Katherine Oliver became commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting in 2002. It was the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, and a time when film footage of New York City was shot more often on a Hollywood (or Canadian) soundstage than on the actual streets of New York.
“A lot of films and television shows were leaving New York City and faking New York in different parts of the world,” Oliver explains during a recent phone interview.
Flash forward to today and you’ll find not only is New York’s film industry on an upswing, it’s the city’s second largest job-generating sector, employing 100,000 New Yorkers, bringing in an estimated $5 billion a year to the city of New York and supporting approximately 4,000 ancillary businesses. According to Oliver, all estimates are on the conservative side.
“Now that we’ve been successful at bringing the industry back to New York, there are more job opportunities,” Oliver says. “So we want young people or older people who have maybe been thinking about working in film or television or commercial production to understand that there are lots of different opportunities for them and that we want to help them make those connections.”
That’s why this past July, the city announced the creation of a new entity, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME); Oliver was named as its commissioner. She now oversees the Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting as well as NYC Media— the city’s official TV, radio and online network—and the newly developed Office of Digital Coordination.
“We’re busier than ever with film and television production in the history of our agency,” Oliver says. “The goal now is to make the connection between New Yorkers and the thriving film and television industry. The mission of the agency is attraction and retention and celebrating the city of New York and all that it is. Every time that a film or television show films here, it’s advertising that we can’t buy. It’s to our best interest to work closely with production and promote the city globally in a way that we just can’t.”
Absorbing the city government’s media and entertainment offices under a single umbrella allows Oliver’s office to make it easier for the entertainment industry to take advantage of the opportunities available to production projects in New York. It also allows Oliver’s office to serve as an outlet for New Yorkers, especially younger residents looking to enter into the industry, to easily access employment and educational information, Oliver says, making MOME a one-stop-shop of sorts for information on all aspects of film production in the five boroughs, from permit acquisitions to employment placement.
“Our strategy has been to revitalize the film and television industry in New York, and we’ve been successful with that in the last few years, so whether that be young people who are just coming out of school or people who want to re-enter the industry, we’re hoping to make that connection,” Oliver says. “If we’ve done our job and brought the industry back to New York and created job opportunities, we want to ensure people have an opportunity to enter this expanding industry and that they thrive there. Every step of the way, we’re trying to make their experience as seamless as possible through our staff at the mayor’s office.”
“We’re busier than ever with film and television production in the
history of our agency,” Commissioner Oliver says. “The goal now is to
make the connection between New Yorkers and the thriving film and
Implementing this new, streamlined strategy at MOME feels like familiar territory for Oliver, as it is a philosophy she says came from her days at Bloomberg Radio and Television, having worked for the company for a decade during the ’90s before leaving her general manager position in 2002 to become commissioner when Bloomberg was elected mayor. Oliver also worked as a radio and television reporter and producer prior to working for Bloomberg The Company, with careers at both CNBC and the Financial News Network. She’s also served as a journalism instructor at New York University. And it’s this wealth of previous career experience in media and entertainment that Oliver says she calls upon now to carry out her duties as commissioner.
“I’ve had a lot of practical experience working in television productions, and I think it’s certainly advantageous having practical experience as opposed to theoretical experience,” Oliver explains. “My past experiences in the field and as a journalist and a producer have helped me have an appreciation for our customers’ needs and what they’re doing day to day. We’re using media and technology to sell the brand of New York City in multiple ways.”
This multi-faceted implementation of media and technology includes a laundry list of initiative and incentive programs, overseen by Oliver and her office, to entice filmmakers back to the city and ensure New Yorkers are benefiting from the influx of job opportunities available to the young and aspiring interested in entering the entertainment industry of New York.
A FEW OF THE CITY’S REEL-WORLD OPPORTUNITIES
‘MADE IN NY’ PRODUCTION ASSISTANT TRAINING PROGRAM
Launched in 2006 and
developed in conjunction with the non-profit organization Brooklyn
Workforce Innovations, the “Made In NY” P.A. training program is a free
four-week, full-time course offering entry-level production assistant
job training, followed by two years of job placement geared toward
low-income and unemployed residents of New York City.
“It’s been a
phenomenally successful program,” Oliver says. “We’re very proud of this
program. It’s very exciting. We’ve trained over 220 young people and
helped place them in paid positions over a two-year period, and they’ve
taken in earnings of somewhere north of $4 million.”
program is now in its 20th cycle, and graduates of the programs have
gone on to assist with production around the city, including 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. In
addition to the training program, a “Made In NY” PA Film Festival is
held annually toward the beginning of the year to highlight original
projects written, filmed and directed by training program graduates.
‘MADE IN NY’ MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
A pilot program launched
in conjunction with IFP, the mentorship program builds mentor
relationships between entertainment industry professionals and persons
of color, women, veterans and the economically disadvantaged, in an
attempt to increase retention rates and career growth within the
entertainment industry in the city.
awarded to 15 individuals every cycle, which includes monthly workshops
and position placements on productions in the city.
IN NY’ INCENTIVE PROGRAM
MOME makes producing projects all the more
enticing by offering a 5 percent refundable tax credit from the city of
New York, and a 1 percent marketing partnership to film and television
productions that shoot at least 75 percent of their footage in the city.
that meet the “Made In NY” criteria receive a stamp of approval logo
and are eligible for certain discounts and concierge services in the
city, as well as the option for a “Made In NY” cultural benefit. Recent
“Made In NY” productions include Howl and institutional New York television shows like Saturday Night Live and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
REEL JOBS PROGRAM
Reel Jobs works as
MOME’s own online employment search website on which individuals can
post job opportunity listings free of charge and employers can search
for entertainment industry employees. MOME publishes Reel Jobs every
Monday in both a downloadable format and in hard copy, which can be
picked up at their office at 1697 Broadway on weekdays. MOME accepts job
listings via email only, with a submission deadline of noon on
Thursdays. All listings run for one week.
gives better advice on New York’s entertainment industry than the
individuals it’s comprised of, MOME created career panels to place
students and interested New Yorkers in direct contact with NYC-based
industry professionals who will, according to Commissioner Oliver,
“foster a sense of community here and have them work with people who are
skilled and knowledgeable about what it takes to work in the city of
panels are held in cultural institutions in all five boroughs; previous
panels have covered diverse topics, including “Writing for Film and
Television,” “Women In Entertainment: Behind the Scenes,”
“African-American Perspectives” and “Careers in Post-Production.”
BLUEPRINT FOR THE ARTS: THE MOVING IMAGE
Because it’s never too
early for New Yorkers to gain a better understanding of the
entertainment industry, MOME created—in conjunction with the Department
of Education, OFTB and the Tribeca Film Institute—a firstof-its-kind
curriculum for New York public school students, from elementary school
through high school graduation.
Published in October 2009, Blueprint is
billed as a guide for studying film, television and animation as a
sequential course of study focused on building students’ knowledge and
skill sets for eventual entry into the city’s entertainment industry if
they so desire.