NYWIFT 2024 FinanceHER Institute

Join us for the NYWIFT 2024 FinanceHER Institute at Film at Lincoln Center, a one-day conference to refine your business strategies.

Gain fresh insights from some of today’s leading experts in the industry and position your projects for optimum success. Hear from industry professionals who have successfully funded their projects and learn what greenlighters are looking for today.

Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Time: 12:00 – 4:00pm ET

Location: Film at Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Amphitheater (144 W. 65th Street)

Ticket Pricing: For NYWIFT Members: $45 / For Non-members: $75

NYWIFT Platinum and Leadership Members attend for free!
(Discount is applied after login)


Become a member today to receive discounted access: email membership@nywift.org to join!

New York Women in Film & Television is a non-profit professional association dedicated to helping women reach the highest levels of creative achievement in television, film and media. In addition to providing services to members, NYWIFT plays a vital role in recognizing the contributions of women in media. To learn more about NYWIFT and our programs, please visit www.nywift.org


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.


Peter Marra, Senior Vice President & Group Director at Flagstar Bank

Peter Marra started his banking career at Republic National Bank in 1987. Throughout his career, Peter has worked extensively with middle market commercial clients, high net worth individuals and their advisors. Peter’s clients have operated in a wide variety of industries including entertainment, temporary staffing, manufacturing, importing and real estate. He possesses extensive experience with personal and professional services firms such as business management firms, law firms and accounting practices. Peter provides his clients with multitude of financial services to assist them in meeting their diverse banking and credit needs. Credit solutions have included working capital lines of credit, term loans and extensions of credit to intellectual property owners collateralized by IP assets such as music copyrights. Peter and his Flagstar Private Client Group are always available to meet with prospective new clients to discuss how their team can assist with fulfilling deposit, cash management and credit needs.


Simone Pero, Emmy-Nominated Producer

Emmy-nominated producer Simone Pero is President and founder of For Impact Productions whose portfolio includes highly lauded films The Tale starring Laura Dern, This Changes Everything with Geena Davis, and the upcoming films Lilly starring Patricia Clarkson and Yvonne Russo’s documentary Viva Verdi!. Simone is a sought-after advisor and consultant on film-anthropy financing models and social impact distribution campaigns.

An active leader in the media industry, Simone was former Board President and current advisory board member of New York Women in Film and Television and on faculty at the Stony Brook Killer Films MFA in Film & TV Writing program. She was named by Cynopsis Media as a Top Woman in Media in Community Building.

Simone is a former corporate communications executive at Rainbow Media/Cablevision (now AMC Networks) and MTV. Her career was launched in the Clinton Administration and as a communications consultant for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and leading nonprofits.


Opening Keynote Conversation with Award-Winning Film & TV Director and Writer Rachel Feldman and NYWIFT CEO Cynthia Lopez: 

The process of creating an independent film is an arduous journey and it took more than 15 years from when filmmaker Rachel Feldman first got the idea to make Lilly till placing the DCP in the hands of sales agents. Hear how a veteran television director transformed into an independent filmmaker, learning how to communicate with financiers and create a community of like-minded creatives, bringing a brand new, soon to be released feature film Lilly, starring Patricia Clarkson, John Benjamin Hickey and Thomas Sadoski to the screen.


Rachel Feldman, Writer/Director 

Director Rachel Feldman just completed Lilly, a feature film starring Patricia Clarkson, John Benjamin Hickey and Thomas Sadoski, based on the life of Lilly Ledbetter, the tire factory supervisor turned fair pay activist for whom President Obama named his first piece of legislation. A veteran director in series television, Lilly is her first feature film.
Feldman has directed pilots and series for: ABC, CBS, NBC, MGM, Amazon, SyFy and Lifetime. Recent credits include multiple episodes of: The Baxters, Blue Bloods, The Rookie & Criminal Minds. Her award-winning short films have been broadcast on HBO, PBS and Showtime, produced on grants from The Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, AFI, Kodak and Panavision.

Also a screenwriter, the screenplay for Lilly won the Athena List, was a Breaking Through the Lens Cannes selection and was awarded the NYWFT Ravenal Foundation Grant. Her pilot Kinks won ScreenCraft’s Best Pilot Award, was chosen as both a WGA Best Spec Pilot and a WGA Drama Queens winner, and was the US selection for Cannes Series MIPTV. She has written movies for Lifetime Television and SyFy.

Feldman was co-chair of the DGA Women’s Steering Committee and is an activist for gender parity in the film industry. You can read many of her articles here: https://www.rachelfeldman.com/activism. She holds an MFA from NYU in film directing and has taught directing in the MFA program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Early in her career, Feldman was a child actor with many credits in television. When her graduate thesis film, Giustina, won over 25 national and international awards, she became a storyboard artist for directors including Brian DePalma, Peter Yates and Jerry Belson on studio films. Watch her Ted talk and follow her @WomenCallAction.


Cynthia López is the Chief Executive Officer of New York Women in Film & Television, 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. 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 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. Including the prestigious Leading Light Award from DOCNYC.


Informational Brief on NYWIFT’S Fiscal Sponsorship Program

A brief overview of NYWIFT’s fiscal sponsorship program which allows filmmakers to access foundation and government grant funding that may only be accessible to nonprofit organizations or fiscally sponsored projects.


Easmanie Michel manages NYWIFT’s fiscal sponsorship program; works closely with NYWIFT’s CEO and treasurer on the monthly profit and loss statement and annual budget; handles the day-to-day tasks of recording financial transactions; works with the Finance Controller on reconciliations and the yearly audit; co-produces the Muse Awards and Designing Women; coordinates the Animation Series; and curates the Immigrant Screening Series. Easmanie has worked continuously in the film and television industry since 2004. She worked in the production office for the feature films Transporter and Miami Vice. She worked as the location assistant on the film Hoot. She worked as the assistant production coordinator on TV Series Miami Ink. She also worked on TV show Burn Notice and CSI: Miami. Easmanie is currently producing the feature Caroline’s Wedding, which she co-wrote. The script was a finalist for the New York University Fusion Film Festival and it was also one of the scripts selected to participate in the Women at Sundance Financing and Strategy Intensive in 2016. In February of 2018 the script was the Grand Prize Winner of the American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest. The script was also a finalist for the New Renaissance London Film Festival in 2021. Easmanie also received the New York Council on the Arts Individual Artist grant for Caroline’s Wedding. She has MA in Cinema Studies from New York University and and she is currently completing a Certificate in Financial Accounting at NYU. A list of Easmanie’s production credits can be found at https://pro.imdb.com/name/nm1890668


For over 30 years, Sibyl Reymundo-Santiago has been involved in film, television and stage production both in the US and Asia working with major studios such as MyxTV, Regal Films, Star Cinema, Metro Style and ABS-CBN Int’l. As President of Sitting Cat Productions, Sibyl has had several films released since 2015 including the Nicholas Brooks’ debut feature film SAM with Executive Producer Mel Brooks and casts that include Morgan Fairchild, Tom Pelphrey & Bryan Batt, Alone Together with Philippines stars Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil, directed by Antoinette Jadaone, and most recently, the feature film Follow Her starring Luke Cook & Dani Barker, directed by award winning director Sylvia Caminer. Having successfully tackled roles ranging from acting, producing and directing, Sibyl knows firsthand what it takes to bring a story from script to screen. She is a Member of the Board of the NY Women in Film & Television and currently serves as VP of Events. She is an active member of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA), the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and is a founding member and former Co-Lead of the AAPI Working Group as part of the One Guild Initiative. Sibyl is a recipient of The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York, Arts & Culture Award at Carnegie Hall. Sibyl also remains an active member of both SAG-AFTRA and Actor’s Equity, and has appeared in several film, television, and stage productions in New York City. She is in post on a documentary where she received the p.g.a. mark, while developing her own series. Sibyl serves her 13th year as the Executive Director and Head of Programming for the SOHO International Film Festival. www.sittingcatproductions.com www.sohofilmfest.com  



Panel 1: Meet the Greenlighters

Representatives from leading distributors, foundations, and broadcasters will give an inside look at how they make decisions about what projects to support and promote. These industry stakeholders will provide insights into what catches their eye and the missteps to avoid.

This discussion will include Kent Sanderson (Bleecker Street), Chris White (American Documentary), Marsha Cooke (ESPN Films), Jenni Wolfson (Chicken & Egg Pictures) and more to be announced. Moderated by Frances Negrón-Muntaner.


Kent Sanderson is President of Bleecker Street, which he joined upon its inception in 2014. In his role, he helps oversee, under CEO and founder Andrew Karpen, all aspects of Bleecker Street’s acclaimed film slate, which includes upcoming films like The Fabulous Four with Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, and Sheryl Lee Ralph from director Jocelyn Moorhouse; Rumours from Guy Maddin and starring Cate Blanchett and Alicia Vikander which recently world premiered in Cannes, a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey – The Return, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche; and recent hits that include One Life, Waitress: The Musical, and the Academy Award-nominated Golda. He also directly oversees the company’s production and acquisition curation and dealmaking efforts, as well as the myriad revenue streams outside of the theatrical window, including streaming, non-theatrical, and Bleecker Street’s interest in DECAL, a home entertainment-centered joint venture with NEON that was founded in 2021. He previously served as Bleecker’s Head of Acquisitions and Ancillary Distribution. Prior to joining the company, he held positions at GoDigital, Focus Features, and the William Morris Agency.


As Executive Producer at American Documentary, Chris White is responsible for producing PBS’s award-winning documentary series POV (Point-of-View), as well as America ReFramed in partnership with GBH WORLD Channel. Having worked at this non-profit media arts organization for twenty four years, Chris has presented over 300 films for national broadcast on public television. And since becoming Executive Producer in 2015, POV films have won 15 Emmys, 14 George Foster Peabody Awards, and have garnered 9 Academy Award nominations, including the films Minding the Gap in 2019, The Mole Agent in 2021, and A House Made of Splinters at last year’s Oscars. In September 2023, at the 44th News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Chris was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) Silver Circle, a society honoring members of the television community who have made an enduring contribution (over 25 years) to the industry.

Notable projects and partnerships over the years have included POV’s Diverse Voices Project, providing co-production support and mentorship to emerging BIPOC filmmakers; and the Project VoiceScape Awards honoring young documentarians, produced in partnership with Adobe Youth Voices. Chris is at the forefront of a decade-plus-long relationship with StoryCorps, bringing animated versions of their award-winning oral-history project to public television. And this year marks the seventh season of POV Shorts, showcasing the best in short-form non-fiction film.

Chris was born and raised in New York City, and has a BA in Philosophy from Colgate University.


Marsha Cooke currently serves as vice president & executive producer for ESPN Films and 30 for 30. She is responsible for overseeing development, production, distribution, branding and strategy of all projects under the ESPN Films umbrella, including the 30 for 30 series.

Cooke joined ESPN from VICE Media Group, where she served as senior vice president of global news and special projects. In her role at VICE, Cooke developed and produced special news and entertainment projects across VMG digital and broadcast platforms, leading the youth media company in pushing the limits of broadcast news formats and playing a key role in integrating VICE’s forward-thinking values with its award-winning content.

Cooke was instrumental in leading VICE News’ first-ever live coverage of the 2020 Iowa Brown and Black Forum, the nation’s oldest and only non-partisan presidential forum dedicated exclusively to addressing issues facing communities of color. With unprecedented candidate attendance and a groundbreaking, engaging format, the program won a national news Emmy. Cooke also previously led IMPACT at VICE, where she directed social good and community engagement in order to build and strengthen VICE’s culture, partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives, with a focus on ensuring the company’s work would affect long standing change in local and global communities.

Prior to VICE, Cooke spent 24 years at CBS. She was the first Black Asia Bureau Chief, responsible for coverage across the continent, producing stories for various CBS News shows and she served as VP of news services, in charge of the Newspath newsgathering group serving 200 CBS affiliates nationwide and broadcasters around the world.


Jenni Wolfson, CEO of Chicken & Egg Pictures, is a leader in the art of driving social change through narrative storytelling. Since becoming the organization’s first CEO in 2013, Chicken & Egg Pictures has quadrupled its annual grantmaking, creatively supported a global community of 500 filmmakers, and earned significant awards for impact.

Jenni began her career as a human rights activist with long-term roles in Haiti, Rwanda, and elsewhere with UNICEF and the UN, and was the Managing Director at WITNESS. Jenni wrote and performed a solo play, “RASH,” about her experiences as an activist.

Jenni is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and BAFTA.


Michael Rosenberg is the President of Film Movement, an independent NYC-based film distributor founded in 2002. The company specializes in world cinema, independent films and documentaries, releasing more than 20 new films each year. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Rungano Nyoni, Wanuri Kahiu, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Kamila Andini, Nana Mensah, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched the reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray, including films by such noted directors as Chen Kaige, Stanley Kwan, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, King Hu, Arturo Ripstein, Sergio Corbucci, Nanni Moretti, and Luchino Visconti. Film Movement Plus, a subscription video-on-demand service, launched in 2018, and became available as an Amazon Prime Video channel this past December. Michael began his career in music distribution, and spent over 25 years working for Koch Entertainment and its successor company, Entertainment One US. He served as president of Koch Entertainment Distribution, president of Koch Vision, EVP of Koch Lorber Films (2003-2008), and President of eOne Films US, until becoming an owner and President of Film Movement in 2014.


Frances Negrón-Muntaner is a filmmaker, writer, scholar, and professor at Columbia University, where she is also the founding curator of the Latino Arts and Activisms collection at Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities. Among her books and publications are: Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (2004), The Latino Media Gap (2014), and Still So White?, an upcoming study on race and recognition in Hollywood. Her films include Brincando el charco (1994) and War for Guam (2015).

Negrón-Muntaner has received various awards, such as the United Nations’ Rapid Response Media Mechanism global expert designation in Latin/o American media studies (2008), the Latin American Studies Association’s Frank Bonilla Public Intellectual Award (2019), and the Premio Borimix from the Society for Educational Arts in New York (2019). Negrón-Muntaner is a founding board member and former chair of the National Association of National Association of Latino Independent Producers. She is completing a series of projects, including a documentary and book on the award-winning Valor y Cambio, an art, digital storytelling, and just economy installation stemming from Puerto Rico’s debt crisis (valorycambio.org).



Panel 2: Creative Ways to Secure Funding

From GoFundMe to podcasts to nonprofits, there are more alternatives to financing today than ever before. These panelists have successfully navigated nontraditional funding paths for both their narrative and documentary projects’ production and distribution.

This discussion will include Brian Newman, Jennifer Fox, Deborah Kampmeier, and Trevite Willis. Moderated by Cornelia Ravenal


Brian Newman, founder of Sub-Genre, consults on content strategy, distribution and marketing for some of the top brands in the world. Current and former clients include: The Climate Pledge (Amazon), John Deere, Lowe’s, Oatly, Patagonia, Purina, REI, SmugMug, Sonos, Stripe, Sundance, Tazo, WeTransfer, and Yeti Coolers. Brian has served as CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute, produces independent films, and writes a popular weekly newsletter on film. Brian is the founder of the Brand/Foundation Alliance, and serves on the advisory board of the Camden International Film Festival. He has served on the boards of Grantmakers in Film & Electronic Media (GFEM, now Media Impact Funders, as Vice Chair and Treasurer); Muse Film & Television, Rooftop Films (Chair) and IndieCollect (Co-Founding Board Member).


Jennifer Fox is an internationally acclaimed producer, director, writer and camerawoman. Her film, The Tale, which she wrote, directed, and produced, received two Emmy nominations, three Critics Choice nomination, one Golden Globe nomination, and many more. It featured an all-star cast including Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and Common. The film premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance 2018 and was purchased by HBO Films. Her other groundbreaking films include: Beirut: The Last Home Movie (Grand Prize Winner & Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival; Frontline WGBH), the ten-hour An American Love Story (Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals, Gracie Award, Primetime PBS/BBC/ARTE), the six-part, Flying Confessions of a Free Woman (IDFA and Sundance Film Festivals; Sundance Channel), and the feature My Reincarnation (Emmy Award nominated, IDFA and Hamptons Film Festivals; IDFA Audience Award; Premiere POV). Fox has been hired to write several screenplays including The Other Doctor Gilmer and The Climb for Netflix and is currently developing the series Ruth’s Ghosts. She executive produced many award-winning films including Love & Diane, On the Ropes, She’s Lost Control, The Pathological Optimist, and the soon to be released The Girl from Koln. Fox appeared in several films about filmmaking: To Heck with Holliwood!; Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment; and Capturing Reality: The Art of the Documentary. Fox teaches master classes and in universities internationally. Her films have been shown in retrospectives around the world.


Deborah Kampmeier is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, directed, produced and edited four independent feature films and multiple shorts. Her first feature, Virgin, starring Elisabeth Moss and Robin Wright, was nominated for two 2004 Independent Spirit Awards. Her second feature, Hounddog, starring Dakota Fanning and Robin Wright was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. In addition, Kampmeier, is a highly sought after television director, having directed dozens of episodes of tv. This spring she returned to HBO’s critically-acclaimed period drama The Gilded Age, and recently directed the Western thriller Outer Range starring Josh Brolin, for Amazon. Kampmeier is the founder and CEO of The New Myths Film Fund, an investment, production, sales and marketing platform for female identified filmmakers.


Trevite Willis is the head of development and productions at Best Yet Entertainment and a film festival founder committed to courageous storytelling and championing underrepresented voices.

Ms. Willis is a one of the Co-Producers on the Broadway musical, The Wiz; Executive Producer on the Sundance 2024 film, Kidnapping, Inc.; Co-Executive Producer on the Sundance 2023 film, To Live and Die and Live; and was an executive producer on the Sundance 2020 award-winning film, Forty Year Old Version. She is currently in post production on the 2020 political documentary, Black Voters Matter, following civil rights activists LaTosha Brown and Cliff and April Albright as they rallied voters in the general and Georgia’s U.S. Senate run-off elections.

Ms. Willis is a producer on a number of projects in production: Listen to My Heartbeat, The Inquisitor: The Barbara Jordan Doc, and Harvest. She has produced 7 feature films, including Cargo (2017 Amnesty International Human Rights Prize), Blood Bound, Maya and Her Lover, and Children of God which had theatrical releases in the US, UK and The Netherlands, won 17 awards, and sold in 24 territories.

In 2018, Ms. Willis launched the Southern Fried Film Festival in Huntsville, Alabama with fellow founder, Kelley Reischauer. She was a 2024 Starz/Blackhouse Television Producing Lab Fellow and a 2020 Blackhouse Multicultural Producers Lab fellow. She is an alumni of Trans Atlantic Partners (2017), a Sundance Catalyst fellow (2018), and a Women at Sundance Strategy Intensive fellow (2017, 2019). Ms Willis was a SXSW Tech Conference speaker (Mining Diversity: Developing a Community of Color, 2012). Ms. Willis is a member of New York Women in Film & Television, Women in Film, The Gotham and Women Independent Producers.



Cornelia Ravenal came to film by way of journalism in India, scriptwriting in Sweden and directing in France. As a writer, she’s written scripts for Charles B. Wessler (Green Book), Lars von Trier’s Zentropa (Dogme 95), and has co-written adaptations of Swedish novels. Producing credits include the award-winning documentaries Moving Stories (Amazon Prime) the offbeat doc Five Feelings About Food, and the off-Broadway play Nirbhaya, a NY Times Critics Pick. Her short films and documentaries have screened at over 70 festivals worldwide. Her projects have received grants from NYSCA, IFP and the Swedish Film Institute, been selected for incubators at ASCAP and BMI, and been recognized by the Academy Nicholl Fellowship and the Writers Lab funded by Meryl Streep. She’s currently writing a graphic novel. Previously, she was a journalist, including two years as a US Correspondent for India Today, India’s leading newsmagazine. She began her career writing for musical theater with Out of the Reach of Children (book, music and lyrics), the longest running show in the history of New Playwrights’ Theater. As a changemaker, she’s founded and run several professional groups, including Women Independent Producers, which began in her living room and now has several hundred members. She’s also inaugurated grants including NYWIFT’s Ravenal Feature Film Grant for a woman director over 40. Her extended family comes from Eastern Europe, South Asia, Scandinavia, and the Middle East and embraces all five of the world’s major religions, bringing a wide range of influences to everything she supports or creates. 


Closing Keynote: Emmy-Award Winning Documentary Filmmaker Luchina Fisher

Learn about the journey of her short documentary The Dads, executive produced by Dwyane Wade and acquired by Netflix, which received a 2024 Daytime Emmy Award and Special Recognition Award from GLAAD.


(Photo by Robby Klein/Contour by Getty Images)

Luchina Fisher is the Emmy-winning director and producer of The Dads, about five fathers of trans kids bonding on a weekend fishing trip. The short documentary, executive produced by Dwyane Wade and acquired by Netflix, received a 2024 Daytime Emmy Award and Special Recognition Award from GLAAD.

Her directorial debut, Mama Gloria, about a Black trans elder activist, was nominated for a 2022 GLAAD Media Award and broadcast on PBS. She is also the director of the award-winning short documentary Team Dream, executive produced by Queen Latifah, and co-director of the award-winning feature documentary Locked Out, about the barriers to Black homeownership. Her new project about the unsung history of Black queer presence in music was the winner of the 2023 PitchBLACK Film Forum. Fisher also teaches documentary filmmaking at Yale University.



The NYWIFT 2024 FinanceHER Institute is brought to you by

June 26 @ 12:00pm
12:00 pm — 4:00 pm (4h)

Film at Lincoln Center – Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Amphitheater
144 W 65th St, New York, NY 10023



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.