Letter from the NYWIFT CEO – November 2023

The Writers Lab 2023 participants and mentors


Dear NYWIFT Community:

How do you give thanks during the holidays and reconcile the grief of our times? Not sure, but keeping our creative community together and thriving by increasing our NYWIFT Membership and signature partnerships are among our goals, as are making sure to hone our craft with NYWIFT Masterclasses, The Writers Lab, and the New Works Lab staged readings, and preserving our work for future generations through the work of the Women’s Film Preservation Fund. These are ways we give thanks for what we have and where we are today. Just talking and seeing friends and partners since the pandemic at our NYWIFT Nights Out are part of staying in-touch and feeling the pulse of our times. We aspire to keep our creative abilities sharp and competitive in order to keep New York City as a thriving creative community hub!

Life as a CEO can be exciting, dangerous, and uplifting – all at the same time. November began not only with the leaves changing vividly from green to red to yellow, but with the reality that the months keep churning at a daunting speed and no matter how quickly we work it seems sometimes to never be fast enough. And the strikes impacted so much for so long, but it is what was needed to reenergize how we work and respect our labor.

Award-winning documentary filmmakers at the DOC NYC Gala


On November 8, the DOCNYC Visionaries Tribute at Gotham Hall is where the over 500 documentary legends are gathered each year, hosted by Rafaela Neihausen and Thom Powers . This year, they honored Michael Moore, longtime NYWIFT Member Deborah Shaffer, and Erika Dilday. I received the Leading Light Award in 2019 and I felt like it was the wedding I never had – what an incredible honor and highlight of my career. There was nothing like getting an award with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Steven Bognar, and the late Julia Reichert and Michael Apted to elevate the spirit. This year, Michael Moore’s acceptance speech and closing remarks were smack on point and hysterical. NYWIFT board members Joyce Pierpoline and Yvonne Russo were in attendance and we celebrated that more than 20 NYWIFT member projects were in competition at the festival. Congratulations to all NYWIFT members featured, and to Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Executive Producer of Mediha, on the film’s Grand Jury Prize win!

When I left Gotham Hall I dashed down the street and back to my home in Jackson Heights to finish packing my luggage and drove to Saugerties, New York, to one of our signature programs, The Writers Lab. Co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon had assembled a bevy of impressive mentors (including Debora Cahn, Anya Epstein, Rita Hsiao, and Meg LeFauve – to name only a few!) along with an equally impressive set of women screenwriters over 40 as this year’s cohort. Did I mention I left NY at 6pm and what should have been a 2 ½ -hour drive turned into a 4-hour drive in the dark – where hail and a dead roadkill possum terrified a Brooklyn Girl like me! Every trucker in a rush passed me because my greatest fear is to hurt a little Bambi taking a stroll at night – one of my favorite books as a kid. So, driving very slowly on 87 North in my broken down Prius, which I refuse to let go of since it only has 110K miles, I annoyed everyone… sorry to digress!

The Writers Lab Co-Founders and 2023 mentors


For two nights, I was in the writers’ haven at Kaatsbaan Lodge – huge trees, blue skies, delicious country cooking –surrounded by women storytellers. Life can be good sometimes! The night before was so insane on the road, and just like in The Wizard of Oz, a technicolor bright morning began and everything was fine. I moderated a producers panel with Shelby Stone and Jennifer Fox. Ideas were exchanged about unique new way of producing, and we discussed how long The Tale and Bessie took to get made and the lessons learned. Lives remain changed because of the work that was done.  

Congratulations Elizabeth and Nitza for an inspirational, creatively invigorating lab that will impact and inspire all forever. And thank you to all of the talented mentors for your sage advice! A special shout out to Amenya Makuku (NYWIFT Board Member) and Jamie Zelermyer (Former Board President) for your creative contributions. To all the screenwriters in attendance, rock on mi gente! You are on your journey. Head up, shoulders back, write on… I am so happy to have crossed creative paths with you – please invite us to your premieres! To learn more about The Writers Lab please visit: thewriterslab.nyc.

Standing room only for the NYWIFT New Works Lab reading at the Episcopal Actors Guild!


On November 14, I worked 10 hours at home then jumped in the car. When the GPS stated I had arrived and I was in front of an Episcopal Church, I thought I made a mistake. And then I realized that our New Works Lab affinity group had arranged for a space at the Episcopal Actors Guild, but I remember my mother taking me to this church so many years ago at it used to be called The Little Church and it was one of the only churches in NYC that allowed burials of  artists when most cemeteries refused them. I was so impressed when I witnessed their first in-person reading since the pandemic. Thank you Desiree Rucker and Jacklyn Powell for arranging such an impressive list of writers, actors and directors. To learn more about The New Works Lab, click here.

The next day at 6:05 PM I walked into the NYWIFT Night Out hosted by NYU’s Fusion Film Festival at the Riese Lounge at Tisch I was equally blown away at the long line to get in. Over 300 people registered! It was an uplifting and entertaining evening. A huge thank you to Professor and NYWIFT Member Susan Sandler, Farah Qureshi, Shreeya Jayabharathi, Rem Jie and our  NYWIFT Board Member Okema Moore for your inspiring words and fearless approach.

NYWIFT’s Katie Chambers with NYU’s Susan Sandler, and NYWIFT Board Member Okema T. Moore chatting with NYU students


Thank you to the NYWIFT Crew that makes the magic happen every day: Katie, Rashiek, Maud, Easmanie, Sara, Dominique, and interns Catherine, Mara, and Taffy. We could not do it without you.

Sunny, breezy, crisp cool air – the creative strikes are over! Our labor force will be going back to work gradually and things will continue to evolve – but it will be different. We are different as a creative community – given the pandemic, economic crisis, racial reckoning, the strikes, climate change, and now the war. Be patient with yourself. We are healing from the quick-paced changes we are all experiencing. I hope you can enjoy some time with family, friends, and pets to have a respite from these intense times.

Save the date: The NYWIFT Muse Awards will be at Cipriani 42nd Street on March 27, 2024

Carino, Cynthia

Cynthia Lopez