Kia Brooks is the Deputy Director at The Gotham Film & Media Institute (formerly IFP). She oversees the organization’s programming, membership and marketing. She is also the founder of The Gotham’s Owning It program which is dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering women and non-binary creators and entrepreneurs who break down boundaries in the media and entertainment industry. Prior to her role as deputy Director, she was the Director, Membership & Strategic Partnerships at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. She oversaw the Media Center’s general operations, event programming, membership and strategic partnerships. Before joining IFP, she worked in publicity and special events for over five years at revered companies such as Focus Features, Tribeca Film Festival, and Oscilloscope Laboratories working on theatrical releases, awards campaigns and special events titles include “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Anna Karenina,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Time is Illmatic,” among others. Kia Brooks received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Public Communications from American University and is currently enrolled in a Fundraising Certificate Program at New York University. She loves connecting people and building community.
Ahead of today’s 2021 Gotham Awards, Tara Karajica talks to Kia Brooks about her role as Deputy Director at The Gotham Film & Media Institute and the Owning It program, her career, feminism and film and what is in store for both The Gotham and film – according to her.
What made you fall in love with film? How did you end up working in film?
Kia Brooks: I grew up in a home where film has always been not only a source of entertainment, but a way to connect with loved ones. My mom was one to always have different movies playing in our home and I always loved to watch them with her. That’s when I first understood how community plays a huge role in the film-going experience.
When I went to college at American University, I started off as a Cinema Studies Minor, but eventually Minored in Marketing with a Major in Communications. While in college, I interned at a Film PR agency and following college, I spent time at various internships, some in PR and some in production. Eventually, I ended up at Tribeca Film Festival, which was a great crash course in film PR and launched my PR career. I then went on to work at companies such as Oscilloscope and Focus Features before deciding to make a change into a more events and operations role. That led me to The Gotham Film & Media Institute (formerly IFP) where I’ve now been for almost seven years. I’ve had multiple roles including overseeing events and operations at IFP’s former co-working/event space as well as Director of membership and now as Deputy Director.
Can you talk about your role as Deputy Director of the Gotham Film & Media Institute?
K.B.: Since August 2020, I’ve been Deputy Director of The Gotham, which means I oversee our Artists Support Programming – including membership, Gotham Week, Labs, and more –, Communications (primarily marketing), I work with our development team on annual giving and partnerships as well as working with our Executive Director, Jeff Sharp, on holistic strategic thinking for the organization.
How does your previous work in publicity and special events at Focus Features, Tribeca Film Festival and Oscilloscope Laboratories on theatrical releases and awards campaigns inform your present work as Deputy Director of the Gotham Film & Media Institute?
K.B.: My past PR experience is invaluable to my current role as Deputy Director. Having not only the contacts made on both the industry and talent side during my PR career as well as just a greater understanding on how communities engage in film content, has allowed for me to have insight into how best to serve our members. Also, PR is so much about logistics and strategy. A lot of the work I do around programming and specifically for membership is using those skills to come up with innovative ways to bring solutions to our community to best progress their filmmaking careers.
Can you talk about Owning It the program you are in charge of?
K.B.: Owning It started in 2018 when I noticed that we weren’t having as many women and nonbinary filmmakers and entrepreneurs attending events at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. We then decided to create a program for them. Specifically, Owning It is dedicated to supporting, connecting, and empowering women and non-binary creators and entrepreneurs who break down boundaries in the media and entertainment industry.
The program consists of monthly fireside chats – past guests include Rebecca Hall, Blerta Basholli, Veena Sud, Alice Wu and more –, an annual summit, a mentorship initiative with WE NYC, accountability challenges, workshops and more. As we enter into 2022, we’re looking for more ways to make the program more active. It’s really important to me that this program provides resources to help propel women and non-binary filmmakers’ and entrepreneurs’ careers forward.
If I understand correctly, you like connecting people. Can you delve deeper into that? How do you do that as Deputy Director of The Gotham?
K.B.: Connecting people has always been something I’ve loved to do. Even as a child, having a birthday party and bringing together my various groups of friends brought me such joy. I apply that same principle to the work I do at The Gotham. I find it so inspiring when different groups come together to share ideas and grow together. This happens through our monthly networking events for Gotham members. We also recently launched peer-to-peer groups for different subsets of our membership such as audio creators, narrative producers, and documentary producers. Seeing these groups come together and share resources and tips/tricks to advance their careers is great.
Also through my role as Deputy Director, I have the opportunity to bring together various teams at The Gotham and outside of The Gotham. Whether that’s spending more time connecting our development team and programming team or working holistically to think about how the organization can work with external partners to host programs together, it really speaks to my passion of connecting people.
There has been a tremendous shift in the ways we consume film and TV with the pandemic, with a limited use of movie theaters and an increased use of streaming platforms, but also new ways of filmmaking. How is this shift influencing your programming at the Gotham? How do you cater to your public and members in this new era?
K.B.: Yes, this shift is completely evident due to the pandemic. However, I believe we were making this shift before the pandemic and it’s just become more evident that things are changing in our industry. For The Gotham community, this change seems to be most reflective in the fact that our members are working in multiple mediums. We used to just see filmmakers or just TV creators, but now we have members who consider themselves as filmmakers, TV creators and could be working on audio projects as well. Also, due to this shift, I’ve noticed that our community is doing incredible work to diversify their skill sets and are ultimately multi-hyphenates –producers/directors/writers – and entrepreneurs. They’re seeking to not only hone their creative skills of media making, but also the business skills that go along with it to sustain their careers. That’s why we focus on programming that can appeal to these creators and again we look to provide them with resources that will give them opportunities to pursue their careers from multiple angles.
There has also been a shift in what the audiences want and need to see on screen, in terms of representation, diversity, gender equality. How is this particular shift influencing your current programming activities?
K.B.: Diversity, representation and gender equality have always been important pillars of the work that we do at The Gotham. Through the work we do for media makers, we hope to elevate original voices and untold stories that propel lasting cultural impact and influence the industry to be more expansive and inclusive. However, I will say since our rebrand, we’ve developed more active programs to serve communities that have been historically excluded from the entertainment industry. These programs include Owning It, Expanding Communities – our program that supports those with disabilities, Black, Indigenous People, and LGBTQ+ creators and organizations – as well as our Gotham EDU program, a program that nurtures creativity, community, and provides a supportive environment for college students to explore career possibilities. As The Gotham grows, I see these three programs as essential to the future of the organization as well as our industry.
There has been a lot of talk about women in film and TV in the past four years. What is your take on the matter? Do you see any change? Where do you see yourself in this discussion?
K.B.: Right now, women are pushing past boundaries that have existed for generations, but honestly those boundaries still exist. Through the work we do through Owning It, I really hope we’re supporting women and giving them the tools to push harder against the boundaries they experience. It’s so important for women in this field to also see each other as allies and not as competition. For every role I’ve had in my career, a woman has supported me and pushed me into my next steps and that’s why we do so much around accountability through Owning It because we can’t make strides on our own.
Do you have a favorite female filmmaker and a favorite film by a female filmmaker?
K.B.: I don’t have one favorite! There’s a lot of female filmmakers who I enjoy: Dee Rees, Nicole Holofcener, Nanfu Wang, and Alice Wu just to name a few. I also recently learned more about filmmaker Kathleen Collins who wrote and directed Losing Ground and who we’re honoring as our inaugural Icon Tribute Award at this year’s Gotham Awards. Her career is so inspiring and hopefully through the honor at the Gotham Award and future initiatives we’re planning, more people will know about her work. Ultimately though, my favorite film by a female filmmaker would have to be Clueless. It was the first film that I saw in a theater that I remember and really started my journey to understanding how much film could be a fun experience and say what you want, but the women in that film know what they want and are confident, two attributes you have to admire!
What do you have in store for the future of the Gotham?
K.B.: The Gotham has served over 30,000 creators and projects over its 40+ years and I see the organization continuing to do that in a very holistic and intentional way. We have such great long term programs such as Gotham Week and our Labs and the new programs I’ve mentioned – Expanding Communities, Owning It and Gotham EDU –. As we enter into 2022, we’re considering our move back to in-person events, taking into account what our community wants to see from us and how we want to grow as an organization. You’ll see active programming with great partners. You’ll see opportunities for filmmakers to grow their skills and get their projects seen by industry and audiences alike due to their experiences with The Gotham. So, overall, I see the future as bright for The Gotham. I feel very lucky to be a part of shaping what’s next for us.
Photo credits: Courtesy of The Gotham.