The lingering question of who will replace Cynthia Lopez as New York City’s new film czar has an answer at last in Julie Menin, coming to the post directly from her current job as commissioner of the city’s department of consumer affairs. When she officially takes over as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Feb. 22, she’ll find herself tasked not only with maintaining and promoting the activity of a booming film and TV industry, but also ensuring its continued growth, maintaining the city’s competitive edge and confronting the challenges that go along with popularity.
What’s at the top of your agenda?
One of the things we’re very focused on is looking at existing real estate in the city to see how we can support the growth of the industry, and in particular, increase film and TV production and post-production spaces. That’s going to be one of the top priorities moving forward. We’re also expanding the portfolio of MOME [the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment] to include, in addition to the important work of TV and film, music and digital content as well as advertising.
What else is on your to-do list?
We want to focus on increasing the marketing, promotion of tourism around our existing film festivals. One example, which is coming right up, is the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s brought in over $600 million of economic revenue to New York City since its inception in 2001. But if you contrast that to, for example, Art Basel in Miami, there you’ve got a situation where there’s tremendous additional marketing and resources put behind it. We need to make sure that we’re utilizing, for example, all of our international offices of NYC & Co. to market all the various film festivals that are happening in New York. Another big focus is also: How do we look at the outer boroughs? We know so much production is happening in Manhattan, but how do we look at other areas that really want more production? And how do we look at diversifying of the industry? That’s going to be a top priority.
You’ve done a lot work in economic development. How will that experience come into play in your new role?
They’re very synergistically related. After 9/11, lower Manhattan desperately needed economic revitalization, and in starting the not-for-profit Wall Street Rising, and working very closely with businesses in the area to rebuild, working with the Tribeca Film Festival — that’s something I’ve been dedicated to for many many years. One of the unique things I bring to the table is the seven years I chaired Community Board One. There’s a complex balancing act between meeting the needs of the production and meeting the needs of the community, and clearly we need someone who can cut through that to attract as much filming as possible, and yet always ensure that community concerns are being addressed, and problems are solved when issues come up. Lower Manhattan happens to be the No. 1 most popular spot in terms of filming. I remember very well, in chairing CB1, when issues would come up, so I feel like I understand how to navigate those challenges and meet the needs of both a production and a community.
Some in the industry saw cause for concern last year when the number of pilots filming in New York went down year-on-year. What’s your take on that?
I’m going to be delving into all of the numbers and taking a close look at it. Obviously we want to do everything possible to bring that business to New York City. I look forward to seeing how we can get those numbers back up.
What’s your thinking on incentives? Are they the most effective way to get production to the city?
We really want to look at all options. I think this is a historic moment for the industry in New York City, because we have an opportunity in the [NYC Mayor Bill] de Blasio administration to really take a new look at various options we have to drive growth, to diversify the industry, to create more jobs. We’re going to be looking creatively at all different options.
Having worked with de Blasio for a while now, how do you think his tenure stands poised to affect the entertainment business?
He is very focused on this industry. When he appointed me in this position, he was very clear that this is an industry that’s absolutely vital and critical to New York City’s growth. We want it to continue to stay that way, and build upon that. And in his decision to expand MOME’s portfolio by putting an additional focus on music, on digital content, on advertising, on real estate assets that we can grow out to increase productions — that’s a loud-and-clear signal that he understands the vitality of this industry to New York’s core.
What are your favorite New York movies or TV shows?
I love Woody Allen films. I love “Annie Hall.” And I like “Girls.” I think it’s a great show.