Despite Gotham’s production boom, some filmmakers still need a helping hand. Emboldened by the recent production influx, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting has supported various programs in the last year to bolster budding crews and low-budget productions.
“Now that business is coming back to the city, we want to ensure that a diverse cross section of New Yorkers can have opportunities,” says MOFTB commish Katherine Oliver.
Started last year and funded by private foundations, the Production Assistant Training Program, a cooperative venture between the Mayor’s Office and Brooklyn nonprofit Workforce Innovations, has already held four one-month sessions and cranked out dozens of aspiring film and TV workers.
“We select people with the drive, but also that have barriers to employment,” says Workforce’s Tracy Anderson. “And after they graduate, they have two years of placement and job training.”
Calling from the set of a Robitussin commercial, recent grad Kevin De la Cruz is thrilled with the program. “I wasn’t having luck looking for work online,” he says. Now just a few months out of the program, De la Cruz and his classmates have “hit the ground running,” he says, having worked on Showtime’s “White Boyz in the Hood” as well as a number of commercials and indie features.
Another initiative, the Independent Film Training Grant — federally funded via the Dept. of Small Business Services and administered by the Independent Feature Project — works together with the P.A. Training Program both to cultivate a crew base and assist the bottom line for low-budget films.
Each film must hire at least one P.A. out of the program. In return for such on-the-job training, productions with budgets under $3 million receive a maximum rebate of $25,000. So far, of six feature films that have applied, HDNet’s “Quid Pro Quo,” John Leguizamo starrer “Where God Left His Shoes” and indie thriller “The Killing Floor” have collected approved awards of $8,200 on average.
That may sound like a pittance, but those who organized the creation of the grant, such as Killer Films’ Katie Roumel and GreeneStreet’s Tim Williams, say it’s not for their films, but the next generation of filmmakers.
“It’s so difficult to make low-budget movies in New York,” says Roumel, “so we were trying to find a way to help those movies that can really use that 15 grand.”