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The ribbon on the Made in NY Media Center was cut on Tuesday, just 11 months after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Independent Film Project (IFP) won the bid to develop and operate the center. What was once a coffee factory and more recently a garage has been quickly converted into the New York film world’s new hub, smack dab in the center of the high-tech corridor emerging in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
The location isn’t merely symbolic, as the media center’s principal goal is to bring the filmmakers and tech companies together in an effort to spur innovation.
“It used to be that new technology would change the film landscape in 10 to 20 year cycles,” Media Center executive director Joana Vicente tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Now the changes are constant.” And in no place have these constant changes been felt more dramatically than in the indie cinema world, where filmmakers are digitally fundraising, marketing, and distributing their films themselves.
General Assembly, a program that offers tech education classes, will take over one of the center’s three dedicated classrooms. Film producer Nekisa Cooper (Pariah), who runs education for the center, will work with General Assembly and the IFP to program classes ranging from digital marketing to traditional film skills like script supervision.
The center will also serve to introduce tech companies to the unique storytelling talents of independent filmmakers. “We are far from being a one-company town,” Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, tells THR, “One of our great strengths is we have Madison Avenue, Wall Street, the publishing world and we have independent filmmakers.” Oliver adds that with businesses of all stripes struggling to find their digital strategy, “now more than ever there is a demand for the storytelling talents of the New York indie film world.”
Vicente, an established independent film producer and executive director of the IFP, believes bringing the advertising, publishing and New Media worlds to Dumbo will lead to new employment opportunities for the very filmmakers the IFP tries to help and nurture. “It’s about career sustainability,” she says.
“There’s a convergence here,” Oliver adds. “We have independent filmmakers who are reinventing themselves. Every day we are seeing new types of customers and new players in the content creation business, which creates new opportunities for storytellers.”
This is why the lifeblood of the new center will be its “incubators” – or the start-up businesses that will set up residences inside. Being an incubator is more than getting an affordable office, complete with a desk and access to a library, screening room, conference rooms and editing bay. The center will match these new entrepreneurs with the technology experts, creative talents and practical business sense mentors who can help these companies grow. Ultimately, the center is banking on its 20,000 square feet of open space and unique collaborative work environment to attract the next generation of digital pioneers, who Mayor Bloomberg has been so determined to keep in New York City.
And what kind of companies are setting up shop in the Made in NY Media Center? Today, Vicente announced their first “anchor tenant” would be Judy McGrath’s Astronauts Wanted: No Experience Necessary, a joint venture with Sony Music aimed at developing multimedia content targeted to millennials. McGrath, a 30-year veteran of MTV who is credited with steering the channel out of the music video era and into unscripted programing, is obviously a high-profile get for the center. But more importantly, it’s Astronauts’ cross-platform brand that is exactly the type of company the center hopes to attract. And Questlove, frontman of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon house band The Roots, has been named the center’s first artist in residence.
“This will be a vibrant space that will embrace forward-thinking, like-minded artists for film, art, music, New Media, games, storytelling into the digital space,” Questlove said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “It will act as hub.”
Individuals who aren’t part of one of the chosen incubators will have plenty of opportunities to take part in all the center has to offer. A public membership costs $125 a month and gives individuals access to the community work space and discounts on classes. Vicente likes to compare it to a fancy gym membership: “Just like going the gym, you come in to exercise your mind everyday,” she says, adding, “Or at the very least you can come in to get a good cup of coffee in a cool, inspiring space.”
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