By Catherine Woo
Welcome to NYWIFT, Lauren Cooper!
Lauren brings over a decade of expertise in content creation, event production, financial management, as well as production and post-production oversight. She has worked on scripted and non-scripted series, documentaries, animation, and live broadcasts for major networks such as ABC, NBC, MTV, CBS, Disney+, Amazon Prime, OLN, SYFY, and Discovery UK. She owns her own production company, Elle Bee & Co.
Lauren shares her advice, approach to telling challenging stories, and more with us here!
What brings you to NYWIFT?
NYWIFT’s vibrant community and its reputation for bringing together industry peers is what caught my attention. With over a decade of experience managing productions, leading teams, and ensuring successful outcomes, I’m excited about the chance to connect with fellow professionals who share my passion. NYWIFT’s collaborative and supportive environment seems like the perfect place to both share my insights and continue learning from others, while also having a great time doing it!
As of today, what are some of your career highlights? Can you tell us about some of your happiest moments or biggest challenges?
Some of my career highlights include managing the successful delivery of projects to major platforms like Hulu, Amazon, Peacock, and Netflix. Seeing projects I’ve worked on reach a larger audience and tell stories that haven’t been told is a big career highlight for me.
Among my happiest moments are when I led a team to establish the PR/Production department at a local school, creating a foundation for future success. Another source of satisfaction is mentoring newcomers in the industry and witnessing their growth.
Of course, every journey has its challenges. A notable one was managing projects with demanding turnaround times. Overcoming these hurdles required close coordination, adaptive thinking, and strong leadership to ensure not only meeting deadlines but also maintaining high-quality results.
Overall, my career has been a blend of accomplishments, learning experiences, and moments of pride that have shaped me into a versatile and effective professional in production management.
What is a day in your life like?
My day is a lively mix of managing projects in the entertainment industry while embracing the wonderful chaos of being a working mom. I kick things off by getting my kids ready for the day, and then it’s all about diving into budgets, timelines, and team coordination.
Balancing work and family means wearing many hats, but I’ve found ways to make it work. Afternoons are dedicated to my kids’ activities, and evenings are divided by catching up on work and spending quality time with my husband. It’s a constant juggle, but I’ve learned to navigate it with effective time management and a healthy dose of flexibility. It’s rewarding, challenging, and keeps me on my toes in the best way possible.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
If I could chat with my younger self, I’d definitely say, “Hey, don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown and take risks!” I’d remind myself that those moments of uncertainty and stepping out of my comfort zone are where the real growth happens. It might feel daunting, but trust me, you’ve got this!
Life’s a journey of constant learning, and it’s okay to stumble along the way. The setbacks and challenges? They’re just pit stops on the road to success. So, keep pushing forward, and believe in yourself. You’re capable of way more than you think, and those moments of doubt? They’re just steppingstones to your achievements. Embrace the excitement of the journey, and remember, you’re stronger and more resilient than you realize.
As a producer, what types of stories are most exciting to you?
As a producer, I find great excitement in narratives that amplify the voices of individuals often overlooked in the realm of films and movies. It’s a driving passion for me to ensure that our storytelling landscape is inclusive and reflective of the diversity that exists in our world.
I am drawn to stories that remain untold, that shine a light on cultures, perspectives, and experiences that haven’t received adequate representation. This commitment to showcasing a broader spectrum of narratives speaks to the heart of what I believe cinema can achieve – fostering empathy, understanding, and unity through storytelling. Thus, my enthusiasm lies in championing stories that challenge conventions and amplify the narratives of the underrepresented.
You worked on Dove’s short film Selfie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Can you tell us about this experience?
Working on Dove’s short film and having it premiere at the Sundance Film Festival was an incredible experience. Having this project showcased there was a major achievement.
One of the standout aspects for me was getting the chance to work closely with an Academy Award winner Cynthia Wade, who served as my mentor for many years. Her insights, guidance, and hands-on experience really broadened my perspective on filmmaking.
The shoot itself was a whirlwind of creativity and collaboration. We had an amazing team that brought their A-game, and I think that energy translated directly into the final product. It was a fantastic experience that I’ll always cherish.
What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited about what lies ahead. As a producer, I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities to learn, grow, and expand my horizons. I’m a firm believer that the industry is constantly evolving, so I’m focused on staying up-to-date with the latest processes and technologies that can enhance our storytelling.
In terms of projects, there’s a lot brewing that I can’t wait to dive into. Each project brings its own set of challenges and creative opportunities, and that’s what keeps me so motivated. From exploring different genres to collaborating with fresh voices, I’m all about seeking out projects that resonate with my passion for meaningful storytelling.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Eileen Wolter! After working as a motion picture lit assistant at CAA, working on the Universal lot, and writing lots of coverage in LA, Eileen brings her creativity to us in New York! She holds a BA in Art History & Film from Vassar College, studied acting as The Atlantic Theater Company and The Actors Studio/The New School, and studied writing at UCLA, NYU, Sundance Collab, Stowe Story Labs, and NJ Play Lab. Eileen tells us about her fascinating family history, covering Fashion Week for Comedy Central in 1993, and attending SNL dress rehearsals.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Jaya Mahajan! Originally from Mumbai, India, Jaya is a filmmaker with Executive Producer credits for documentaries and factual shows that have been on networks such as CNN, BBC, Discovery and the National Geographic Channel. She spent the initial part of her career as a business reporter and producer with CNBC and Bloomberg. More recently, she has been running an award-winning production company, creating films and documentaries and teaching journalism students in Malaysia and Singapore. Jaya recently moved to New York and is looking forward to focusing on projects that highlight and amplify traditionally underrepresented, diverse, and marginalized voices.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Mary Skinner! Mary is a New York-based filmmaker whose projects include the widely-celebrated 2010 documentary Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers and Cuba Cubano Cañibano. The former was showcased at many festivals and events before being acquired by PBS and presented in many languages worldwide, in addition to receiving accolades that included the Best Documentary at the UK Jewish Film Festival and the 2012 Gracie Award for Best Public TV Documentary by and about a woman. The latter was an Official Selection of the United Nations Association Film Festival in 2017. Having graduated from UC Berkeley with a specialization in theater, Mary was one of the founding members of the Riverside Shakespeare Company in New York and the producer of the play Coming to See Aunt Sophie. Previously, she worked as a corporate marketing executive in New York and San Francisco and established 2B Productions in 2003. Read more about Mary as we discuss her close friendship with a legendary historical figure, the relationship between her artistry and family’s connection to the Holocaust, and the magic of both theater and PBS!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Victoria Duncan! At age 12, Victoria began making films, struck by her power to engage an audience using her imagination. This led her down an exciting path to SNL, The Blacklist, The Sinner, Vice, and branded content for huge companies like Wells Fargo and Amazon, just to name a few. Her LGBT+ ballet film I Am Enough was adapted for the stage and performed at New York City’s iconic Lincoln Center. She is currently working on the screenplay for a feature film. Victoria walks us through her incredible journey, from her childhood favorite movies to presenting a piece to the United Nations.READ MORE