Meet the Filmmaker in Chief Contest’s Powerhouse Panel of Judges

01/17/2024 in
Meet the Filmmaker in Chief Contest’s Powerhouse Panel of Judges

Lower Manhattan isn’t just an incredible movie backdrop; it’s also home to world class performance venues, film festivals and cultural institutions that drive arts and culture in the city and across the globe.

Leaders from a selection of those cultural institutions are set to choose Lower Manhattan’s Filmmaker in Chief winner from among five finalists who have submitted ideas for short films that feature Lower Manhattan as a character, an inspiration or a muse. (Read more about the Filmmaker in Chief contest here.) That winner will receive up to $50,000 and live for two months in a paid luxury apartment and receive two months’ stipend. 

So who are these judges? Let’s meet ‘em.

Kwame Amoaku, Deputy Commissioner of the Film Office, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment

As Deputy Commissioner of the Film Office at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), Kwame Amoaku serves as principal advisor on film and television production policy in New York City. This includes promoting New York City as a premier location for production, developing and maintaining relationships with key industry stakeholders, and overseeing the film permitting process. Previously, he served as director of the Chicago Film Office.

His career in film and television spans 30 years, and includes experience in directing, producing, writing, cinematography, acting, and location management. Basically, he’s done it all — and he’s ready to give your work a hard look.

Wynn Thomas, Award-Winning Production Designer

Working with directors like Spike Lee, Tim Burton, Robert Townsend, Robert De Niro and Ron Howard, Wynn Thomas has emerged as one of the finest production designers of his generation. After getting his start in theater, he began his film career as an assistant alongside production designers Richard Sylbert and Patrizia von Brandenstein, but he soon met Spike Lee. This began a long-term collaborative relationship that has spanned 35 years and over a dozen films. His work has included “Malcolm X,” “A Bronx Tale” and “A Beautiful Mind,” and he’s won a bevy of awards, including two Art Directors Guild Awards for excellence in production design. In fact, Thomas is so impressive that the Art Directors Guild will present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2024.

We interviewed Thomas last year to learn more about his extraordinary career; check it out here, complete with bonus vintage Thomas/Spike Lee pics.

Khady Kamara Nunez, Executive Director, Perelman Performing Arts Center

Khady Kamara Nunez is the Executive Director of Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC). She has over 24 years of theater management experience, with prior stints at Second Stage Theater, where she won a Tony Award® for Take Me Out as part of the Second Stage leadership team; and at the non-profit Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., one of the largest performing arts organizations in the U.S.

PAC NYC debuted late last year as a a one-of-a-kind multidisciplinary space, with the latest theatrical design, technology and boundary-pushing work. Outfitted with three fully customizable theaters, PAC NYC can host a wide range of live productions. This transformative institution is set to have a profound impact on the neighborhood and shift the cultural center of gravity downtown. We’re delighted to have it represented on our panel.

Pete Torres, Managing Director of Live Events and Chief Operating Officer of the Tribeca Festival

Pete Torres is the Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Live Events at Tribeca Enterprises, overseeing the operations of the annual Tribeca Festival in New York City as well as global year-round live events. The Tribeca Festival was founded in the aftermath of 9/11 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan. Under Pete’s leadership, the festival has grown in size and scope, expanding its footprint beyond lower Manhattan to partner with neighborhoods and iconic venues across the city. 

Tribeca is one of the film industry’s most celebrated festivals, championing emerging and established voices, discovering award-winning talent, curating innovative experiences and introducing new ideas through exclusive premieres, exhibitions, conversations and live performances. The annual Tribeca Festival will celebrate its 23rd year from June 5–16, 2024.

Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York

Of course, our own Jessica Lappin takes the final seat on our  judging panel. Lappin has a distinguished record in civic life and public service. Prior to her tenure as the leader of the Alliance, which manages one of the country’s largest Business Improvement Districts (BID) , Lappin was elected to serve two terms in the New York City Council, representing the Upper East Side, East Midtown, and Roosevelt Island.

A lifelong New Yorker an an Ex Officio board member of the “people’s theater” founded in 1943 by Mayor Fiorello Laguardia, New York City Center, Lappin knows what she’s talking about when it comes to good film and Lower Manhattan.

For more on Lower Manhattan’s movie connections and an opportunity to apply for our Filmmaker in Chief creative residency, see our Filmmaker in Chief tag or visit

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