New York Women in Film & Television is thrilled to welcome new board members to our leadership team for the 2021-2022 season!
A 501(c)3 non-profit, NYWIFT is governed by an 19 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.
On NYWIFT’s Women Crush Wednesdays Podcast, Kelsey Marsh interviewed Audrey Rosenberg, one of our newest board members. Here’s a snippet of their conversation.
Can you give us a quick background about your career and experience?
I’ve been a producer and in this industry for over 20 years. I’m very proud to be a New York producer and I think that’s been a big part of my identity. I produce film, television, documentary, and short form work. My career has always been about content, and I’m very driven by social justice issues and authentic storytelling, and figuring out what medium is best to tell a story in, whether it be film, television, or documentary.
And instead of talking too much about what it is to be a creative producer, which is what I consider myself, I also wanted to mention some of the women that I was lucky enough to work within my career. In one of the first feature films I did, Sigourney Weaver was an actress in the film. She was just an incredible presence that really made an impact on me in terms of her strength, power, independence, her choices, [and] being a New York actor. We ended up working together a second time. Sandy Bullock is someone that comes to mind. Christine Vachon is a producer that once said to me, “It’s not a crisis unless it stops you from shooting.” She was really teaching me something about urgency and understanding how to use our skills and how to react to things. And seeing firsthand how [narrative] film and documentary can influence a Supreme Court decision, and advocate for women on abortion rights which is obviously so relevant now.
One thing that I think is significant: I read James Baldwin when I was 15 and it really changed my life. I resonated so much with his work and his humanism, and I think it really inspired me to look at film and television as this incredible landscape where social change is possible. Where social justice issues can be addressed through storytelling and how powerful that is. And I got to work on I Am Not Your Negro all these years later, which was just a magical situation for me to be part of given the influence that Baldwin had on me.
What prompted you to join NYWIFT?
I don’t think anybody stays in this industry unless they really love it and find a way to be part of it, and make a living and figure out what their contribution is. And I think for me, because I was crazy enough to be an independent producer for so many years before I started a company. It was isolating at times, and I think that some of that may have been me, but some of it isn’t. It’s still a very male-dominated system, so I think I noticed that I was craving female companionship, influences, mentors, and ways of sharing my wisdom and hearing wisdom from other women. I would say being part of something larger than myself and the idea that it was more feminine power-focused or women-focused really attracted me at the time. So really that is why I joined.
What made you want to become a board member?
I had the incredible pleasure of working with Julie Dash and I met Julie Dash through Rachel Watanabe-Batton, who is an incredible friend and board member of NYWIFT. And [she] was actually the person who nominated me to be a part of it. And when Rachel first told me about the opportunity I had thought about how much incredible work NYWIFT was doing. I was very inspired by Cynthia López and her leadership and the women on the board. I just thought ‘wow,’ the issue of feminine power for me and the amount of healing that’s needed in the world and how much I think women especially when they come together can really create that environment. I was just thrilled. ‘That could just be a perfect place for me!’
And really it’s “New York Women in Film & Television,” for me, that is my life. That completely defines how I’ve been spending my time for over 20 years. I was thrilled to be nominated and to be elected to the board. I think there’s so much that they’re doing and I’m looking forward to contributing to growing it and even doing more for women.
Aside from growing NYWIFT, what else do you hope to accomplish as a board member?
I feel like I can bring some help to the table to what already exists. I think there’s an opportunity to dig deeper as women to really look at things, have tougher conversations than we’re having and they’re crucial. Meaning, what’s going on with internal misogyny? How do we deal with that? We start with ourselves and our own energy and what we are putting out into the world. How do we take responsibility for that kind of healing so that we can be better leaders in the world.
I think the other thing for me is mentorship, and making things a little less exclusive in this industry. I think especially because NYWIFT is [already] so excellent at fighting for equality and looking at diversity and authenticity. I think it’s really important that people have access. I’m really looking forward to sharing my resources, my experience, my wisdom, figuring out how we can channel those desires into programs and grants and things that they’re already doing.
What should we be on the lookout for your upcoming work?
We have a documentary that was announced on the anniversary of Katrina, that’s called Katrina Babies that was in partnership with Time Studios and with HBO. I’m really excited about this film, it’s a very personal film from a young filmmaker named Edward Buckles, Jr. who is from New Orleans and is a Katrina baby himself.
We also produced a film called Bull that was directed by Annie Sliverstein that was nominated for spirit awards and stars Rob Morgan, Yolonda Ross, and newcomer Amber Havard. It went to Cannes and it’s just a very special film so I hope people will seek that out because it’s available on streaming. I think people who watch the film really enjoy the authenticity of it and sort of the special nature of it.
Listen to the full interview with Audrey and our three other new board members on the NYWIFT Women Crush Wednesdays podcast below:
An alarmingly disproportionate number of Black women are failed every year by the U.S. maternal health system – and it is a crisis that has been largely ignored thus far. In the Sundance 2022 documentary Aftershock, Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow the bereaved partners of two of these women as they fight for justice and build communities of support, bonding especially with other surviving Black fathers. The story is presented within the historical context of racism throughout the U.S. healthcare system, and the deadly tendency to ignore or minimize Black women’s pain and concerns.
NYWIFT Member Paula Eiselt spoke to us about how she and Lewis Lee approached this harrowing topic, and why community activists are the natural heroes of her creative work.
13 members played a key creative role in 11 different projects featured in Sundance this year – and two of them fall under the Executive Producer expertise of prolific NYWIFT Member Sara Bernstein! Bernstein heads to Sundance with Amy Poehler’s documentary Lucy and Desi, which brings the iconic pair’s humanity to life through an exploration of their personal and professional partnership, as well as Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, comprehensive investigation into the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and a look at the families and officials fighting for justice.
We spoke to Bernstein specifically about Downfall and how she hopes her team’s work will make an impact.
Rachel Lears returns to Sundance on the heels of her 2019 festival smash-hit Knock Down the House, which sold to Netflix for a record $10 million, making it the biggest documentary sale ever brokered at a film festival. The film followed female insurgent candidates hoping to topple incumbents in an electric primary race for Congress, and focused heavily on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she became the youngest member of the U.S. Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez now appears again in Lears’s To the End, this time as an established leader raising up another generation of young activists. We spoke to Lears about her process, watching Ocasio-Cortez develop as a politician, and why she still has hope in the face of the climate crisis.