July 24th, 2019
Dear NYWIFT Community,
There are days in the life of a non-profit Executive Director that are long and arduous, sometimes even a little disappointing. You have to keep your chin up and your step lively. The pressure is massive even when you are completely committed to the mission of the organization you manage. For me, I am seven months on the job and I still wake up excited about the day ahead, working to support other women who are working in the industry and assisting others who are looking for jobs and new opportunities. Women want an equal share to produce, direct and become network executives. I believe that media made by and about women will improve our understanding of each other and the world.
At New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), we provide networking opportunities, professional development workshops and seminars, advocate for fair wages and improved working conditions, and will be working with the industry to generate new opportunities for women in film and television. In addition, we host two major events celebrating creative talent, the Muse Awards and Designing Women. The chase to find, apply for and secure money and resources to cover the expenses for all of these activities every single day is equivalent to a boar hunting for truffles in a mountainous region with lots of other diverse boars with their equally impressive truffle-searching credentials. It can be daunting, but you always get through it, with humor and a sense of community. We do it and persevere regardless.
NYWIFT members keep asking, “how are you doing in your new role?” I’ve had an incredible opportunity to meet so many women working to make a difference in our industry, from one-on-one meetings with members to seeing Oprah speak the Women of the World Conference where I sat next to NYWIFT Muse Honoree Sarah Barnett, the head of BBC America (thanks to NYWIFT Board VP Christine Bragan) – it’s been an inspiration to hear your stories every single day.
But, like I said, it’s not always life on the red carpet!
This is an effort to share a typical non-conventional working day:
One morning, three months into my new role at NYWIFT: I woke up at 5 AM (my usual time), hit email for two hours working on NYWIFT’s 2019 Summit (which was fantastic – here are details if you missed it), then packed my suitcase for Washington, DC. I was driving the five hours to save money, and staying at a little lizard lounge called the Americana Hotel. Never heard of it? Exactly. I say lizard lounge not in a derogatory way, it is just that looking at the photos online … it looks like an upscale version of a 1960’s joint. Where the business men that stayed used to sell vacuum cleaners and bibles. I of course waited way too long to book the hotel that I love in downtown D.C.
Two hours into the drive, I felt frustrated. Why am I going to The Library of Congress Gershwin Awards when I need to work on two partnership letters and complete a funding proposal. But I am on the board of directors of Latino Public Broadcasting and the Executive Director wanted me to attend the intimate pre-Awards dinner hosted by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, the first African American woman to hold that position. I wanted to meet her, and the honorees of this year’s Library of Congress Gershwin Award were Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the first Latinos in history to receive this distinction . How could I not attend this historic event? It was too good to be true: an intimate dinner celebrating the Estefans and a unique mixture of government, PBS (who produced the concert and broadcast the event), CPB and other stakeholders in the room that we could potentially collaborate with.
Balancing high level events with the work that needs to get done has always been a challenge for me as I always want to stay at the computer, but seeing Gloria winner of exponential numbers of industry awards including: countless Grammys, Latin Grammys, Billboard Latin Music Awards, International Women’s Forum “Hall of Fame” Award, and humanitarian awards – receive this award was just too much for me to miss. All of this seemed like a good idea, until I was trying to leave my Jackson Heights apartment on time so that I wouldn’t be rushing on the road. And here I was clocking 75 on ROUTE 95 and just feeling like I live in a perpetual rush all the time. It is exhausting. We women work so hard, but we do not always take the time to celebrate our successes and it is so important to support our “sheroes.”
The list of performances in the WETA/Washington PBS presentation included Patty LaBelle, Cindi Lauper, Jose Feliciano and the cast of On Your Feet. Academy Award winner Rita Moreno and dreamy Andy Garcia were the hosts for the evening. I was so inspired, chills kept enveloping me like a glittery shawl. The Estefans are extraordinary artistic and business leaders, and are compassionate Latinos who work diligently to support our community in a variety of ways. One thing was clear from Quincy Jones’ introduction that night – the Estefans believe that music unites and heals the world. I felt so privileged to witness this incredible tribute.
PBS affiliate WETA produced and broadcast the awards and concert, which you can watch here.
When I left my seat I was smiling. In the hallway on the way out to exit the excitement, the inspiration was so uplifting . People were in discussion about the show and all talked about they had not been completely aware of all of the contributions the Estefans make to American culture and the economy. Everyone –government officials, PBS and CPB executives, creatives, filmmakers – were united, and the message that music and art can heal and elevate our worn spirits was clearly felt.
The Lyft driver that picked me up wanted to know: “What happened here tonight? Everyone is so happy and that is not always the case in Washington.” I laughed. When I arrived at my hotel there were several women and men executives chatting and sipping free coffee. Each was addressing how business is done in DC and as soon as they saw me said, “Now where were you?” I explained my adventure had to take out my iPhone to show pictures, so the six of us then sat talking for about two hours about our work. For a minute I felt like I was home. We each discussed how we were concerned when we first drove up to the hotel and then realized it was a family run hotel and it was actually kind of super cool. My room was recently renovated – modern, clean, and minimal. The staff was amazing so very helpful.
So as we all took off our high heels in the lobby, we each realized this is how work is done in America. We do the best we can every day, no matter the circumstances. In the end we would all recommend The Americana Hotel, because like the word “American” means to me, it is a paella of cultures, religions, and workers coming together on our way to accomplishing other goals.
Thank you Latino Public Broadcasting for asking me to attend this event on your behalf and thank you Corporation for Public Broadcasting for supporting LPB, WETA and PBS. And thank you, WETA, for producing and airing this incredible program. To learn more about these incredible public media entities please visit:
It is the wee hours of the morning I was back on the road again in my silver hybrid Toyota, thinking, at this ungodly hour, about new financial strategies. We need more funding dollars to provide grants to women filmmakers and first-time directors, we need more money for our yearly budget, the Muse Awards are scheduled for December 10th. Plus, how are we going to get NYWIFT’s headquarter offices painted? We need an office makeover – truthfully, we need interior designer help for free. My brain started to spin.
And for a minute, when I felt overwhelmed and exhausted driving, I remembered I am not alone. I carry the power of the NYWIFT board, incredibly talented staff and members and all my women ancestors who built things that never existed before. And I then realize it is just another day as Executive Director of a non-profit organization and all is exactly as it should be. This year we hosted the first ever NYWIFT 2019 Summit at the Ford Foundation on June 27, and presented our 20th Anniversary Designing Women Awards on June 11 at the Directors Guild of America Theater for the first time. We are making strides.
Thank you for joining NYWIFT as a member, stakeholder or supporter, and for joining this movement of women that will change how media is directed, produced and distributed in this country. Finally, a huge congratulations to Gloria and Emilio for your creative and business savvy and for being leaders that believe the arts can heal. I could not agree more.
New York Women in Film and Television
P.S. I met several contacts in D.C. that could be very useful to NYWIFT in the future!