Robert De Niro accepted his new title of Ambassador for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) in true New York style Wednesday, telling a room full of reporters they should now address him as “His Excellency, Robert De Niro, Ambassador.”
“Or if you want to make it more New York authentic, His Fucking Excellency, Robert De Niro, Ambassador,” De Niro said. “You got a problem with that?” Mayor Bill de Blasio also awarded ambassadorships to De Niro’s co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Jane Rosenthal, and to Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, and John Leguizamo. Lady Gaga was the only ambassador not in attendance.
The event, which took place at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, celebrated the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, established by former Mayor John Lindsay. During the next 12 months, the newly named ambassadors will help represent the city’s growing media and entertainment industries by promoting 50 free cultural events throughout the city aimed at increasing access to underserved communities.
One of the programs will give away more than 1,000 tickets to Broadway shows to residents of public housing, while a separate initiative in August will offer 1,000 free tickets to movie screenings at movie theaters in all five New York City boroughs. A series of free talks with film and TV stars hosted by the city’s Made in NY organization and Variety will also focus on the role New York has played in film and TV over the years.
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At the event, Leguizamo thanked Mayor de Blasio while also complaining about the limited powers of the new title. “It’s really an honor to be selected to serve my city as ambassador of the arts, even if it doesn’t help me cut the line at Shake Shack,” he said.
In an interview with IndieWire, MOME Commissioner Julie Menin touted the rapidly expanding film and TV production industry in New York City, which has grown from 242 films shot in the city in 2014 to an all-time high of 336 in 2015. Episodic TV shows shot in the five boroughs also rose from 47 to 52 during the same period. The combined film and TV industry in the city generates nearly $9 billion in annual revenue and employs 135,000 people.
One of the recent changes to MOME initiated by de Blasio is the addition of city-owned real estate to the city’s creative industries, which is intended to increase the number of locations where film and TV productions can both shoot and edit projects.
“We know as a city that to increase growth we need to be looking at all of our city-owned assets to see how we can build out new production and post-production facilities,” Menin said. “We really want to be able to tap into those city assets to see how we can be supportive of future growth.”
In closing out his remarks, De Niro referred to shooting New York movies in Los Angeles studios as a “sin,” and noted how the city becomes an extra character in every movie shot in New York.
“You want to make movies where the talent is, [and] it’s here. It’s this city that attracts the most diverse creative community,” he said. “MOME knows how to support that community. They don’t get in the way. They clear the way for you and for the production.”