2022-2023 Board of Directors
Leslie Fields-Cruz, President
Leslie Fields-Cruz started at Black Public Media, formerly National Black Programming Consortium, in 2001 managing grant making activities that supported the production and development of documentary programs for PBS. By 2005, she was the Director of Programming, leading the distribution of all funded programs to public television. In 2008, with six independent titles in need of a public television broadcast, Fields-Cruz launched AfroPoP: The Ultimately Cultural Exchange, a documentary series highlighting the variety and depth of the global black experience. AfroPoP has garnered several awards and is the only national public television series focused solely on stories from the black experience. In the fall of 2014, Fields-Cruz became BPM’s third Executive Director. Though she keeps the pulse on the development of program content and its distribution across public media platforms, she is focused on growing BPM’s resources to enable it to support more stories about the Black experience.
Yvonne Russo, VP of Communications
Yvonne Russo is an award-winning producer, director, and writer of film and television specializing in inspirational Indigenous and cross-cultural stories. As an independent producer, Russo has worked on a diverse range of productions in over 16 countries from Rajasthan, India, to the East African Nation of Rwanda. She is currently directing, Ring of Fire: The Life of Annie Mae Aquash and currently in post-production on VIVA VERDI!. Recent credits include Woman Walks Ahead, the HBO mini-series, Lewis and Clark and Rescuers: Heroes of the Holocaust. She’s a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and Co-Chair of the Producers Guild of America Diversity Committee. She is also a Sundance Institute Lab Fellow, Tribeca All Access Program Fellow and is on the board of The Language Conservancy, which works to revitalize endangered languages. She’s a contributing author for The Huffington Post and Produced By Magazine. Yvonne Russo is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Tribal Nation.
Gretchen McGowan, Treasurer
Gretchen McGowan is an award-winning producer and the head of production for Goldcrest Features in New York City where she oversees titles such as Carol, Mojave, What Breaks the Ice, Carrie Pilby and To Olivia. Gretchen has collaborated with Sebastian Junger on five films, and she is now producing Hell of a Cruise for NBCUniversal, a feature documentary about the cruise industry’s handling of Covid-19. Gretchen independently produced Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control in Spain for Focus Features and she produced American Swing for Magnolia Pictures. She line produced the Oscar nominated Dancemaker, Buffalo ’66, Two Girls and a Guy, American Psycho and Heavy. While head of production with Mark Cuban’s HDNet Films, Open City Films and Blow Up Pictures, Gretchen supervised over 25 features including Redacted, Enron, Broken English, Bubble, Lovely and Amazing and Coffee and Cigarettes.
Joyce Pierpoline, Secretary
Joyce Pierpoline is an independent film producer and founder of Pierpoline Films, best known for producing controversial, character-driven narratives that tackle issues of gender and sexuality. Her most recent film, The Transfiguration, premiered in Un Certain Regard-Cannes Film Festival, other films include Sundance award-winning cult favorite Teeth, Happy Tears, Angelica, and In the Company of Men. She currently serves on the board of BAFTA-NY where she is co-chair of the film and television committee. She is member of the European Producers Club, the European Film Academy, and the Producers Guild of America where she was founding co-chair of the Women’s Impact Network, promoting gender equality in the industry. Joyce began her career in Paris as head of international press for the Cannes Film Festival.
Sirad Balducci has worked over 25 years as an independent producer/director based in New York City and has worked with notable filmmakers such as Julian Schnabel, Julien Temple, Peter Masterson, Nick Cassavetes, Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg, and Homeland creator Michael Cuesta among many others. Producing credits include Into Character series for AMC, and Peter Berg’s Disney/Imagine Television series Wonderland for ABC. In feature films, Balducci line produced/co-produced Anamorph, A Little Help, Gun Hill Road, The Longest Week, Jack of the Red Hearts, Youth in Oregon, The Lennon Report, Growing Up and Other Lies, Rise Up, and Hide & Seek. Producing credits include Roadie (directed by Michael Cuesta), Are You Joking, and The Man on Her Mind.
Kia Brooks is the Deputy Director of The Gotham Film and Media Institute. Her experience in strategic communications (including PR and Marketing) and events spans over a decade and she enjoys supporting and advising creators and entrepreneurs in taking the next steps in their projects and careers. At The Gotham, she oversees the organization’s programming, communications and supports the organization’s development efforts. Brooks is the founder of The Gotham’s Owning It program that supports women and non-binary media makers and entrepreneurs who break boundaries in the media and entertainment industry. She also developed the Expanding Communities program, which is dedicated to providing resources, a community space, and industry access to individuals with Disabilities and Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ creators across film, TV, and audio industries. Through partnerships with organizations aligned with uplifting historically excluded voices, the program acts as a platform for both creators and organizations to reach new audiences, develop networks of potential collaborators, and access career advancement resources and opportunities within the media and entertainment industry. Previous to working at the Gotham, Brooks worked in film publicity for companies such as Focus Features, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Tribeca Film Festival. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Communication from American University and is currently enrolled in a Fundraising Certificate Program at New York University.
Shruti Ganguly is a filmmaker and writer based between New York City and Oslo. Shruti was a member of the Obama Administration’s ECCO committee of 30 leaders and creators in entertainment, chairing its Asian Caucus, and is on the Creative Council for Emily’s List. She has produced several feature and short films (including Spirit-winner H., and the Nora Ephron Prize-winner Initials SG) that have premiered at Sundance, Venice, Tribeca, Telluride, and Berlin. Ganguly is currently writing for Secret Daughter for Amazon Studios, which will star Priyanka Chopra and Sienna Miller, directed by Cannes-winner Anthony Chen. Ganguly developed and will EP Flossy, a half-hour comedy with writer/comedian Kerry Coddett, and EP Robin Thede, set up at Warner Bros and Showtime, and she will be an EP and writer on the half-hour TV series Brown Baby, which is in development with Bad Robot/Warner Bros and will star Himesh Patel. Ganguly has directed and produced commercials, short and feature docs, music videos and branded content, ranging from clients like Nike, Netflix, Michael Kors, MUNCH, and so on, through her production company honto88. In addition, Ganguly started Prism Entertainment with producers Megha Kadakia and Priya Giri Desai to focus on high-quality, South Asian-focused film and TV content. Previously, Ganguly worked at NYLON, MTV, and Conde Nast, producing the Clio-winning 73 Questions series. She is a co-founder of the Resistance Revival Chorus, a collective born out of the Women’s March that brings together artists and activists to use music and joy as an act of resistance. Ganguly is a published writer (Nevertheless We Persisted, Penguin) and a contributing writer for The Juggernaut. Ganguly received her Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, and went to NYU’s dual MFA/MBA program at Tisch and Stern. She hails from India, by way of Oman.
After a stint in LA working at Disney/Touchstone Television, Kim Jackson came back to NY and joined the Local 161 while working at Universal Pictures for Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee. She founded Streetwise Pictures and her critically acclaimed production, Blue Caprice — seen in theaters across the country — premiered at Sundance and was the opening night film at New Directors/New Films at MoMA in 2013. She has been the driving force behind more than a dozen award-winning and theatrically released independent films. Frustrated with the lack of revenue reporting and accountability, she co-founded SingularDTV, a blockchain “Entech” studio, and is building rights (tracking), revenue and royalty payment software operated by blockchain technology. Breaker Studios, the production division of SDTV, produces and distributes feature films from around the world. Kim is a PGA member, an Artist Academy member of Film at Lincoln Center and an alumnus of Simmons University, serving on the Dean’s Council of the Gwen Ifill School of Media, Arts and Humanities, as well as an active board member of ACE Programs for the Homeless.
Christina Kiely has been producing and directing documentaries for over 23 years. Most recently she wrote and produced ABC News’ first digital documentary series, A Murder On Orchard Street. Kiely also co-produced the accompanying podcast to the seven-part series. In 2004 she was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the ABC News documentary series NYPD 24/7. While at ABC she also produced for the series In the Jury Room and the weekly news magazine Primetime Mondays. Outside of ABC, Christina has produced and directed numerous programs, including the A&E Biography of Yo-Yo Ma, 12 hours of the TLC series Code Blue, the PBS weekly news magazine Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television, as well as various documentaries for the International Labor Organization of the United Nations, including a co-production on migrant farm workers with the PBS series NOW. She recently directed a PSA for Rebuilding Together NYC.
Amenya Makuku is an independent producer and the new Head of Development for Wilderness Films, with previous tenures at Edward Norton’s Class 5 Films (Thanks for Sharing) and FilmNation Entertainment (Room, Arrival). Her in-depth development background is reinforced by an education in production legal, acquisitions and international pre-sales. Amenya co-produced director Josephine Decker’s Sundance smash Madeline’s Madeline (Berlinale 2018, BAM 2018). She recently produced the TV-length pilot for web-series Addie & Addy. Amenya is in development on a number of film and TV projects including collaborations with Debra Granik, Anne Rossellini, and Joy Goodwin. She is the Film and TV Advisor for The Playwright’s Realm (2017 Pulitzer Finalist The Wolves).
Zenaida Mendez has been awarded the 2022 prestigious Jewell Ryan White Award for Cultural Diversity from the Alliance of Community Media. This annual award is given to persons who show an outstanding contribution to a process that encourages, facilitates, or creates culturally diverse and/or non-mainstream community involvement in the field of community media. Mendez holds the esteemed position of Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center. Mendez has an intensive career in public service, community activism, television production, and filmmaking. As a social justice activist, she is an avid voice for tolerance and has many years of experience working as an advocate for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights, as well as economic, racial and environmental justice. She also develops dynamic event-based programming initiatives, including developing partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups. She is currently Executive Producer of the monthly facilitated MNN Productions: Both Sides of the Bars, Radical Imagination, Critica, NY, Punto de Vista, Makilala TV the only National Filipino-American TV Program, Femenismo Global with former NYC Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, Health Action TV with Former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Forward Together: Bishop William J. Barber II and the Poor People’s Campaign. As a filmmaker, Mendez collaborated on the film Coffee and a Donut the 2019 Best Short film by Independence Latino Film Festival NYC, Int’l Indie works (Audience Choice Award); SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Short film Showcase, and Dominican film Festival showcase. She is Co-Producer Clandestiny, the Artemis Award-winner Women in Action Film.
Okema T. Moore
Okema T. Moore is a PGA producer and rising director. She has creative produced and/or directed projects ranging from the narrative 2019 ABFF winner Little Apple – to branded content for Lifetime, Netflix, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, FOX, BET and DOVE. She is an alum of the Tribeca Film Festival and has a Telly and Webby Award for 2021. Okema has also produced shows for the Food Network, TLC, BET and OWN. Most recently she produced a new follow-doc series dropping on BET this fall, was the showrunner for BRIC TV’s first late-night talk show, and Creative Produced/ Directed most of this year’s CultureCon@ Home 2021, which was virtually attended by over 20k participants. She also produced – during the pandemic – the EMMY Nominated PBS/American Masters docuseries Unladylike2020. She was one of five chosen Fellows Minority in FILM’s inaugural Branded Lab for commercial and branded directors and helps run the Black TV & Film Collective’s Black Producer Fellowship. Okema also serves as the chair of the programming committee for the BTFC Board of Directors and is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for New York Women in Film & Television.
Audrey Rosenberg is a Peabody-Award-winning, Emmy-nominated producer known for her ability to cultivate talent, develop material, and champion projects from inception to release. She co-founded Invisible Pictures, a NY-based woman-led production company focused on authentic representation, and has since returned to independent producing. Audrey has a unique ability to remain outside the Hollywood system while also working within it to promote authentic storytelling and to advocate for healing projects that deserve visibility. She is lead producer on the HBO Original documentary Katrina Babies that premiered at Tribeca 2022 in competition and will air on HBO Max August 24, 2022. Audrey produced Bull, which premiered at Cannes 2019, EP’d the series Soul City (with Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy directors Coodie&Chike) which premiered on Topic in 2020, and produced the feature Long Weekend, which was released by Sony in 2021. Other credits include EP (with Steven Soderbergh) on the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary His Way, and EP on HBO’s Emmy-winning By the People: The Election of Barack Obama (with Edward Norton). Audrey was part of the producing team on Douglas McGrath’s Infamous (starring Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, and Toby Jones). She produced Sean Gullette’s award-winning feature, Traitors; Co-EP’d Dawn Porter’s Trapped; and was Consulting Producer for the multi-award winning and Academy-Award nominated I Am Not Your Negro. Audrey is a member of the Television Academy, the Producers Guild of America, and the Documentary Producers Alliance.
For 30+ years, Sibyl has been working in film, television & stage both in the US and Asia working with major studios including MyxTV, Regal Films, Star Cinema, Metro Style & ABS-CBN. As President of Sitting Cat Productions, she’s had several films released including the feature film Sam with Executive Producer Mel Brooks and recently, the int’l feature film, Alone/Together on Netflix. She’s a Board Member of the New York Women in Film & Television & SOHO Film Forum; Co-Chair of the AAPI Working Group of the Producers Guild of America & an active member of SAG-AFTRA. She co-produced, Follow Her by multi-award winning director, Sylvia Caminer & the documentary Nomad Cowboys where she received the p.g.a. mark. Sibyl serves her 12th year as the Executive Director & Head of Programming for the SOHO International Film Festival.
Emelyn Stuart embodies all things are possible when you marry purpose, passion, serious work ethic and commitment. Producing wasn’t an obvious path for this businesswoman who doesn’t deem herself an innate “creative” but it has proven to be a great fit for an extraordinary woman that has allowed making a difference propel her to uncharted territory. With a degree in business and less than a decade in the industry, Stuart has exemplified leadership and provided inspiration to filmmakers globally. A vast range of projects that includes a successful off-Broadway play makes Stuart different from her collaborators, but also garners her recognition internationally. Her wildly successful web series, 12 Steps to Recovery, earned Emelyn the Best Producer award at the 2011 LAWebfest. Stuart is partly responsible for multiple award-winning feature films including The Turnaround and Title VII. Her feature film Life Is Too Short premiered to sold out audiences in New York during its debut screening and in 2017 it was awarded Best Feature Film domestically and internationally at various film festivals. In 2018, Stuart opened an independent movie theater in New York called Stuart Cinema & Cafe. It will offer distribution deals to independent filmmakers and be a resource hub for artists. Now in 2022, she is building a multiplex movie theater in NY. This will make her the first Afro Latina to own a multiplex in NY.
Rachel Watanabe-Batton has been a producer of film, tv and popular culture for more than 20 years. She founded NY-based production company Contradiction and Struggle to connect cinema, causes and capital and create authentic content that cultivates community, diversity and empathy. Current projects include the documentary Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl with NYWIFT Muse and Nancy Malone Directing Awardee Julie Dash, which is based on chef Vertamae Grosvenor’s memoir cookbook and received a 2019 National Endowment for the Humanities production grant. She was a 2019 IFP Week Creator/Fellow for the documentary with Dash, and narrative series 1850 about mixed couples, migration and polarized politics during an epidemic (co-created with NYWIFT member Lara Stapleton). Her work has been supported by grantors including NEH, NEA, Black Public Media, Ford Foundation and Radcliffe. Rachel is an in-demand consultant, moderator, speaker and juror at film festivals and conferences, and known for spearheading diverse inter-guild readings, women’s industry mixers and the popular Celebration of Women parties during Tribeca and Sundance. She was honored by Mayor Bill DeBlasio and former NYC MOME Commissioner Cynthia Lopez with the MADE IN NY Award for her leadership as Producers Guild of America East Vice Chair, PGA Diversity Committee Chair (2008-2018) and co-founder of PGA Women’s Impact Network. She currently serves as Chair of the Board of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (largest media access center in the U.S.) and on the boards of New York Women in Film & Television, and Women Independent Producers. Rachel is committed to creating quality storytelling and cultivating gender, race and class equity for a more humane world.
Kuye Youngblood is an Emmy award-winning producer with experience in scripted and documentary series. She is currently the Head of Development & Production at BRIC TV. Her responsibilities include creative development of new series including The Great Pretender with filmmaker Nathan Silver (Tribeca) and managing a team of dynamic media makers. Her EP work screened at Tribeca Film, Sundance, New Voices in Black Cinema, Hot Docs, ABFF, and Bentonville. Original series include The Show about the Show, Brooklynification, Dinette, and All Hail Beth. She’s a Speaker at SXSW and SeriesFest and a producer/moderator for IFP panels. She was also series producer for Neighborhood Beat, a show about her hometown Brooklyn!
Marsha S. Brooks, Esq., Legal Counsel to NYWIFT
Marsha S. Brooks is a partner in the New York City law firm of Brooks & Distler. She has worked primarily in the areas of entertainment and intellectual property law for over 30 years. Brooks represents producers, writers, directors, rights owners and “for profit” and “not-for-profit” institutions in the fields of legitimate theatre, motion picture, television and “new” technology. She is general counsel for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and New York Women in Film and Television, Inc. Brooks served as co-Vice Chair of the Theatre and Performing Arts Division of the ABA Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries. Brooks has been a guest lecturer on a variety of subjects in the areas of intellectual property and arts-related law at, among others, Stanford University School of Law, Columbia University School of Law, Fordham Law School, New York University School of Law, Hofstra Law School, Commercial Theater Institute, Symposia of the American Bar Association’s Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries, Showbiz Expo East and Duke University.
Gale Anne Hurd
Lisa F. Jackson
Pat Swinney Kaufman
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Mary Tyler Moore
Susan E. Morse
Sarah Jessica Parker
Regina K. Scully
Joan Micklin Silver
Patrizia von Brandenstein
Jane C. Wagner
Jamie Zelermyer, Producer (CHAIR)
Alexis Alexanian, Producer
Laverne Berry, Law Office of Laverne Berry
Grace Blake, Producer
Mirra Bank Brockman, Director/Producer
Marsha S. Brooks, Esq., Brooks & Distler (Legal Counsel to NYWIFT)
Beth Dembitzer, Producer/Director, Social Cinema
Alice Elliott, Director/Producer
Patricia Fili- Krushel, Executive
Harlene Freezer, Capstone Entertainment
Ellen C. Geiger, The Frances Goldin Agency
Carey Graeber, Great Plains Productions
Terry Greenberg, Producer, Short and Sweet Productions
Lisa Hackett, Leftfield Entertainment
Linda Kahn, Linda Kahn Media
Marjorie Kalins, Consultant/Producer
Pat Swinney Kaufman, NYS Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & TV Development
Wendy Keys, Producer
Terry Lawler, TLC Company
Alexandra Levi, Element Financial Group
Susan Margolin, St. Marks Productions
Annetta Marion, Director
Eileen Newman, Tribeca Film Institute
Joy Pereths, Essential Media LLC
Simone Pero, Producer, For Impact Productions
Muriel “Mike” Peters, Peters Productions
Terrie Pologianis, A+E Networks
Marquita Pool-Eckert, Eckert Associates
Diane Robina, TV Guide Network
Wendy Sax, Producer
Marcie L. Setlow, Setlow Media
Claire Shanley, Producer
Joan Micklin Silver, SilverFilm
Diane Sokolow, Sokolow & Company
Caren Spruch, National Director, Arts & Entertainment Engagement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Patrizia Von Brandenstein, Production Designer
Ellen Zalk, Fractional Chief Operations Officer