As NYC film czar, López will continue to push for diversity in the industry, as she made clear during her keynote address.
We need to work together.
Shonda Rhimes and Robert Rodriguez set great examples.
I always look at a glass half full, not half empty. So when I think about TV, for instance, and I think of Shonda Rimes and what she’s been able to do with “Scandal.” It’s like everyone wants to know what’s happening in Washington, what’s happening at the White House. Sex in the White House has always been a theme for so many years….I run home as much as I can and watch “Scandal” because being in politics, I kind of want to know what’s going on!
This is a great example of the importance of having a black woman have her authentic signature on her TV show. It is totally impressive.
When I think about film, I think of Robert Rodriguez and what he’s been able to accomplish. I’ve seen all of the “Spy Kids” and every time I think of the secret passwords being in Spanish and “abuelita” opening a new world… And I have kids who are not Latino who are like “abuelita, abuelita!” Those kind of ethnic and cultural nuances are things that we need to embrace and things that, if you look at the industry in terms of economics, are two examples of things that are really floating to the top as excellent and we can really see as prime examples.
When pitching stories, keep your target audience in mind.
I don’t see it as “Oh gosh, we are in this horrible situation and there’s nothing we can do.” Well, that’s not true. I think we need to, as diverse ethnic groups, figure out how best to work together. But we need the research, we need to understand what the other side is. Of course, in terms of television — and I used to say this when I was at POV, you know, when you are pitching a film, or you’re pitching a documentary, you really need to understand who you are speaking to.
And I’ll offer you an example, because I was for 10 or 12 years at Sundance taking pitches from people and I can’t tell you how many times Latino filmmakers would come up to me and say, “I have that immigration story that you’ve never seen,” and I thought to myself, “They don’t understand that I’m seeing 287 immigration stories. That’s not how they should start a pitch. Because I am the most difficult person to pitch a Latino story to. I watch everything that’s out there. I really think strategically about what’s spins on in mainstream, what spins on in PBS. So I’m really thinking about how we pitch executives is also very important.
There is a fine line between being true to yourself and executives.
I think when you are authentic you will figure out a way to get hired in the industry.
Produce your best work.
If I think about my current role, I never dreamed about working for Mayor DeBlasio and being in the current administration in this way. This was not how I thought I end up. But I think when you work really hard at whatever project you develop over time and are consistent and really strike a high quality and emphasize inclusivity, things will open for you.
Don’t let prejudice change the way you view yourself.
I haven’t faced prejudice in my current capacity, if you will, but in the past I know that as a co-executive producer…I would go to certain places and people would always ask, “Are you the executive producer?” Almost assuring themselves that they were speaking to the right person. And I had to hold onto myself so many times, because I wanted to say, “What’s that say on the wall?” But I have to say that it is interesting as a person of color to come to the table with x amount of credentials, x amount of work…I’m 23 years in, right in my experience that still you would be asked—it’s this undertone: “Are you the person of authority? I wanna make sure.” I’ve always walked into these conversations and I know I’m the person of authority. You’re the one who has a problem, not me. So that’s the thing we also have to take ownership.
Set realistic goals.
Not every piece that you produce may have those possibilities and know that’s fine, but set realistic goals for what you do want to accomplish with the media that you are producing. Be really authentic and know that things take time. I think that recently I keep getting people who say, “You catapulted, now you’re commissioner.” I didn’t catapult. It’s taken me twenty-something years to get to where I am. So know that things take time. Good stuff takes time. You know when you bake a turkey for Thanksgiving that it’s gonna take three to four hours. You’re not gonna get the turkey in half an hour. It doesn’t work that way. This is the same thing. In terms of documentaries, the average documentary that we aired on POV was between 5 – 12 years to produce. The longest doc that I was a part of took 25 years. That’s a commitment and a passion to follow a subject for 25 years. That’s amazing.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of yourself. I’m a strong proponent of that: You have to exercise, you have to go to therapy, you have to do all this stuff you need to do. I cannot tell you how many times a filmmaker is just at that point of finishing and they get really sick. I’ve seen it over my 20-year career. Just at the point of putting the dot at the end of the sentence and they have a heart attack. And you think, “That project took a piece of their life in a way that they didn’t really understand.” So I think that taking care of yourself simultaneously is really important.
There are great opportunities for New Yorkers starting out in film, television and media.
On behalf of the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment, there are two programs I’d like to highlight. One is the “Made in NY” Media Center that is operated by IFP. It’s in Dumbo. That center really is a place where entrepreneurs and people who want to develop digital content can work with organizations and individuals to develop projects. So on one level, when I think about the opportunity that the digital environment offers for the distribution of our work, I think we are at a time that we’ve never been before. We can produce stuff, figure out creative collaborations with corporations and non-profit organizations and literally, people can get that via their iPad.
We have a second program that’s for the production assistants and it is a 5 week training program for people who are unemployed, living in NYC and are looking for an entree into the industry as they are trained on how to work as a production assistant and the doors open, if you will, to how they navigate that system. And right now we have close to 500 production assistants that have been trained and they’ve worked on about 2,000 major feature films.
She’s still learning on the job — and has big ambitions.
I think the only way to the future is figuring out how to be a risk taker. And the government doesn’t like to make risky choices, so we have to be careful how we take risks.