“DON’T go in with a pre-conceived idea of what you think you are going to do.”
That was Anne del Castillo’s quick response when I asked about her advice for young people of color who want to be in her shoes someday.
Del Castillo is the new Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment after getting appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on April 17, 2019.
Born and raised in New York, del Castillo joined the commission’s legal department five years ago when then-Commissioner Cynthia Lopez tapped her to join the team. A year later, she was appointed as Chief Operating Officer.
“That was huge. I had only been here for a year and I had no previous government experience,” del Castillo told the Asian Journal.
Which was why she had to learn the ropes fast. She served as General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of MOME since 2015, helping structure and advance several groundbreaking workforce and diversity initiatives.
Now as Commissioner, del Castillo will amplify MOME’s efforts not only to strengthen the city’s media and entertainment economy but to ensure that the workforce in those industries is as diverse as New York City itself.
“Media and entertainment are central to New York City’s economy and identity. Anne has the vision and experience to continue to strengthen the industry during this time of unprecedented growth and change,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Her commitment to diversifying our entertainment sector and piloting innovative programs will ensure New York continues to be the media capital of the world.”
We met up with Commissioner del Castillo in her office downtown a day before she celebrated her first month in office.
“It has been great. I can’t think of a better way to transition into this role, coming with the opportunity of working in the agency for the past five years and then coming from the industry, I worked in film and television for over 20 years, so I feel well prepared and conditioned to take on the role,” del Castillo said.
“It’s definitely a privilege and an honor. To be in a position where I can leverage my life’s work in the service of building the industry for New York City is quite an honor and not one that I take very lightly,” she added.
Del Castillo is the fourth Filipina American to be appointed by Mayor de Blasio in key city posts. From Maria Torres Springer (former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the nation’s largest municipal housing agency) to Carmelyn Malalis of the Commission on Human Rights and Minerva Tantoco as the city’s Chief Technology Officer.
“I never ever thought that I’d be in this position. It’s a privilege and a very significant responsibility that I feel every day. It’s not just because I am Filipina that I feel like diversity is important in the industry,” she said. “New York City is an incredibly diverse city and I had the benefit…if I had grown up Filipina anywhere else, it would be a very different experience.”
As Commissioner, del Castillo leads the de Blasio administration’s effort to capitalize on the burgeoning augmented reality and virtual reality industries. She also leads outreach to the advertising industry to help foster career pathways for New Yorkers of all backgrounds, and oversee the work of the recently formed Office of Nightlife to ensure the sustainable development of nightlife in New York City.
“This is an exciting time for our agency to engage a broad cross-section of industry, community and other key stakeholders to advance an inclusive, sustainable and thriving creative economy that benefits all New Yorkers and reflects the diversity that defines our city,” del Castillo said.
Del Castillo joined MOME after more than 20 years in film production, public media, and non-profit administration. In 2014, del Castillo was appointed as director of legal affairs of MOME and was promoted to chief operating officer and general counsel in 2015.
The commission has just announced some of its major initiatives it is working on, including the New York Music Month for June, Broadway in the Boroughs, Movies Under the Stars throughout New York city parks and the One Book, One New York, which is the largest community read in the country.
Del Castillo has served as the acting commissioner of MOME since February 2019 and during her tenure, she helped develop and launch mentorship and training programs to increase industry diversity and the Made in NY Women’s Film, TV and Theatre Fund, which is distributing $5 million in grants to women filmmakers and playwrights. She also helped establish the first of its kind Freelancers Hub to create a central resource for freelance workers.
“For my long term plans, we are looking at how do we support the growth of these industries, whether through business or career pathways or job creation but really with an eye towards diversifying the media and entertainment sector at every level,” she explained.
She plans to do that through career exposure in schools, internships, and job trainings to make sure that every New Yorker has an opportunity to benefit from this thriving industry.
The commission is also looking at ways in order to ensure that New York City remains to be the media capital of the world, and a couple of ways of doing that is looking through the areas for industry growth and create that talent pool that would keep companies wanting to come to the city.
MOME has recently expanded from supporting the film, TV, and theatre industries to supporting the music, publishing, advertising and digital media industries as well. These industries account for a total of 305,000 jobs and an economic output of $104 billion. MOME also encompasses NYC Media, the City’s official broadcast network and the Office of Nightlife.
“Our portfolio has expanded to include music, advertising, publishing and digital content and we are mandated to support those creative sectors which comprise 300,000 jobs and 104 billion in economic output for the city,” del Castillo said.
Del Castillo worked with Ramona Diaz in her documentary film Imelda and she excitedly shared how they met.
She was then working at the Austin Film Society and Diaz has just moved there. She saw Diaz on the cover of Austin Chronicle along with other documentary film directors who del Castillo knew.
“I asked her for her number from a friend and I called her and said ‘Hi! You’re Filipino and I’m Filipino, too. I would like to meet you’,” del Castillo said laughing.
So they met and talked about their projects, including the Imelda Marcos documentary and del Castillo got on board, doing transcriptions initially and when Diaz eventually got the grant, she took del Castillo in as an associate producer.
“It was amazing. I don’t think I fully appreciated it in that moment buts he entrusted me with a lot. This was a big film for her and for her to trust me, it was remarkable,” she added.
Del Castillo recalled getting the opportunity to work in the Philippines to do the archival research for the film, at the Philippine Film Archives sifting through hours and hours of footage. She fondly recalled texting Diaz when she found Imelda dancing with Khaddafi and Henry Kissinger.
Del Castillo makes it a point to visit her mother Rachel’s hometown in Isabela, Negros Occidental whenever she gets a chance. She was a nurse who took a chance and went to New York, eventually raising Anne as a single mother.
“I don’t get back as often as I’d like because my mom is here and it’s hard to get that kind of time off. Thank God for Facebook, that’s where I get to catch up with my cousins who I love dearly,” she said.