IFP has shut down the Made in New York Media Center, the communal workspace and educational center that has housed its staff and provided the headquarters of IFP Week since 2012. The space, located in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, also featured a 72-seat screening room and a cafe. IFP executive director Jeff Sharp told IndieWire that the organization was on the verge of signing a lease on a new office down the street to hold its 15-person team, though it did not expect to open at full capacity for the foreseeable future, and current plans to hold IFP Week online remain unchanged.
“When it became clear we couldn’t charge rent to our tenants or members, it started to raise enormous questions about how feasible the space really was,” Sharp said. “Like pretty much everyone in recent months, we’ve watched as virtually any business that depends on people coming together has suffered enormous consequences.”
Yet even as countless arts organizations have faced cutbacks and closures since the beginning of the pandemic, the closure of the media center concludes a unique attempt at creating an all-purpose hub for New York’s filmmaking community. The 18,000 square-foot space was sustained through a mixture of corporate sponsorships, support from New York City, and short-term rental work areas. IFP itself occupied only 10 percent of the overall space, and other entities like the Freelancers Union rented individual desks. The space also included a podcast studio, networking opportunities, and the deliberations for the Gotham Awards, among many other events.
IFP furloughed three full-time members of its staff involved in operations of the space earlier in the summer, but Sharp said he did not anticipate further cutbacks. “We knew that without the media center at full operations, we didn’t have a role for media center staff,” he said. Nevertheless, he drew a distinction between the business decision and the functionality of the organization as a whole. “The closure of the media center is not a reflection of the financial health of the organization or its future,” he said.
Sharp said that the new office rental could offer some opportunities for gatherings if they become viable down the line. “We have a really great new space that will allow us to continue to program some of the events and other classes we did at the media center,” he said. “It won’t be at the same level as before, but it will allow for a safe workspace.”
Prior to the pandemic, the Made in NY Center was in the process of sorting out new ways of utilizing the space, including a newly launched IFP EDU program for East Coast colleges that has morphed into an online internship program; some smaller independent production companies, such as Killer Films, had started to work there as well. “Pre-pandemic, it was a space that required the support, hard work and passion of a large number of people,” Sharp said.
When the center was launched in 2012, previous executive director Joana Vicente described it at a press conference with then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg as “an incubator for great stories and a showcase for new works whether they’re told through film, digital, games, or apps.”
Despite the fanfare around its potential, the DUMBO-based location of the Made in NY Center has always proved to be something of a mixed blessing for a film non-profit designed to support the kind of artists unlikely to afford to live in such a costly part of the city. In recent weeks, Sharp said, the organization has benefited from taking its programming online. “Our membership growth and attendees to our panels and other events are numbers we’d never have seen at the screening room,” he said, citing a recent virtual conversation with “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” star Jonathan Majors that the actor participated in from Santa Fe. “For us, IFP is less of a place than it truly is a community that lives well beyond DUMBO. There is opportunity in this.”
Meanwhile, Sharp confirmed that the Gotham Awards, which typically serve as IFP’s annual fundraiser and the first major awards show of the season, would be moved to a later date that had yet to be confirmed. He added that applications for IFP Week had reached record numbers, and the same key sponsors involved in the 2019 edition — including Netflix, HBO, and SAG Indie — remained attached, along with a new marketplace for audio-based content. “The creative community has never been more vital,” he said. “That gives us all hope.”