After almost four months in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has finally, to the relief of Hollywood, named Cynthia Lopez as the new commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting. Katherine Oliver, who served in the post during former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure in office, stepped down in January upon Bloomberg’s departure. Ever since then, the post has remained vacant.
While Lopez and Oliver both come from television, the latter worked in the private sector and the former worked in the public sector. Prior to being appointed to the position of Film Czar by Bloomberg, Oliver served as General Manager for Bloomberg Television and Radio. Her background in broadcast news, along with her professional rapport with Bloomberg, which pre-dated her appointment, contributed immensely to the success of her initiatives to boost production in NYC.
How then, does Lopez step into such well-made shoes? She doesn’t actually have to because she came prepared with her own.
Since 2006, Lopez has served as the executive vice president and co-executive producer on the PBS documentary series “POV.” While the appointment of Lopez came as a surprise to some, her hands-on experience producing “POV” for close to a decade indicates she not only has the skills to oversee the sustainability of the initiatives implemented by Oliver, but is also mindful of how an independent filmmaker might benefit from them.
During her tenure on the show, “POV” has garnered numerous awards including 33 Emmy Awards, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, three Academy Awards and two IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series. Furthermore, under Lopez’s leadership, “POV” was one of just 13 nonprofit organizations from around the world to receive a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, which includes $1 million.
Her experience in the public sector suggests a tide change in the Mayor’s office. With production employing more than an estimated 130,000 New Yorkers, as well as contributing $7.1 billion to the local economy — up from $5.1 billion in 2004 — Lopez’s appointment could suggest more opportunities for creative professionals outside the studio system in conjunction with the rapid growth. If that is the case, then the city’s independent filmmaking community has much to look forward to in the coming months and years.
The official announcement of Lopez’s appointment is expected to be made on Friday.