Hollywood on the Hudson: Officials Set Up Programs to Help Low-Income Residents Break Into the Business

As the movie and television industry booms in the city, officials are trying to make sure it benefits all New Yorkers, which is why they have set up programs to help low-income residents break into the business. NY1's Michael Scotto has the final part of his series "Hollywood on the Hudson."

Inside Steiner Studios is a school training a new generation of filmmakers.

Run by Brooklyn College, the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema is the first public film school in the city. It just ended its inaugural year.

"We're the only film school in the country built on a working lot," said Jonathan Wacks, founding director of the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.

Wacks says the school's goal is to train students who might otherwise have a hard time breaking into the industry.

"We have a strong commitment to diversity. Half of our students are women. Over 45 percent of our students are from under-represented groups," he said. "We're really about creating new voices in cinema.

Helping to create those voices, a CUNY tuition, just over $18,000 a year for residents, a third of the tuition at NYU's film school.

"Affordable film school is kind of, like, it doesn't exist," said student Meeni Hardart.

The push to diversify productions extends to entry-level positions. For a decade, the city has teamed with Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, a nonprofit job-training organization, to teach low-income New Yorkers to work as production assistants. It has helped 600 people get jobs.

"Most of our students are low-income and unemployed, the majority of them, and they are not making livable wages. The program was created so they can get into the film industry to create livable wages for themselves," said Venus Anderson, program director at the "Made in NY" Production Assistant Training Program.

Thirty-two-year-old Melique Williams just completed his training.

"I got laid off from my job and decided to pursue the opportunity," he said.

The Bloomberg administration launched both programs to create a pipeline of local talent for the industry.

"What we wanted was the crew base of the film and television productions that were made in New York to be reflective of the ethnic diversity of the city," said Katherine Oliver, the former commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.  

Guaranteeing that a cross-section of New Yorkers is taking part in the productions that have been transforming New York into Hollywood on the Hudson.

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