NYWIFT 2023 Filmmakers Calling the Shots

Yvonna Russell
4 min readOct 10, 2023
NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Award Winner Jennifer Esposito, and CEO Cynthia Lopez. (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

On a crisp autumn Sunday, New York Women in Film & Television celebrated outstanding creativity in diverse voices at the 2023 Hamptons Brunch & 19th Annual Short Film Showcase on October 8th in East Hampton.

HONOLULU (photo courtesy of HIFF31)

Presented in partnership with The 31st Hamptons International Film Festival running through October 5–12, 2023, the five short films selected crown achievements by women and nonbinary filmmakers at the festival.

NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline and Celia Weston (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

The Hamptons International Film Festival was founded to celebrate Independent film — long, short, fiction and documentary — and to introduce a unique and varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers to our audiences.


The picturesque Mulford Farms hosted an outdoor brunch at noon. As patrons, filmmakers, actors, directors, producers, screenwriters, editors, distributors and below the line industry gathered around an alfresco repass of smoked salmon, salads, bagels, lobster rolls, pulled pork sliders and mini quiches. Complimented by an open bar, Barrie House coffees and Freixenet Prosecco, brunch sponsors also included A+E Networks and James Lane Post. The conservation was all industry shop talk about the festival, film premieres, distribution, the SAG-AFTRA strike and networking.


NYWIFT executive director Cynthia Lopez introduced the filmmakers to the brunch group who mingled earlier with everyone. Actress and producer Jennifer Esposito was awarded a NYWIFT Narrative Filmmaking Award for her feature film directorial debut, Fresh Kills premiering at the festival. The award for excellence is given to a female or nonbinary filmmaker with a feature film in the HIFF lineup, accompanied by a cash prize.

GOLDILOCKS (photo courtesy of HIFF31)

Later in the afternoon, the shorts film showcase was shown at the packed East Hampton Regal UA movie cineplex filled with professional and nonprofessional cinephiles. The short films showcased are fresh, original and daring. BLACK GIRLS PLAY: THE STORY OF HAND GAMES, documentary co -directed by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster was a rich historical meditation on hand games that young African American girls play and their impact on influence on music, dance, and community.

NYWIFT staffer Easmanie Michel and NYWIFT members (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

Director A. Lauren Lee’s narrative short, HALMONI’S POT (GRANDMA’S POT) is a hilarious vignette inspired by on her life experience as a loving grandma (halmoni) reluctantly agrees to buy pot for her grandson. Classical world renowned ballerina and trailblazer Misty Copeland starred and produced a narrative short, FLOWER directed by Lauren Finerman. The dramatic non-dialogue dance and story piece set in Oakland highlights the struggle of affordable housing insufficiency.


Director Meryl Jones used Magic realism to great effect in their narrative short, GOLDILOCKS when two siblings learn a painful lesson. HONOLULU, director Maya Tanaka’s narrative short is a coming of age moment in the life of 12 year old Yuki on her Hawaiian beach vacation with her aloof father and her elegant grandmother.

Cynthia Lopez, Eve Austin, Dawn Robinson and guest (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

The directors and producers of the shorts took to the stage for a lively post screening Q&A.

Jennifer Esposito, Executive Director of the Hamptons Film Festival Anne Chaisson and HIFF 31 filmmakers (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)
NYWIFT members at Mulford Farms brunch (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

The nonprofit organization, New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) connects, educates, and advocates for women to accelerate diversity in media and entertainment to better reflect our world and transform our culture.

NYWIFT staff Katie Chambers, producer Carolyn Hepburn, NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline and NYWIFT members (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)
Xinying Lao, A. Lauren Lee and guest (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)

Kudos to the NYWIFT & HIFF31 team, Rashiek Smart (NYWIFT), Easmanie Michel (NYWIFT), Anna Lawrence (HIFF) & Natalie Gee (HIFF) who curated “Filmmaker Calling the Shots Showcase” for an excellent presentation of talented independent female and nonbinary filmmakers.

Team NYWIFT Rashiek Smart, Cynthia Lopez, Easmanie Michel, Katie Chambers, Catherine Woo (Photos courtesy of NYWIFT)



Yvonna Russell

Writer. I cover the arts, good causes and style. Will work for coffee, wine and Manolo Blahniks.