As the Deputy General Counsel and Director of External Affairs for Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Kenneth Ebie helps to ensure that NYC remains one of the film production capitals of the world. But for Ebie, it’s more than just guaranteeing tourists and busy New Yorkers a steady diet of celebrity sightings. By forging new partnerships with media stakeholders, Ebie works to improve diversity on and off camera and expand access to cultural programming and educational opportunities in order to create jobs and opportunities for New York City residents. Among his achievements, Ebie is spearheading the development and implementation NYC Film Green to promote sustainable film and television practices in NYC.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
I’m a lawyer by trade and moved to New York City from Chicago after serving as policy director for a successful statewide campaign in Illinois to work in private practice. Though I’ve always been interested in government and public service, my plan had always been to work in private practice for a few years and return home to Chicago to get involved in public service. But in 2012, I met the late Ken Thompson and received the opportunity to run his successful and historic campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney. I’ve continued to work in New York City government ever since. Ten years after leaving Chicago and settling down in Brooklyn, U.S.A., I’m still here.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) supports all of the creative industries that call New York City home – in addition to our traditional support for the film, television and theater industries, our portfolio now includes music, advertising, publishing, digital content and real estate as it relates to each of these industries.
I wear a couple of hats at MOME. As Deputy General Counsel, I negotiate and draft agreements to formalize partnerships between our office and other organizations – media companies, non-profit foundations and City agencies – for initiatives that support the media and entertainment industry here in NYC. For example, we’ve negotiated wonderful partnerships with Viacom, VH1 Save the Music and Global Citizen to support education and workforce development initiatives for New Yorkers interested in working in the industry.
As Director of External Affairs, I manage our engagement with local elected officials, labor unions and key industry stakeholders and spearhead a number of our key initiatives. On a typical day, I may speak with a Council Member to address quality of life issues in her district and meet with media executives about opportunities to partner on initiatives that amplify the cultural and economic benefits of this industry to New York City and its residents. From time to time, I speak at industry events and conferences on these issues.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love connecting with people. One of the most important aspects of my job is to convene various stakeholders in New York’s television, film, theater, music, advertising, and publishing industries to learn where the City might best support the industry so that it works best for New Yorkers. It is tremendously fulfilling to be able to think creatively every day about how best to make this $9 billion industry advance the values of opportunity, equity, and excellence that are fundamental New York City values.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
I’m most proud of our office’s efforts to encourage sustainable TV/film production practices and support a more inclusive media and entertainment industry. I recently led the successful development and launch of NYC Film Green, the first green production designation program in the country administered by a government entity. By recognizing productions for efforts to reduce their waste output, conserve energy and educate crew members on the importance of greening their sets, we hope to establish New York City as the global capital of green television and film production.
On the issue of creating a more inclusive industry, I forged a powerful partnership with the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation that resulted in the launch of their nationwide Careers in Entertainment (CIE) Tour here in Brooklyn last fall. We assembled over 500 high school and college students, who attended panel discussions and a career fair aimed at exposing a diverse group of young New Yorkers to the variety of career paths available in the entertainment industry. We’ve used this model to create similar partnerships with VH1 Save the Music and Sports New York (SNY) to address the pipeline problem.
The greatest challenge to doing this type of work well often comes down to leadership. I am fortunate to work for a dynamic leader, Commissioner Julie Menin under a dynamic Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Their vision and commitment to these issues have provided me with a tremendous opportunity to have an impact.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
Over the past year, many people have come to appreciate anew the important relationship between the media and entertainment industry and government. My hope is that government will continue to develop creative ways to support this important industry so that its cultural and economic benefits can be continue to be felt in New York City and elsewhere. Specifically, I hope that this industry will continue to make meaningful strides toward increasing diversity, both above the line and below the line. This is a multi-faceted problem, so there is no silver bullet solution. But government entities such as the Mayor’s Office can be instrumental in convening industry leaders to address this issue as it relates to New Yorkers. New York City is the cultural capital of the world and we have the ability to move the needle and, in doing so, change the entire industry for the better.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Baratunde Thurston (Writer/Comedian/Commentator), Gabrielle Glore (Co-Founder of Urbanworld Film Festival), Gregg Bishop (Commissioner of NYC Department of Small Business Services), Linda Sarsour (Community Activist, co-organizer of Women’s March on Washington), Racquel Gates (Assistant Professor of Media Culture, CUNY, College of Staten Island).
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.