2020 Creative Workforce Summit Day 3: Authorship

Please join us on Day 3 of the 2020 Creative Workforce Summit to discuss
Authorship: Our Stories, Directed, Produced and Written by Us

Women and BIPOC documentarians discuss new opportunities to tell their own stories through traditional (feature films, streaming, and cable networks) and new non-traditional (mobile phones, virtual conversations, and social media) formats. Emphasis on social justice storytelling, who gets to tell whose story, how filmmakers are adapting to the challenges of the pandemic, and the significance of telling stories now during the thriving Black Lives Matter movement and on the eve of the presidential election. 

Date: Thursday, October 22

Time: 4-6 PM EST

Free to attend.

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Opening Keynote:

Marcia Smith, President and co-founder of Firelight Media, which produces documentary films, provides artistic and financial support to emerging filmmakers of color, and builds impact campaigns to connect documentaries to audiences and social justice advocates. Under her leadership, Firelight Media was honored with a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Firelight Media’s flagship Documentary Lab program has supported more than 80 emerging filmmakers over the past decade, who have premiered at festivals such as Sundance, and gone on to earn numerous festival, Peabody, and Emmy awards.

Speakers include Maria Agui Carter (Writer/Director/Producer, President of Iguana Films), Maria Finitzo (Award winning Documentary Filmmaker, Kartemquin Films),  Nadia Hallgren (DP & Director, Michelle Obama Documentary Becoming)Shalini Kantayya (Director, Coded Bias), Yvonne Russo (Director, Untitled Annie Mae Aquash Documentary).

Moderated by Simon Moya Smith, an enrolled citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and a Chicano writer and journalist. He is a contributing writer with NBC News.


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Maria Agui Carter is the founder of Iguana Films, and a professor at Emerson College.  Recent works include: Rebel, about Loreta Velazquez, secret soldier of the American Civil War (on PBS, Amazon Prime and Itunes), winner of a 2014 Erik Barnouw award for best historical films in America; the PBS & transmedia documentary series for tween girls Scigirls, nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy award; and her work-in-progress project ALLEGED about Patricia Esparza, imprisoned for the murder of her rapist by her boyfriend.  Her new magical realist feature script The Secret Life of La Mariposa, supported by the Sundance Feature Film program, is in development. Barbara DeFina (Goodfellas, Silance) will produce, and Maria will direct, this fable about an undocumented girl fighting to survive against impossible odds.


Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody Award-winning social issue documentary filmmaker whose works as a filmmaker has resulted in a body of work that has won every major broadcast award including most recently the Alfred E duPont Award and has been screened in festivals and theaters around the world. A coming of age story that reveals the resilience of adolescent girls (5 Girls), a father determined to heal his daughter after a tragic accident (Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita) investigates the role of science in a democratic society, a young man, leaving foster care (With No Direction Home) explores the challenges of trying to find one’s place in the world, a soccer coach committed to teaching his players – Hispanic girls – about winning in life (In the Game), and a young couple, both working minimum wage jobs struggling to make ends meet while building a life for themselves and their children  (Hard- Earned) are all films that explore different realms of storytelling by investigating the important social issues of the day. She is a long-time associate of four-time Oscar-nominated Kartemquin Films.

In 2014, she founded Film Arts Productions, LLC a Chicago-based production company dedicated to producing independent fiction films. Those Left Behind, her first feature film, from her original screenplay premiered at festivals throughout the country and is in distribution with Random Media. Film Arts also has in development Finitzo’s next fiction film, A Taste of Life, an adaptation of the award-winning story Passion by Nobel Prize winning author Alice Munro. Finitzo is both the screenwriter and director. Her latest documentary film The Dilemma of Desire explores female sexual desire through the lens of women’s equality. It was selected to premier at SXSW in 2020.  


Nadia Hallgren is an award-winning filmmaker and director of photography from The Bronx, New York. Most recently Nadia directed Becoming, an Emmy-nominated documentary about former First Lady Michelle Obama that was released on Netflix in 2020. In 2019 she directed After Maria, an Academy Award-shortlisted short documentary that tells the story of three mothers displaced by Hurricane Maria. Nadia won the special jury prize at SXSW 2018 for She’s the Ticket, an independent episodic series about women running for office in response to Trump’s election, and a Webby for Public Service and Activism (2018) for her film Gavin Grimm vs., about a transgender teen from Virginia headed to the Supreme Court. With a focus on the craft of vérité storytelling, Nadia has also become one of the leading cinematographers in documentary filmmaking. Her credits include the Sundance award-winner Motherland (2017), Academy Award-nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner Trouble the Water (2008), and Sundance award-winner Trapped (2016). Nadia is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an alum of International Center of Photography.


Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s Coded Bias, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. She directed for the National Geographic television series Breakthrough, Executive Produced by Ron Howard, broadcast globally in June 2017. Her debut, Catching the Sun, premiered at the LA Film Festival and was named a NY Times Critics’ Pick. Catching the Sun released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio, and was nominated for the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary. Kantayya is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and an Associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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. Recent credits include Woman Walks Ahead; the HBO mini-series Lewis and ClarkViva Verdi!; and Rescuers: Heroes of the Holocaust. She’s a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Co-Chair of the Producers Guild of America Diversity Committee, and on the Board of Directors of New York Women in Film & Television. She is also a Sundance Institute Lab Fellow and 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.


Simon Moya-Smith (moderator), is an Oglala Lakota and Chicano writer and journalist. Formerly a staff writer with The Denver Post, Moya-Smith has since contributed to MTV, CNN, VICE, USA TODAY, and NPR among others. He has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a minor in Ethnic Studies, from the University of Colorado Denver. Currently, Moya-Smith is a contributing writer with NBC News as well as an adjunct professor of journalism and new media. His new book, Your Spirit Animal is a Jackass, will be available in 2021.



About the NYWIFT Creative Workforce Summit

Join NYWIFT for our second annual Creative Workforce Summit: Documentary Makers, Industry and Funders in Conversation.

This four-day free virtual program consists of keynote speakers, panels, and film screenings, and will bring together some of the most unique and diverse voices of women working in the entertainment industry to establish forward-moving strategies to create change and mobilize support and leadership for the future.

The NYWIFT Summit takes place with support provided by the Ford Foundation and the NEA Foundation as well as a curated film screening and panel series produced in partnership with International Documentary Association.

See the full schedule

October 22 @ 4:00pm
4:00 pm — 6:00 pm (2h)


Register for The Summit

Join the conversation on social media:
#nywift | @nywift

NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.