This time last year, our sisters at New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) were just kicking off their 40th anniversary celebration with a gala celebration that included our HERS issue. Now the calendar is turning over once more, but the visionary work of women in the arts continues, stronger than ever.
By Mellini Kantayya
This year, the New York Women in Film & Television’s (NYWIFT) 40th anniversary ended with a reception and photography exhibit entitled “Women Calling the Shots.” Founded in 1977, NYWIFT energizes women by illuminating their achievements and providing training and professional development programs. It also awards scholarships and grants, and access to a supportive community of peers. The 30 photographs displayed at the WhiteBox nonprofit space were submitted by NYWIFT members. Each one captures a moment in time while they are working in their respective fields of television and film. Memorable photos included member Alicia Corven editing in the dark as her baby sleeps peacefully on her chest; S. Casper Wong’s image of a film crew documenting brain surgery in a cramped operating room; and Oscar winner Allie Light directing her first dramatic film – at age 82 – overnight in Vancouver, in the rain and snow.
Actress Daniela Dakich’s picture was taken in 2016 by cinematographer Blake Drummond on the set of the short film The Lark(s). Dakich does not recall if the image is a still or a behind-the-scenes photograph, but said, “It feels wonderful. I was excited and surprised to hear the image was included. I am grateful for NYWIFT always supporting women artists.”
When Brooklyn-based portrait photographer Kent Meister wanted to take environmental photographs of arts professionals in their environments, he looked no further than his college friend from the University of Tulsa, costume designer Katie Irish (FX’s The Americans, NBC’s upcoming The Enemy Within). The black and white shot shows her peeking out between the costume racks for The Americans. Irish said she was “very moved to be included in this exhibit of amazing women doing amazing things.”
Renowned photography and video equipment company Adorama contacted NYWIFT and offered to be a sponsor. Senior Marketing Manager Abby Hessney said, “When we saw the event was happening, we wanted to be a part of it—in celebrating these women in the industry and honoring NYWIFT’s 40th year.”
The exhibit was the brainchild of NYWIFT Board member Terry Greenberg, owner of Short and Sweet Productions. She was the producer and curator whom I had the opportunity to speak to regarding her experience.
What initially inspired you to do a photography showcase?
After many happy years in the film business, both in publicity and production, I recently decided to expand my horizons and combine my love of film and photography. I created a company called “Short and Sweet Productions,” where I curate small, themed, niche photography exhibits which appear specifically at film festivals and other entertainment industry related events. Since it’s the 40th anniversary of NYWIFT, an organization which is near and dear to my heart, it just made sense to me to celebrate this special milestone by curating a photo exhibit. Since our organization’s tagline is “Women Calling the Shots,” I thought it would be a great idea to engage the membership by asking them to submit photos of themselves doing what they do best, on the job, calling the shots – which then became the obvious title for the exhibit – “Women Calling the Shots.” I am especially excited that NYWIFT chose this way to commemorate the achievements of their members and I hope it will lead to more!
Is there anything particularly powerful about seeing all of these images of “Women Calling the Shots” in one space?
I find it very powerful. We have an amazing and diverse membership, and it was incredible to review the 143 photos that were submitted! The range of age, diversity, and different roles within the industry really made me feel excited and proud to be included among such a fantastic group of women!
What did you want to have people take away from the exhibit?
I wanted people to feel engaged, inspired and united. I wanted the members to be proud; to know that they are talented and accomplished women in the entertainment industry, and New York Women in Film & Television.
Mellini Kantayya is an actor, author of Actor. Writer. Whatever. (essays on my rise to the top of the bottom of the entertainment industry), contributor to Huffington Post Comedy, and an active NYWIFT member. mellinikantayya.com
Additional reporting by Katie Chambers: Katie Chambers is the Community Engagement Director at New York Women in Film & Television, and a freelance writer and social media strategist. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieGChambers.
Learn more about the organization at nywift.org, and keep checking Honeysuckle for more news from NYWIFT!