable networks) and new non-traditional (mobile phones, virtual conversations, and social media) formats. Emphasis on social justice storytelling, who gets to tell whose story, how filmmakers are adapting to the challenges of the pandemic, and the significance of telling stories now during the thriving Black Lives Matter movement and on the eve of the presidential election. Moderated by Simon Moya Smith, a writer, activist and professor of New Media, and Citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation.


          Yvonne Russo: Director, Untitled Annie Mae Aquash Documentary
          Nadia Hallgren: DP & Director, Michelle Obama Documentary Becoming
          Maria Agui Carter: Writer/Director/Producer, President of Iguana Films
          Maria Finitzo: Award winning Documentary Filmmaker, Kartemquin Films
          Shalini Kantayya: Director, Coded Bias

Register for Day 3


DAY 4: Friday,  October 23, 2020
from 4-6 PM EST

Opening Keynote: Abigail E. Disney: CEO & Co-Founder, Fork Films

Panel: Executive Function

Decision makers at networks, funders, and production companies discuss the future of funding and greenlighting nonfiction projects, the challenges of the pandemic from their perspective, and how social justice movements and politics influence their decisions. Moderated by MP Dunleavey, Editorial Director, Finance, T Brand at The New York Times


          Carrie Lozano: Documentary Film Program Director, Sundance Institute
          Dana Merwin: Program Officer for International Documentary Association (IDA) Enterprise Fund
          Monika Navarro: Senior Director of Artist Programs, Firelight Media
          Sandie Pedlow: Executive Director, Latino Public Broadcasting

Closing Keynote Conversation: Sheila Nevins: Executive Producer, MTV Networks in conversation with NYWIFT Executive Director Cynthia Lopez

Register for Day 4


Daily Industry Networking Sessions

Each day of the Summit, guests will be invited to attend virtual industry networking sessions following the panels. Come prepared with questions, comments, and creative ideas to share as we gather together to discuss the day’s inspirational and informative conversation. One-one-one speed on-camera speed networking will be available, as well as larger recorded breakout sessions where you can share your thoughts with one another for possible inclusion in a future Summit publication. 

Admittance to the networking sessions is automatically included when you register for each day’s event. 

NYWIFT Women Who Dared Documentary Series in partnership with International Documentary Association (IDA) and with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

A six-week screening series of captivating documentaries by women filmmakers starting on Friday, October 23, 2020 and every Friday to follow.

This screening series is part of NYWIFT’s Creative Workforce Summit scheduled October 20-23, 2020. This year’s theme celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote and recognize the contributions made by Women Documentary Makers that document creators of social, cultural and economic change in history.

Check Out the Screening Series



Tell Us about Your Favorite Suffragette

In honor of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, let’s continue to highlight all the women that have pushed for women’s rights and for the Equal Rights Amendment. Which suffragette is an inspiration to you? Tell us about your hero and it may be included in our upcoming publication summary of the 2020 Creative Workforce Summit.

Submit Your Suffragette



First Annual Summit – Publication

This is NYWIFT’s second annual Creative Workforce Summit.

The 2019 Summit focused on Pay Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Workplace Safety. 

Learn about the 2019 Summit here

We are proud to release briefing summary of the 2019 Summit. 
View the electronic copy here.