NYWIFT Announces New Board of Directors President Leslie Fields-Cruz
The accomplished public media executive succeeds President Jamie Zelermyer and is joined by a diverse group of new and returning film and television industry leaders
New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) is pleased to announce the appointment of its new Board of Directors President, Leslie Fields-Cruz. Fields-Cruz has served on the NYWIFT board for four years including stints as the Vice President of Programming and of Membership. Fields-Cruz has been the Executive Director of Black Public Media since 2014, where she is focused on growing BPM’s resources to enable it to support more stories about the Black experience. She started at BPM 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, Leslie launched AfroPoP: The Ultimately Cultural Exchange, a documentary series highlighting the variety and depth of the global black experience.
“We are thrilled to have Leslie Fields-Cruz lead NYWIFT into its next era of advocacy for inclusion, equity, diversity, and safety in the film and television industry. Her extensive background in public media and longtime commitment to positive change will make her an astute, creative, and forward-thinking leader of our organization,” said NYWIFT Executive Director Cynthia Lopez.
“As Jamie Zelermyer hands me the leadership baton for the next leg of NYWIFT’s journey, I am honored and energized to work with our exceptional leader, Cynthia Lopez, and to continue serving an organization and a membership equally committed to the ideals of ensuring equity and inclusion for women in the film and television industry and the growing immersive media sector,” said new NYWIFT Board President Leslie Fields-Cruz.
Fields-Cruz succeeds former President Jamie Zelermyer. Zelermyer is an accomplished film and television producer and former VP, Physical Production at Focus Features. Most recently, Zelermyer was the executive producer, creator, and host of the hit podcast I Was Never There, which premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Festival. The podcast follows her personal exploration of the counterculture movement of her childhood and mysterious disappearance of a family friend. Zelermyer served three years as NYWIFT’s president. Highlights of her administration included NYWIFT’s 40th anniversary Muse Awards in 2019 and NYWIFT’s first-ever official in-person programming at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. Zelermyer also oversaw NYWIFT’s transition to a fully virtual programming and administrative model during the COVID-19 pandemic, which included two virtual Muse Awards programs, two Creative Workforce Summits, three Institutes, two publications, 107 NYWIFT Talks, 15 Virtual Hangouts, and 104 Industry Screenings.
“We are so grateful to Jamie Zelermyer for her steadfast leadership, especially during such a turbulent time,” said NYWIFT Executive Director Cynthia Lopez. “Her intelligence, warmth, good humor, and ability to adapt helped NYWIFT not only survive but thrive during COVID, opening us up to the expanding possibilities of virtual and hybrid programming that will make for an exciting future.”
NYWIFT is also pleased to announce the results of the 2022 Board of Directors election. Five spots on the board have been filled, with three new members and two returning members:
New Board Members:
Kia Brooks: Kia Brooks is the Deputy Director of The Gotham Film and Media Institute. Brooks created The Gotham’s Owning It program that supports women and non-binary media makers and entrepreneurs who break boundaries in the media and entertainment industry, and developed the Expanding Communities program, which provides resources, community space, and industry access to individuals with Disabilities and BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators. Brooks’s experience in strategic communications and events includes roles at Focus Features, Oscilloscope Laboratories, and Tribeca Film Festival.
Shruti Ganguly: Shruti Ganguly is a filmmaker and writer based between New York and Oslo. Ganguly was a member of the Obama Administration’s ECCO committee of 30 leaders and creators in entertainment, chairing its Asian Caucus, and is on the Creative Council for Emily’s List. She has produced films that have premiered at Sundance, Venice, Tribeca, Telluride, and Berlin, and is currently writing for Secret Daughter for Amazon Studios, which will star Priyanka Chopra and Sienna Miller.
Emelyn Stuart: Emelyn Stuart is the owner and founder of Stuart Cinema & Café in Brooklyn, which in addition to being a screening space will offer distribution deals to independent filmmakers and be a resource hub for artists. She was named Best Producer at LA Web Fest for her series 12 Steps to Recovery, and her feature 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.
Returning Board Members:
Gretchen McGowan: Gretchen McGowan is an award-winning producer and the head of production for Goldcrest Features in New York City where she oversees titles such as Carol, Mojave, What Breaks the Ice, Carrie Pilby and To Olivia. Gretchen has collaborated with Sebastian Junger on five films, and she is now producing Hell of a Cruise for NBCUniversal, a feature documentary about the cruise industry’s handling of Covid-19.
Zenaida Mendez: Zenaida Mendez is the Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center and was recently awarded the 2022 Jewell Ryan White Award for Cultural Diversity from the Alliance of Community Media. Mendez has an extensive career in public service, community activism, television production, and filmmaking, and is currently the executive producer of several monthly MNN productions.
As a non-profit 501c3 public charity, NYWIFT is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership. Board members serve on committees in the areas of Development, Membership, Communications, Programming, Special Events, and Advocacy and Education.