Insight to Access: Pathways to Joining Unions and Guilds

New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and the New York Production Alliance (NYPA) Diversity Task Force co-present a panel discussion comprised of a diverse group of entertainment industry professionals who either are in the process of gaining entry to a union or guild or are an established member. NYPA’s Diversity Task Force seeks to make New York’s entertainment community accessible to all of our diverse communities. The Task Force believes increased visibility and accessibility of information will open the path to various jobs in our industry. The evening will consist of a discussion regarding barriers to entry and some creative ways our panelists have worked around them.


Abigail Best began her career as a freelance journalist covering independent film for magazines such as Essence, Savoy and her own publication The Urban Film Journal. Most recently she works as a production accountant for Viceland, overseeing shows such as Desus & Mero, Noisey and Action Bronson Watches Ancient Aliens and is writing and producing her own material when not in the office. In addition to entertainment related experience, she has extensive financial industry experience including over five years serving as a portfolio analyst and product manager for Citi Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley.

Pam DeMetruis-Thomas is a motion picture sound editor and designer and a member of the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild Local 700 IATSE since 1985. DeMetruis-Thomas began her career as a freelance sound recordist on documentary, industrial and low budget feature films. She worked her way up within the union from assistant sound editor to working as a supervising sound editor, sound designer, ADR editor, and sound effects editor on feature films and episodic television. Recent projects include feature films The Big Sick, Inferno, Sophie and the Rising Sun, Triple Nine, and Time Out of Mind, as well as the documentary features Joan Rivers: Exit Laughing, The Last Dalai Lama, and I Am Evidence (HBO).

Joseph Melendez began his career on the stage performing on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and stages around the world before transitioning to on-camera. He has been seen on major television networks, from his recurring role on Fox’s Prison Break, to guest star roles on CBS’s Person of Interest, Elementary and Blue Bloods, NBC’s The Blacklist, ABC’s Pan Am, and the upcoming Season 4 of Netflix’s hit series, Orange is the New Black. Melendez’ films include the blockbuster hit Fast Five, The Brave One, the award-winning independent films Runoff, Akron and The Dark Rite. Also, Melendez is one of New York’s up-and-coming coaches. His students have booked roles on Blue Bloods, Power, The Blacklist and Shades of Blue.

Allison Portney has over a decade of production experience, varying from union work, to features, to scripted and reality television. Most recently she has made her way in to the digital world, where she’s been working with various companies working to help set up standardized production operations and procedures. Portney has worked for companies including Leftfield Pictures, Refinery29, Saturday Night Live, among many others. She has worked in production management for most of her career and has filmed in 38 out of 50 states and counting.

Julius Pryor and Marttise Hill are filmmakers and the co-founders of Pryor Hill Productions. They are 2016 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellows. Pryor and Hill produced two films that had world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival: Tahir Jetter’s charming romantic comedy debut, How to Tell You’re a Douchebag (2016) and Michael Larnell’s charismatically sincere debut, Cronies (2015) which was executive produced by Spike Lee. Pryor and Hill have been featured on and as emerging producers of ethnically diverse content. They have taught courses on creative producing, screenwriting, and directing at Brooklyn College, Tribeca Film Institute, and Ghetto Film School. Pryor and Hill earned their Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature from Morehouse College and their MFA in Film Production from Tisch School of the Arts. They reside in Harlem, NY.

Flo Mitchell-Brown (Moderator pictured above) brings over 20 years of entertainment industry leadership, management, and operations experience to her role as Vice President of Payroll Operations New York at Entertainment Partners. She also has extensive experience working with non-profit entities through various Board positions and philanthropic work. She is honored to have served others within her personal and professional communities, and she is extremely proud of her work collaborating and planning events and initiatives in the non-profit sector. Mitchell-Brown currently sits on the Executive Board for NYPA and is Co-Chair of the NY Lounge at Sundance, along with numerous leadership roles in the community at large.

Produced by Flo Mitchell-Brown

Special Thanks to Light Iron for Hosting this event.

April 26 @ 6:30pm
6:30 pm — 8:30 pm (2h)

580 Broadway, 8th Floor (Between Houston and Prince Streets)

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.