NYC Film Czar Will Try to Keep 'The Late Show,' Create Opportunities for Indie Filmmakers

Courtesy of POV
Cynthia Lopez

In her first formal interview since THR exclusively revealed that she was Mayor Bill de Blasio's choice for film commissioner, Cynthia Lopez tells the New York Times she won't neglect big-budget productions and argues that her documentary background makes her well-suited for her current position.

In her first formal interview since becoming New York City's new film czar, Cynthia Lopez says she'll do all she can to keep CBS' The Late Show in New York and pledges to create more opportunities for independent filmmakers while vowing not to neglect Hollywood productions.

Lopez, whom The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed was new New York City mayor Bill de Blasio's choice for the film commissioner job, spoke to the The New York Times about her goals for the job and how her background has prepared her for the position.

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One of the first issues Lopez will have to deal with is keeping CBS' The Late Show in New York. While it's likely the late-night show will stay in the Empire State since new host Stephen Colbert lives and works in the New York metro area, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti has been pushing for CBS to move the show west. With The Tonight Show's move back east, Jimmy Kimmel Live! is the only 11:30 p.m. show on the three major broadcast networks to be taped in Los Angeles.

But Lopez tells The Times that the show "is a production that we would want to have here."

She adds that she and her team "will do everything in our power" to keep The Late Show in New York.

Lopez was something of a left-field choice for the position, with insiders describing the former executive vp and co-executive producer of the PBS documentary series POV as a sleeper candidate with extensive experience.

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But Lopez and de Blasio both seem committed to diversifying the film industry.

Lopez, the first minority film czar, who has promoted the work of filmmakers from underrepresented groups, indicates that she would try to create more opportunities for people with similar backgrounds as film commissioner.

"How do we open the doors to people who would like to work in this economy and don't have access?" Lopez tells The Times. "I took the job with profound respect for the mayor's emphasis on diversity."

Lopez also hopes to create more opportunities for independent filmmakers.

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"Independent film needs to be part of the plan. The independent filmmakers are really moving the dial and will be the engine for the future," she says.

Still, Lopez says she wouldn't neglect big-budget productions.

"I will not neglect the Hollywood element," she adds. "I will never neglect our largest part of the portfolio."

She also argues that her background, despite working at PBS and coming from the documentary world, makes her well suited for her current position.

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"The process of production is very similar," she says. "It's just a matter of scale."

Lopez, who's only been in her job as film commissioner for a month, claimed it was too early to talk about long-term plans, but she did say she's a fan of the "Made in NY" production assistant training program and its cable program Secrets of New York, highlighting hidden gems in the city.

Since 2004, film and television production in New York has grown from $5 billion to $7.1 billion, with such films as Darren Aronofsky's NoahMartin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 filming in New York. Television also thrived under former mayor Bloomberg's reign with The Blacklist, Person of Interest, Girls and The Good Wife (where de Blasio made a recent guest appearance in a taxi cab video) becoming staples on New York City streets, as well as the growth of numerous studios, including Steiner Studios, Silvercup, Kaufman Astoria and Broadway Stages. Currently 29 TV series are based in New York, while an average of 200 films — from tentpole blockbusters to indies — are shot here each year. It is estimated that 130,000 New Yorkers work behind-the-scenes in film and TV production.

Qualifying film and TV projects earn a 30 percent credit for production expenditures through the New York State Film Production Tax Credit initiative. In April 2013, new legislation extended the program through 2019, allocating $420 million per year.