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, Tammy Reese interviews Sibyl Santiago, one of our newest board members. Here’s a snippet of their conversation.
Can you give us a quick background on your career?
I started as a child actor. It just so happens that my mom is a veteran actor and director in my country and she had a production company. I guess I kind of just grew up in the industry, following in her footsteps. I was also interning at her production company, so I started as an actor early but I also did a lot of work behind-the-scenes on camera working with her. And also I got a lot of training in theater so it’s always been my world; film, television, [and] theater have been what I have been surrounded with.
And growing up here in New York City, it was kind of a natural progression. I was in a dance company and a theater company for many years. And then I started to do more films and television work and then started helping friends produce projects. And the next thing you know, I was producing my own projects with my own production company. We got one of my big features working with Mel Brooks’ son, Nicholas Brooks ,and they’re the ones who actually pushed me and said “You know, Sibyl, why do you keep working with all these other productions? Why don’t you start your own production company? And let’s have this film under your production company!” And that’s where it started and that’s where Sitting Cat Productions was born.
Why did you join New York Women in Film & Television?
Specifically for that, I am a woman filmmaker and creator. I actually have a lot of colleagues that have been members for years before I joined and have talked about the organization so much. I have joined them in some of the events and screenings and have met more people and more collaborators. These are amazing women that I look up to that have invited me, and then I joined.
Since I joined, I’m seeing even more of what they are doing and now that I’m on the board I’m seeing what’s behind it, and I’m even more excited about everything that this organization is doing and trying to do to really help women filmmakers. It’s inspiring!
What made you join the board at NYWIFT?
I was actually invited by one of the board members to run and I’m glad that I did. At first, I wasn’t sure because I’m also an active member of the AAPI Working Group of the Producers Guild of America. But then I thought to myself, ‘This is exactly what I’m trying to do.’ I’m trying to find a way to find better representation not just for women filmmakers but also for producers and filmmakers of color, of which I am one.
To expand on that, [I joined] specifically for AAPI representation as well. I know that NYWIFT does so much of this [already], and wants to do more of it, so it was almost like a natural pick for me to go and run and just see if I would be given that chance so that I could hopefully help mentor as I have been mentored. And continue hopefully making women, in general, being in the industry a norm versus a niche.
What do you hope to see more of in the film industry?
I want to see more women actually acknowledged for the work that they do. Realistically when you look at the history, whether it be theater, film, or television, there have actually been a lot of women in this industry. They just never got the opportunity or the recognition that they should have been given. Now that I’ve run a film festival in New York City for the last 10 years, I have been really excited to see so many women filmmakers.
And it really confuses me sometimes because when I program projects, I always see a major number of my filmmakers are women, and [then] not to see that represented in the mainstream or awards season…it’s mind-boggling to me. I don’t understand how it’s possible. I would really love to see this industry be fair in that sense, and really see the narrative of the work, and you would see that we belong here.
Are there any projects that you have out right now or that you have upcoming that we can be on the lookout for?
I have the film festival the SOHO International Film Festival which is runs in November. I’m really excited about that. And I have a feature film that I co-produced called Oliver that’s going to be hopefully released by next year. I also have a documentary that I produced called Nomad Cowboys that we also hope to release in the next year, that we shot in Kyrgyzstan.
And I’m in the middle of working on a series right now that I won’t be able to announce yet but I’m really looking forward to it because it’s female-driven and very strong female characters. And I have some really great partners I’m working with so I can’t wait to talk about it when we’re able to.
Listen to the full interview with Sibyl and our three other new board members on the NYWIFT Women Crush Wednesdays podcast below:
Welcome to NYWIFT, China L. Colston! China is a SAG-AFTRA actress and award-winning filmmaker. As an actress, she has embodied emotional women, from the guilt-ridden mother in Strings Attached to the dealer in Sweet Thang. China’s unwavering dedication as the star, writer, director, and producer of Dark Seed led the film to acclaim from the Validate Yourself Film Festival, African American Arts Alliance of Chicago, and the Dramatist’s Guild Success In The Arts Award aka SITA. She is the recipient of a 2021 NYFA grant for her script To Cook or Not to Cook, which follows a chef in Harlem repairing his relationship with his family through food. She is the recipient of a 2021 NYFA grant for her script To Cook or Not to Cook, which follows a chef in Harlem repairing his relationship with his family through food. China brings us through her incredible journey as a creator here!READ MORE
Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.READ MORE
NYWIFT Member Emily Sheskin’s return to DOC NYC 2023 is particularly meaningful. In 2017, she attended the festival with her short film Girl Boxer, about a 10-year-old champion female boxer and her adoring father. Six years later, Sheskin returns with a feature-length film following the same family, now facing an entirely new set of challenges. In Jesszilla, New Jersey’s own Jesselyn Silva, a three-time national boxing champion, is on her way to superstardom, dominating the junior ranks at the age of 15. With her every step of the way is her father, Pedro, a single parent who helps her navigate coaches, training schedules, and the angst of teenage life. When a devastating diagnosis threatens the father-daughter tandem, the pair turn to each other to fight their greatest opponent yet: cancer. Director and Executive Producer Emily Sheskin spoke to us about her unique journey following this family.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Ilja Willems heads to the 2023 DOC NYC Festival with not one but two exciting new short films. Friendly Fridges shows how the new heart of the community is popping up in every neighborhood—in the shape of refrigerators. And When the grass must go follows a landscaper from Nevada who is removing grass lawns under a first-of-a-kind state law that will save water during an ongoing drought. Willems spoke to us about how these two disparate films align with her creative sensibilities, the joy of screening in NYC, and more!READ MORE