By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – There’s a lot on the plate of Media and Entertainment commissioner Anne del Castillo in keeping the billion dollar entertainment industry here afloat with the onslaught of the pandemic in 2020.
A lot of caution and “learning on the spot” was how she would put it. From being a cheerleader, she had to quickly shift to being a crises management adviser for artists, workers, and businesses who were immediately hit by the shutdown. She heads the Mayor’s Office for Media and Entertainment (MOME).
Del Castillo is the fourth Filipina to be appointed by Mayor de Blasio into his administration. She has a degree in English Literature and Mass Communications from the University of Boston where she graduated with honors. She is also a lawyer who finished her JD from Brooklyn University.
During an interview with the digital show Issues & Inspiration on January 30, 2021, del Castillo said that New York is gaining momentum in its recovery this year, with a great deal of caution.
There are currently about 40 film production companies which are shooting films on the streets of the city and in various locations. The MOME started granting permits to filmmakers in September last year with strict health protocols in place.
Filmmaking is a huge earner for NYC and its comeback was a great relief. With the pandemic, these production outfits had to coordinate with the health department, the Governor’s film office, and MOME. They have also created specific precautionary measures on how to continue filming just in case anyone from the cast or crew gets sick.
“New York is here and coming back strong. But we are making sure that all is safe,” del Castillo emphasized.
Since March 2020, the vibrant nightlife, restaurants, theater, and movie, and commercial establishments in the city have been shut off. With that, the MOME went into a crises management mode and had to immediately think of ways to support artists, workers, and businesses in the industry.
NYC’s entertainment sector earned about $60B with $3B in tax revenues for the city prior to the pandemic and employed over half a million New Yorkers. Wrestling against covid19, del Castillo said the city is trying “to provide support as much as we can.”
Her office had constantly been in contact with actors groups, labor unions, and businesses in order to come up with specific survival measures and support. “Our work has been very intense,” she said.
The MOME vacated performances virtually, for one. Performance festivals have been done online and will be extended until June to support artists.
In October 2020, it created the off Broadway shows in the boroughs, known as off Broadway pop-ups in collaboration with small theatre groups in public plazas in each of the five boroughs and telecast on Channel 25. It is part of the city’s efforts to bring local theatre and a variety of arts to New Yorkers. See schedule here https://www1.nyc.gov/site/mome/news/01132021-off-broadway-boros.page
Despite the economic crunch, del Castillo was quick to say all isn’t really bleak despite the cold season. “We see a lot of creativity going on. There are curated shows online. There are virtual concerts and live-streamed performances.”
For del Castillo, timing is everything in reopening NYC. “Other than coming up with regular programming, we are making sure that all is safe. We need to put the numbers down and also know what people desire- how and when are they ready to watch shows collectively. So we need to deal with that cautiously.”
Del Castillo has over 25 years experience in public media, film and TV production, and nonprofit administration. She has worked in media companies such as New Media, Gotham and PBS.
Born in NYC, her Filipino mother, Rachel del Castillo, raised her single-handedly while working as a nurse in the city. Del Castillo said she grew up in a very Filipino way, with her mom creating an extended family among her co-workers. “I had an Irish godmother and Pakistani family as close friends. It’s very United Nations. I had strong Filipino women as role models, a lot of aunties who were my mom’s colleagues at the hospital,” she recalled.
Asked how her mother must have influenced her to be the leader that she is now, del Castillo laughed citing that her mother, a native of Isabella, Negros Occidental in the Philippines, was a bit surprised at her post right now.
“But she is a strong mom. A strong woman. She came here on her own and raised me here. Seeing her drive, tenacity, deep faith, and conviction that’s the reason why I am here. With a mother like that, there is no limit to what you can do,” she beamed. #