New York City launches $5-million fund for women in film and theater, a first in the U.S.


New York City has created a $5-million fund for women working in the fields of film and theater, becoming the first municipality in the U.S. to finance such an initiative.

The fund, announced Thursday by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, will provide grants to support film and theater projects by and about women. New York also will hold workshops and a film-financing conference designed to connect women with money for their projects; conduct a screenwriting competition that culminates in a series to air on New York’s Channel 25; broadcast an additional block of programming on Channel 25 devoted to women; and fund research about gender in the field of film directing.

“We believe we’re the first municipality in the country to take on this issue,” MOME Commissioner Julie Menin said. “We think by creating these economic pathways of opportunity, that is one of the best ways we can contribute.”


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In the U.S., women have directed 4% of the 100 top-grossing Hollywood movies, according to a study by USC’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative. Women write 22% of the nation’s theatrical productions, according to the Dramatists Guild of America. Research, including a 2015 analysis by The Times, indicates that access to financing is a primary barrier for women.

While other countries, including Canada, Ireland, Australia and Sweden, have launched state-financed initiatives aimed at increasing the number of women working in their film industries, no comparable government agency in the U.S. finances films. Instead, private companies such as 21st Century Fox and nonprofit organizations like the Sundance Institute have created programs designed to further women’s participation in entertainment and the arts.

Last October, at the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched an investigation into gender bias in the hiring of female directors. That investigation is ongoing.

New York state has been a locus of activity on the issue of inclusion in the film and television industries. Proposed legislation currently in committee in the state Senate and Assembly would designate $5 million of the state’s $420 million annual tax credit for film and TV for productions that hire female or minority writers or directors. If passed, it would be the first time a film state tax credit has included a diversity clause.

Some lawmakers have discussed creating a similar provision in California — which tripled the size of its annual film tax credit to $330 million last year — when that funding is up for renewal in 2020. Proponents of the change would like a portion of the state film tax credit to go toward the hiring of women, people of color and veterans.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also had made a push to create entertainment job opportunities for under-served youth in the city. The mayor’s Hire LA’s Youth program has placed young people in positions at Ryan Murphy Productions (on the series “American Horror Story”) and at Jim Henson Studios.

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11:55 a.m. This article has been updated with local information.

This article was originally published at 10:30 a.m.