Conversation with NYFA’s Media Specialist Matthew Seig
“Be generous and respectful to your cast, crew, audience, funders and community.”
NYFA Fiscal Sponsorship is one of the oldest and most reputable programs of its kind in the country. It gives individual artists and artist-run organizations increased access to greater funding and enhances their fundraising capabilities.
We have chatted to NYFA’s Matthew Seig, media specialist for Fiscal Sponsorship, on his work in the film industry, his advice for emerging filmmakers and which movies he is looking forward to seeing in the next weeks.
NYFA: How long have you been working for NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship department as a media specialist?
Matthew Seig: I filled in at this position for 3 months in 2009 when the previous media specialist took a leave of absence, and I’ve been here ever since. I also had a film in Fiscal Sponsorship in the early ‘90s, reviewed fiscal sponsorship applications from filmmakers as an outside reader for a while, and had been a fellowship panelist.
NYFA: What is your professional background in the film industry?
MS: It’s pretty diverse. Usually I say my career started in the film department at the Museum of Modern Art, even though I had been exhibiting movies and freelancing in various production positions before that. MoMA gave me a new perspective. Shortly thereafter I began working for the producer/director Robert Altman. Eventually I produced (fiction and nonfiction films) and directed (documentaries, mostly music), then returned to art house and festival programming. Aside from my work at NYFA, I run a film society in the lower Hudson Valley and I manage a collection of media copyrights. I helped establish the Robert Altman Archive at the University of Michigan, represent the Altman Estate, and last year edited a book about his life and films.
NYFA: How often do you meet with filmmakers and what do you find are their main concerns? What can you help them with?
MS: I am in the NYFA office on Thursdays and Fridays and maybe meet with one or more filmmakers a day. I do quite a bit by email or phone, but meeting people in person is a good way to start. In person I can spend time getting to know the filmmaker and the film. Artists come to us wanting help with fundraising, which is of course the purpose of Fiscal Sponsorship, but that often involves solving other problems. I look at strengths and weaknesses in the project and filmmaker within the context of the kind of film being made.
NYFA: What advice would you give emerging filmmakers?
MS: Be true to who you are and find your voice.
Network with the media community and support other filmmakers.
Show your work whenever you can.
Get to know your audience. Among them are your future funders.
Make it easy for people to get in touch with you and stay connected to you.
Work with a partner who has different skills from yours.
Be generous and respectful to your cast, crew, audience, funders and community.
Learn how to promote yourself.
Describe your projects briefly, passionately, and visually.
NYFA: What are the top three mistakes filmmakers make?
MS: (1) Choosing a project and budget that don’t appear to be appropriate for who they are or what their level of experience and skill is.
(2) Not knowing who the audience for their film is.
(3) Proposal writing that tries too hard to look smart, doesn’t read fluidly, contains jargon, doesn’t express enthusiasm, and evokes images only of talking heads.
NYFA: Do you have a guilty pleasure movie or series?
MS: Perhaps experimental, personal, and boundary-pushing films are my guilty pleasures, but I love pop culture too. The last film I saw in a theater was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I watch Jane the Virgin, which is wildly imaginative and joins an increasing number of television programs that represent the diversity of the United States better than studio films do. Occasionally I’ll watch something “experimental” at home, or less often in a theater.
NYFA: Which movie are you excited to see before the end of the year?
MS: I’m not very excited at the moment, so I’m clearly not a big Star Wars fan. There is an upcoming documentary about the Carter family, country music’s royal family, called The Winding Stream. I’m fascinated by how innovators like the Carters change culture, and how their contribution evolves over time. From Hollywood, Joy, by the Silver Linings Playbook and The Hustle filmmakers. I answered the previous question with a Jennifer Lawrence movie too. I enjoy what movie stars do, and how actors emerge who embody some attribute that resonates culturally at a given time. Right now Jennifer Lawrence is an example. I’ll add Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq to this list for similar reasons to both the above.
Fiscal sponsorship allows individual artists and emerging arts organizations in all disciplines the ability to raise funds using NYFA’s tax-exempt status as a 501( c)(3)-classified organization. Under NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship, artists and organizations can optimize the reach of their fundraising efforts. Click here to find out more about NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship program. There are four application deadlines throughout the year with the next one coming up on March 31, 2016.
– Mara Vlatkovic, Digital Communications Officer
Image: Matthew Seig, photo credit: Mara Vlatkovic