Hispanic Heritage Month: NYFF's Artist Academy helps young women, people of color develop film careers

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Artist Academy, embedded in the world-renowned New York Film Festival, is an intimate atmosphere of creative celebration led by two Latinos, and for almost a decade, this workshop has helped young women and people of color develop their film careers.

"Nine-year-old program (at NYFF) that benefits and supports and nurtures connections among up-and-coming artists," said Eugene Hernandez, Deputy Director for Film at Lincoln Center. "Folks who are at kind of at an early stage of their career."

Hernandez explained panel discussions are beyond getting started. They dig deeper than just storytelling, like engaging artists in how to "be in the film business," especially for people of color and women.

"As a woman, I apologized a lot and I felt like I did not belong in places," said Christine L. Mendoza, Director of Education for Film at Lincoln Center. "And I'm like 'I'm sorry but I have a question,' Just really feel like I was bothering people."

Mendoza said participants learn to navigate spaces where they may not traditionally be involved or where their backgrounds left them less prepared.

"My family is originally from Cuba," she said. "I'm first generation here, first college graduate, first high school graduate. And I went into a lot of spaces that my family wasn't able to sort of prepare me for."

Mendoza and Hernandez both know firsthand the importance of mentoring. They also believe when artists engage in networking conversations, the interactions pay off.

"A lot of those early relationships and early connections that I made in my early to mid-20s really paved the way for the work that I not only do now," Hernandez said. "But also made me want to pay it forward and give back in a certain way."

Mendoza said the value associated with that is so high because spaces aren't traditionally made for Latino populations or women.

For almost a decade, the Artist Academy has aimed to narrow gaps of cultural deficit and is developing artists who can tell their stories with farther reach.

On the panel this year is Nanfu Wang, from "One Child Nation," who has a film out now.

"Authentic storytelling is extremely important, not just for the film world, but also for community development," Mendoza said.

The NYFF goes until October 13 at Lincoln Center. Every night of the festival, you can talk to filmmakers for free -- just show up at the film center box office at 6 p.m. It's first-come first-serve.

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