The "Made in NY" Media Center, located at the corner of Jay Street and John Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn, is the reason why artists move to New York. When it opens in October, it will be a hub for filmmakers and entrepreneurs to work, learn, connect, and collaborate—a distillation of the city itself.
The project began in March of last year, less than 18 months ago, when New York City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment put out a request for proposals for a multiuse facility that would "strengthen and grow New York City's media sector." Information sessions were held and Request for Proposal (RFP) rules were issued. Although respondents had to meet certain criteria—find the space, develop a physical plan, show operation capability, provide a schedule and price points to execute all the plan's various components—they were general enough to give respondents latitude in fulfilling them.
Joana Vicente, Executive Director of the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), was one of those who responded. She thought about how IFP originated, she says, and how it supported independent filmmakers, but increasingly faced the question: "Who is an independent filmmaker?" With so many people working on their own, creating in such a variety of media, she believed the Media Center was the next step for IFP; it was "the way for us to grow—finding storytellers and connecting them to resources," she says.
Vicente's was one of 14 the city received. On October 11, 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Media & Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver announced that IFP had won the agreement and would develop and operate the center—a community space to develop projects and sustain careers in film, television, advertising, new media, gaming, and marketing and branding industries. It broke ground soon after.
What the Vicente's bid offered—which was crucial to winning the commission—was a cost-accessible program, "so that people in the community and content creators in the city could make use of the Media Center and it wouldn't be price-prohibitive," explains Todd Asher, First Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment and a member of the "Made in NY" Media Center selection committee.
Today, the 20,000-square-foot street-level facility is still a construction site, but by the opening in October, almost exactly a year after the Mayor's announcement, it will be divided into public and private work spaces, classrooms, conference rooms, editing suites, a screening room-theater, a media arts gallery and events space, a library-quiet room, flex-space, and a café with a view of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Manhattan skyline. "Looking at these plans was a major part of the decision-making process," Asher says.
"IFP was a great partner," says Oliver, "because they have a history of fostering the art and craft of storytelling and of working with filmmakers." Cultivating storytellers is what IFP has always done, empowering filmmakers and helping them tell their stories, connecting them with each other, and ultimately, connecting them with audiences. "It’s a perfect mixture," Oliver continues. "Our vision was to help new businesses grow and get off the ground, and also create a community of innovators."
The Media Center will run a small incubator, but also offer business classes in collaboration with General Assembly—the network of technology, business, and design learning centers that grew out of Silicon Alley—which is what will differentiate the space from others in New York. The city has done other incubators, but this is its first aimed at bringing traditional content creators like filmmakers together with new media instigators. Vicente, now head of the Media Center in addition to her role at IFP, says that it’s in classes where artists and entrepreneurs will "learn how to speak the same language"—a process that's essential to meaningful old-new media collaboration. "Here they can ask, How do I talk to a coder? How do I tell my stories through an app? How do I talk to a designer? How do I market my ideas? And then learn the answers from each other."
Like filmmaking and storytelling, starting and running a business is a specific craft, with a unique set of disciplines. The Media Center has a holistic approach: support media entrepreneurs by helping them create a business model and teaching them how to present, market, and promote their product in the marketplace, and to reach audiences and consumers through storytelling.
There are two ways to become a part of this community:
1) The private space—the incubator—is application-based and will cost $400 to $450 a month (discounts available). A panel of experts will read the applications to determine membership.
2) Public membership (no application required) includes access to the community work space, as well as class discounts and conference-lecture invites; it will cost $125 a month (the equivalent of a fancy gym membership, but for your mind and creative spirit).