Letter from the Executive Director – May 19, 2021

Dear NYWIFT Community:

Spring seems to be in full swing, birds are chirping, vaccines continue to be administrated , and more production work is on the horizon. In New York City foot, bike and car traffic are on the rise. Yet, if you feel the slow exhausting churn of the year long pandemic and its effects on your life, you are not alone. We all braced ourselves and for better or worse, we have had some losses.

Now we are planning how to live our best lives in a hybrid virtual and in-person kind of way. We are creating a new way of doing things, that is highly personal and thoughtful. We at NYWIFT are doing the same. We are planning a wide array of programs, which you can explore at www.nywift.org/events. This year, the NYWIFT Summit: The Creative industry Radically Reimagined will take place virtually on June 22-25, 2021 from 4-6 PM EST. Stay tuned for more information.


Olympia Dukakis in the 1987 movie Moonstruck. She won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a sardonic Italian-American mother. Credit: MGM, via Photofest


The New York arts community lost three luminaries this month – the indomitable Olympia Dukakis, whose career on stage and screen spans six decades and left us with iconic characters from Moonstruck, Tales of the City, Steel Magnolias, and countless others. I highly recommend the recent documentary Olympia, which celebrates her life, her work, and her courageous spirit. In the film, fellow actors describe her as “totally open and crazy”, which is what turns out to be the marker of her absolute sanity.


Photo Credit: Marcelo Pontes


Longtime member Flavia Fontes – a friend so many of us got to know at NYWIFT events – has passed away from cancer. A Brazilian-American documentary director, editor, and producer, she had been making documentaries for over 20 years. Her work as an editor and director had been broadcast on HBO, PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, Berlin Film Festival, MoMA and the Sundance Film Festival. Our hearts to go out to her family and to all whose lives she touched.



We also lost past NYWIFT Board President Marjorie Kalins-Taylor. Marjorie had a long and distinguished career as a producer, executive producer, and senior production executive. She was an Executive at Children’s Television Workshop (which became Sesame Workshop), where she produced educational films, television, feature films, and radio. She was also the Consulting Producer on the award-winning documentary, Into the Fire, syndicated by PBS.

NYWIFT had the great honor of interviewing Marjorie for the NYWIFT Archive Project – our living history archive – in 2008. I encourage you to watch the interview on YouTube.


Costume designer Ann Roth works with Taylour Paige on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. (David Lee / Netflix)


In happier news, we offer our heartfelt congratulations to legendary costume designer Ann Roth – a 2015 NYWIFT Designing Women honoree – on her recent Academy Award win for her work on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. At 89, her win makes her tied with James Ivory as the oldest person to win a competitive Oscar. This was her second win and fifth nomination. And her list of upcoming credits – including the long-awaited big screen adaptation of Wicked – means she shows no sign of stopping. We still remember Ann holding court at Designing Women – and, ever the professional, even making a few adjustments to some of her classic costumes we had on display!


Designing Women honoree costume designer Ann Roth poses with her design from Mamma Mia!


Be sure to check out the NYWIFT Archive Project’s 2011 interview with Ann about her work.

Women teach us everyday what it is like to overcome obstacles to achieve excellence and we thank them for their contributions, perseverance, and savvy know-how. If you feel tired and need a pick me up please take a moment to watch NYWIFT’s Archive Project interviews and be inspired!

Adelante (Moving Forward), 

Cynthia Lopez
Executive Director, NYWIFT