2023 NYWIFT Creative Workforce STEM Summit: Day 1 at The Paley Center for Media

Join us for Day 1 of the 2023 NYWIFT Creative Workforce STEM Summit at The Paley Center for Media.

Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Time: Program from 9am – 1pm ET (Breakfast reception at 8:30am)

Location: The Paley Center for Media, (25 West 52 Street, New York, NY 10019)

Tickets: In order to make our incredible lineup of innovative leaders accessible to the wider community, we are excited to announce that attendance at the NYWIFT Creative Workforce STEM Summit at the Paley Center will be complimentary!



Full Schedule and Speaker Bios:

Welcome Address:

Leslie Fields-Cruz, NYWIFT Board 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.


Kevin Clark, PhD, Program Director, Directorate for STEM Education (EDU), National Science Foundation

Kevin Clark, PhD has extensive experience in higher education, digital technology, and children’s media. His goal is to have all children see themselves (and their communities) in the content they consume. Currently, Kevin is a program director at the National Science Foundation, where he provides oversight for a multi-million dollar portfolio that focuses on the use of digital technology and media for STEM learning. Dr. Clark’s professional journey began as part of an Ed tech startup that created innovative educational video games for children in grades K-8 on the Sony PlayStation. Previously, Kevin was director of preschool animation at Netflix, where he sourced, evaluated, and guided the development of preschool television shows. Kevin began his work with Netflix as the creative producer on Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, where he developed the show’s educational framework.


Keynote Introduction by Cynthia Lopez, NYWIFT Chief Executive Officer

Cynthia López is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. López is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, and two duPont-Columbia Awards. In addition, she received the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was Executive Vice President and co-Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV, and was involved in the organization’s strategic growth and creative development for 14 years. Her ability to forge strategic partnerships among corporate and public interest media has been a signature of her work. Notable partnerships include: New York Times, Reuters, Al-Jazeera Network, Discovery Communications, The Moth, Story Corps, Harpo Studios and ABC News, NIGHTLINE with Ted Koppel. López is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), and is proud to have spent her career collaborating with independent filmmakers across all portions of the film and television industry. She served on the Board of Trustees for the Paley Center, NYC & Company, Museum of the Moving Image and the Tribeca Film Institute Latin America Fund Advisory Board. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Latino Public Broadcasting, Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Hunter College IMA Program.


Opening Keynote: It’s Rocket Science: Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Aerospace Engineers

Tiera Fletcher, Award-winning Aerospace Engineer, Modernizations Program Manager and Site Project Engineer

From Mableton, Georgia, Tiera Fletcher graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering in 2017. During her senior year at MIT, Tiera also worked as a Rocket Structural Design and Analysis Engineer at The Boeing Company, specifically working on NASA’s Space Launch System: the most powerful rocket ever built that will enable us to send humans to Mars and beyond. She has used both academic and communal experiences as a Rocket Structural Analysis Engineer, a Rocket Structural Engineer, a Structural Design Engineer, and a Product Life Cycle Engineer. After completing a Master of Engineering Management from Duke University and recently serving as a Deputy Program Manager and Project Engineer, she is now the Modernizations Program Manager and Site Project Engineer, working on groundbreaking space projects in Maui, Hawaii.

Outside of work, she focuses on encouraging the youth through mentorship, motivational speaking, and teaching through outreach organization Rocket With The Fletchers, which she co-founded with her husband, Myron Fletcher, who is also a rocket scientist. Fletcher is the co-author of the book Wonder Women of Science, in addition to the I Can Be book series, which is set to be released in July 2023 on Amazon.


Women’s Healthcare: Societal Challenges & Medical Innovations

With women’s healthcare at the forefront of our political climate, filmmakers and physicians come together to discuss how increased public awareness and medical innovations can move the U.S. medical system toward positive change. Filmmaker Paula Eiselt, whose films Aftershock and 93 Queen address the healthcare system’s impact on specific communities and cultures, and Voice Love Co-Founder Dr. Marc Schiffman (Weill Cornell Medicine), who specializes in minimally invasive vascular and surgery including treatment of post-partum hemorrhage, will be in conversation about women’s healthcare technologies, the U.S.’s Black maternal mortality crisis, and how we can work together to build a safer, more comfortable, and more equitable environment for all women in need of quality health care.   

Dr. Marc Schiffman: Executive Co-Director of the Weill Cornell Fibroid and Adenomyosis Center

Dr. Marc Schiffman is the Executive Co-Director of the Weill Cornell Fibroid and Adenomyosis Center. Dr. Schiffman earned his B.S. degree from Cornell University and was awarded his M.D. degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical Center. He received a commendation for top clinical performance and was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Dr. Schiffman completed his radiology residency training and Fellowship at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Dr. Schiffman was then recruited to the full- time faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College- NYPH in July 2009. He has performed the first adrenal radio frequency ablation, liver, kidney and bone microwave ablations, balloon retrograde transvenous variceal obliteration, and laparoscopic renal cancer cryosurgery at New York Hospital. He has successfully completed the world’s first pediatric percutaneous construction of an absent Inferior Vena Cava and has performed multiple additional first in the world surgical procedures.

Dr. Schiffman has been invited to speak about renal cancer cryosurgery, uterine fibroid and varicocele embolization at National and International medical conferences. He is the only physician in the Tri-state region performing noninvasive MR-guided focused ultrasound surgery for uterine fibroids and adenomyosis. He is the Co-Founder of VoiceLove, a company founded in his mother’s honor which was recently awarded a $3 million NIA grant to keep families and loved ones connected in healthcare.

Paula Eiselt: Director/Producer, Aftershock

Paula Eiselt is a Peabody-award-winning independent filmmaker known for her journalistic rigor in telling timely and intelligent cinematic stories led by strong-willed characters. Her films have screened at over 100 film festivals worldwide including Sundance, SXSW, and Hot Docs, and distributed on platforms such as Hulu, Disney+, HBOMax, PBS’s POV, and Arte. She is most notably known for her award-winning documentary features, 93QUEEN (HBOmax/POV) and AFTERSHOCK (Sundance/Hulu/Disney+), and most recently, UNDER G-D (Sundance 2023), marking her second consecutive year premiering work at the Sundance Film Festival./p>

AFTERSHOCK premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Doc Competition and was awarded the Special Jury Award: Impact for Change. The film was acquired by Disney’s Onyx Collective and ABC News Studios and released on Hulu and Disney+ in July 2022. Most recently, AFTERSHOCK was named a 2023 Peabody Award winner. Other awards include the Full Frame Film Festival’s Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights, NIHCM Television and Journalism award, as well as two Critics Choice Documentary awards nominations, including Best Documentary Feature.

Paula was previously a Concordia Studio fellow, Sundance Producers Summit fellow, IFP Filmmaker Lab fellow and Wyncote fellow. Her work has been supported by ITVS, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Fund, Sundance Catalyst, Impact Partners, New York State Council of the Arts, Just Films | Ford Foundation, IDA Enterprise Fund, IDA Pare Lorentz Doc Fund, Jewish Story Partners, American Stories Documentary Fund (sponsored by CNN Films), Points North Institute, Fork Films, Gucci Tribeca Doc Fund, Chicago Media Project, the Hartley Film Foundation, IFP, and Women Make Movies.In 2022, IndieWire named Paula one of 22 Rising Filmmakers to Watch and she is a 2022 DOC NYC 40 Under 40 honoree. Paula is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a double major in Film Production and Cinema studies.

Maria Hinojosa (Moderator): Award-winning Journalist, Anchor, Executive Producer, 2023 NYWIFT Muse Enid Roth Award for Excellence in Journalism Recipient

In 2010 Maria Hinojosa founded Futuro Media, an independent, nonprofit newsroom based in Harlem, NYC with the mission to create multimedia content from a POC perspective. As Anchor and Executive Producer of the Peabody Award-winning show Latino USA —celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023— and Co-Host of the award-winning political podcast In The Thick, and most recently her Pulitzer Prize winning podcast Suave, Hinojosa has informed millions about the changing cultural and political landscape in America and abroad. Today she seeks to challenge newsrooms across the world with her new Latina-led investigative journalism unit and its flagship bilingual podcast USA v. García Luna.


Presentation of NYWIFT Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant

NYWIFT Board Member Emelyn Stuart (CEO, Stuart Cinema & Café) will present the 2023 NYWIFT Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant to filmmaker Ravit Markus. Markus’s documentary Nina follows Israeli Para-badminton champion Nina Gorodetsky, who aspires to conquer greater competitive heights while reckoning with the maturation of her body as both a mother and as an athlete approaching her 40th birthday.

Emelyn Stuart, NYWIFT Board Member and CEO of Stuart Cinema Cafe

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.

Ravit Markus: NYWIFT Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grantee, Director, Nina

Writer/Director/Producer Ravit Markus’s latest documentary feature had its world premiere and won the Audience Award at the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival as part of the disability focused Unstoppable program. American Pot Story: Oaksterdam is a 10-year-follow-up on a group of Oakland underdogs who are the reason for the huge change we see today in California and worldwide in cannabis policy, and its social justice ramifications. It explores the power of the activist, no matter the cause.

She was just awarded the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness grant from NY Women in Film & Television for her next documentary, NINA, which is currently in post. It follows Israel’s champion of wheelchair badminton, Nina Gorodetsky, and her journey to the Tokyo Paralympics. It is scheduled to premiere in early 2024. Her previous documentary features include the critically acclaimed Yiddish Theater: A Love Story which she wrote and produced. It became a cultural phenomenon when it commercially played in theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Tel Aviv for months and months garnering raving reviews from the NY Times, LA Times, and the NY Magazine to mention a few, resulting in a 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It also made the list of the top 10 documentaries of 2007 in About.com. Ravit co-produced Jewish Film Festivals’ darling Rock in the Red Zone; and produced the Channel 4 UK documentary Porn Shutdown, which aired worldwide including on the Sundance Channel in the US, and received excellent reviews in The Guardian and the London Time Out. Ravit holds a dual BFA in Screenwriting and Directing from The Film and TV Department at Tel Aviv University.


Medical Advancements Onscreen and on the Horizon

As we near the first quarter mark of the 21st century, what medical advancements can we look forward to in the near future? And how do we, as media makers, portray our own medical experiences with truth, heart, and unyielding attention to fairness and accuracy? What are the ethics when you yourself are the story? Director, Lisa Hepner will discuss the making of her documentary The Human Trial, which follows her own journey with a radical new stem cell treatment for diabetes.


Climate Change – Using Media to Inform, Educate, and Prepare for the Imminent Crisis

Climate change is the greatest crisis facing our society, unfortunately fraught with political strife and desperately caught up in red tape as the waters literally rise around us. We sit down with creatives on the forefront of our environmental disasters for a frank discussion on the responsibilities of filmmakers when it comes to covering this harrowing topic with an unblinking eye. How do you best educate audiences and arm them with the information they need to survive? Should we aim to inspire, not alarm? How can we use our talents as media makers to save our planet?

William Kenworthey: Regional Leader of Urban Design at HOK

As an urban designer and architect, Bill leads HOK’s urban design projects across the Northeast region. He has been responsible for leading high-profile initiatives throughout his 24 years in the field, and his work includes efforts for government agencies, private developers, institutions and Fortune 500 Companies. Bill is passionate about urban coastal resiliency and equity within the public realm, which led to his work on the New York City Mayor’s Office Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency; PlaNYC’s “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” sustainability plan; the State of New York’s NY Rising Community Plan for Red Hook, Brooklyn; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design Initiative. He has also served as a subject matter expert for the Rockefeller Foundation’s National Disaster Resilience Academies and 100 Resilient Cities programs. Bill led HOK’s climate-change focused research “NYC2100” that studied the impact of six feet of sea level rise on the city, and which was selected as a finalist for Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards. Bill is currently leading the urban design for the new NYC Football Club (Major League Soccer) stadium in Willets Point, Queens. He has published and lectured internationally on public realm, waterfront development and resiliency.

Caitlin Saks: NOVA Senior Producer

Caitlin Saks is a senior producer for the science documentary series NOVA on PBS. Much of Caitlin’s work has focused on climate and environmental topics. Recently, she has senior produced Weathering the Future (2023), Chasing Carbon Zero (2023), Arctic Drift (2021) and Can We Cool the Planet? (2020). Caitlin also produced and co-hosted NOVA’s digital series Antarctic Extremes (2020), hosted its online companion game—the Polar Lab (2020), co-produced NOVA’s Emmy-nominated television special on climate change, Decoding the Weather Machine (2018), and co-produced the virtual reality experience Greenland Melting (2018).

She also produces content on a variety of other science topics, including senior producing the 5-part series Universe Revealed (2021), producing/writing/directing the short documentary Gene-Editing Reality Check (2020), and co-producing the duPont award winning Decoding COVID-19 (2020). Previously, as science editor for NOVA, Caitlin developed story content for programs including Polar Extremes and the Emmy-nominated, Kavli Award-winning film Poisoned Water. Before joining NOVA, Caitlin worked on a variety of films for FRONTLINE, including League of Denial (2013), The Choice 2012 (2012), and Money, Power, and Wall Street (2012).

Yvonne Russo (Moderator): NYWIFT Board Member and Award-winning film and television producer/director/writer

Yvonne Russo is an award-winning film and television producer, director, and writer specializing in Indigenous and cross-cultural stories. As an independent producer, Russo has worked in 17 countries, from Rajasthan, India, to the East African Nation of Rwanda. She is currently directing Ring of Fire: The Life of Annie Mae Aquash for HULU/ONYX Collective and in post-production on VIVA VERDI! She is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, The Producers Guild, and a contributing author for Produced By Magazine and The Huffington Post. She is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation.



See the full Summit schedule


NYWIFT Private Event Guest of Honor

Dr. Ellen Ochoa: Trailblazing Astronaut

Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, logging nearly 1,000 hours. Her 30-year career at NASA culminated in serving as the 11th Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, from 2013 until her retirement in May 2018. Prior to her astronaut career, Dr. Ochoa was a research engineer and an inventor, with three patents for optical systems. She currently serves on several boards, continues outreach through speaking engagements and bilingual children’s books, and  recently concluded a term as Chair of the National Science Board. She is honored to have seven schools named for her and has been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the California Hall of Fame, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, the Government Hall of Fame, and the National Academy of Engineering.

RSVP details for private event TBA


June 21 @ 8:30am
8:30 am — 1:00 pm (4h 30′)

25 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019


Register for Summit

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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.