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New York City has handed out its first-ever “Made in NY” grants for film, TV and theatrical projects that are driven by or focused on women.

The grants administered through the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment are part of a larger initiative across the city to support women in business ventures. MOME has awarded $1.5 million of a $5 million fund to be distributed over a three-year period and administered by New York Foundation for the Arts. It is believed to be the first gender-focused arts grants bestowed by a major city.

Out of 544 submissions, a panel of experts selected 63 projects to receive finishing grants ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. The list of recipients includes 14 stage productions, 11 documentary features and four narrative features, in addition to short films and webisodes. The selections are to be unveiled Thursday morning in a presentation at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square.

Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor of Housing & Economic Development, said the goal was to help kickstart women as entrepreneurs and creatives in the arts and entertainment sector that is so vital to New York’s economy. It’s also a response to the wave of female empowerment initiatives in the entertainment industry and frustration at the lack of real movement toward gender parity.

“Women continue to have an enormous challenge in getting the money they need to do their projects,” Glen told Variety. “That’s a challenge we have to do something about. It’s not going to happen organically, or it already would have.”

The grants are essentially “free money,” Glen added. The city makes no claim to any interest in projects supported by the program. Glen sees the money as undoubtedly paying big returns by giving a boost to a budding superstar or two who will go on to launch prosperous businesses in the city.

“We will get it back in a million different ways,” Glen said. “If they’re successful, they’ll build companies or portfolios, or work to grow our creative economy. That’s a good return on investment.”

The media marketplace has outsized impact because of the nature of the product, Glen said.

“The entertainment and creative sector itself is so diverse,” she said. “Everybody touches entertainment and media and news every single day.”

From a cultural perspective, it’s the right time to showcase projects with distinct female voices at the center. The projects selected for grants run the gamut of “very serious to super-fun,” Glen said. The breadth of material submitted for consideration was a pleasant surprise, she added. Members of the jury that selected the projects included actor Daphne Rubin-Vega and playwright Amy Fox.

“This is an exciting way to celebrate the diversity of the talent  of the women out there and the stories we have to tell,” Glen said.

(Pictured: Alicia Glen)