Life could imitate art for two New York City-based women screenwriters hoping to get a big break with their first television series.
Patty Carey’s “Half Life” and Robin Rose Singer’s “Maturity” are finalists in the city’s first ever Greenlight Her contest. And now it’s up to the public to decide which of them will get to produce four more episodes for the NYC Life channel.
Viewers can screen pilot episodes for both shows at nyc.gov/greenlighther and then vote for their favorite on the site. Online voting closes on Saturday night and the winner will be announced on Feb. 14.
The episodes were made last year after Carey and Singer beat out 300 other hopefuls in a competition by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment focused on women screenwriters and scripts about women.
It’s part of a larger initiative launched in 2016 by the agency to boost women in the film, television and theater industries.
“One of the things we know that is happening is there are fewer female writers in television than male writers,” said Julie Menin, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “We were hearing from women who were having trouble getting their projects greenlighted.”
The pilots were produced in the city last summer by students from Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. They premiered on Jan. 19 on NYC Life, the city’s official broadcast network which offers a mix of original and syndicated programming.
“I think Julie Menin and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment put together a very forward thinking program,” said Singer, an actress and filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn. “They started before #MeToo and Time’s Up, realizing there is a need for diversity both on and off screen.”
Singer’s show “Maturity” focuses on a woman from the Midwest who takes a job at a senior living center in the Bronx and the characters she meets there.
The show was at least partly inspired by her grandmother, who spent time in a senior residence as she recovered from an illness.
“She was full of life and energy on her bed telling stories,” Singer said. “I wanted to create a world where seniors were full, amazing charismatic characters and not just supporting characters.”
The pilot was shot on location in the Bronx.
“I think we’ve created a really special heartfelt comedy,” she said. “We are using a real diversity of talent and using very nuanced ways to explore issues that touch everyone’s life: living, dying, aging.”
Carey’s show “Half Life” is semi-autobiographical. The lead character is trying to balance her life as a mother and her work as a location scout while expanding her career into writing.
“It was very serendipitous,” said Carey, a location manager and mother of two who lives on the Upper West Side. “I had been working on a script for over a year when I heard about the contest.”
She also praised the city for sponsoring the screenwriting competition and other programs to encourage women in the industry.
“We were all living and working in a world that is finally coming to light,” Carey said, referring to the recent focus on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and the limited number of women in top management positions.
According to statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 8 percent of the top 100 grossing films of 2017 were directed by women and 10 percent were written by women. Just 2 percent of cinematographers in those films were female.
In the world of television, women accounted for just 27 percent of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography during the 2015-2016 broadcast season.
“Trying to break the glass ceiling and getting to a place you want is hard,” Carey said.
Carey and Singer said viewers will relate to — and cheer for — the female lead characters in their shows.
Menin said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Thousands of people have already taken part in online voting for the pilots.
“The shows really speak to issues that many women face throughout the country,” she said.