Op-ed | New York’s film economy empowering thousands of diverse residents

Production of the TV show “The Equalizer” starring Queen Latifah in The Village in March 2022.
File photo/Tequila Minsky

As the Director of Media Programs for the “Made in NY” Production Assistant and Post Production Training programs at Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of providing free training for jobs in the film industry. Our program has opened doors for over 1,000 individuals, offering them not just employment opportunities but also a chance to pursue their passion and contribute to New York’s vibrant creative landscape.

I myself came into this role after graduating from a Made in NY training program in 2008. I was unemployed at the time, and while I had always wanted to work behind the scenes in TV and film, as a Black woman born and raised in Staten Island, I didn’t know a single person in my community who worked in the industry. I lacked the resources and connections to break in and didn’t know where to start. The Made in NY training program gave me the training, mentorship, and support to turn my dream into a reality. I went on to spend years working as a production assistant and coordinator for independent films, commercials, and TV shows such as Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model

The film industry is a significant economic driver in New York, generating billions of dollars in revenue and creating thousands of jobs. Government-supported programs like Made in NY not only support individuals but also boost the overall economy. 

In an industry whose creative spirit often belies a high barrier to entry for people of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, free training programs have proven incredibly successful at fostering opportunity. By removing financial barriers, we can ensure that talented individuals from all backgrounds have an equal chance to succeed and bring fresh perspectives to storytelling. 

Training programs like Made in NY also serve as a crucial talent pipeline for the industry. They not only equip individuals with the skills needed for various roles but also connect them with industry professionals and job opportunities, creating a sustainable workforce for years to come. I saw that with Willie, a Made in NY trainee who entered our program much older than most. Like many, Willie had bounced around doing odd jobs prior to joining the program. While he wasn’t the most talkative in the classroom, he was absolutely dedicated to the work, and he quickly gravitated towards the highly technical camera department, eventually becoming a union camera loader and better positioning himself to take care of his family.

These initiatives cannot thrive without continued support from policymakers. Funding for training programs like mine, incentives for film and TV production, and partnerships with industry stakeholders are all essential components of sustaining a robust and inclusive film ecosystem in New York. 

As someone who has experienced firsthand the life-changing impact of free training in the film industry, I urge lawmakers to prioritize and invest in these initiatives. Together, we can ensure that New York remains a beacon of creativity, opportunity, and diversity for generations to come.

Venus Anderson is the Director of Media Programs at BWI (“Made in NY” PA Training Program & Post Production Training Program) and a member of the NYC Film and Television Production Industry Council.