Gina Argento went from being a 10-year-old kid sister working behind the scenes at Broadway Stages to sitting at the top as CEO of the largest, full-service television and film production company on the East Coast.
In 1983, her father helped her brother purchase a warehouse that would become their first soundstage. Since then she’s come a long way from shadowing executives in every department to learn the ropes and these days is more focused on expanding Broadway Stages from two boroughs to three and growing their permanent sets.
When Lioness caught up with Argento in February, a number of hit shows were using her sound stages, including CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” “The Good Fight,” “Madam Secretary,” and Netflix’s “The Punisher.”
Argento said one of their biggest selling points over the years has been that they’re a full-service production company, with over 40 sound stages throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
“We have an in-house wood working team, lighting company and more. Most production houses outsource those jobs while we have them on staff,” Argento explained. “We’re also completely dedicated to our philanthropic work. I was raised to always give back and that’s something I am incredibly passionate about and is something I want to impart on my staff.”
She has been a supporter of a number of initiatives including the Queens Botanical Garden where she encourages New York City youth to learn about ways they can create a more sustainable lifestyle. She was also recently honored by the Greenpoint YMCA as a Volunteer of the Year and she’s been recognized for offering Broadway Stages rooftop, at their 520 Kingsland Avenue location, as a community space and safe haven for natural wildlife species called, Kingsland Wildflower Project.
“Being able to give back is one of the biggest motivators for me and I wouldn’t be able to do it in the way I have been if the company were to fail. Also, being a mother and being able to provide the best for my children so they can grow up and become successful and learn the values and traits to be a good person is so important,” Argento said.
Being a female executive in the film industry isn’t easy. According to a new study released by the Women’s Media Center on March 22, the number of women in behind- the- scenes roles has decreased significantly, and Argento said women see their share of challenges.
“Whenever people call and ask for the person in charge, they’re forwarded to me, but as soon I get on they ask for the man in charge,” she said. “It’s a frustrating obstacle to constantly battle but, unfortunately, it comes with the territory of leading a company that is still so heavily dominated by men.”
Still, Argento said other women looking to break into her field should keep five things in mind:
- Be prepared when opportunities present themselves and that is your time to shine.
- Discover your passion and then pursue it.
- Never stop learning from colleagues, employees, etc.
- Always look for a challenge. Don’t be content.
- Bring something different to the table. Don’t be ordinary be extraordinary.
“Think of the long term and know that it won’t happen right away. It takes time. Don’t expect your business to take off in the first year or two. Sometimes it will but most of the time it won’t, but once it does be prepared to move quickly. Ultimately, just have patience and don’t give up,” Argento said.
For now, Argento is focusing on expansion. In 2014, Broadway Stages won a bid to purchase the 69-acre former site of the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in Staten Island for $7 million. According to news reports, the deal has stalled due to an ongoing federal investigation into whether some donations to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund were in exchange for favorable actions from the city.
The New York Times reported that Argento was the “second-largest bundler of contributions for his 2013 run — city records show she brought in over $100,000 for the campaign and transition.” Her husband attorney John Ciafone told the New York Daily News in February that Argento felt pressured to donate and that, “Her and Broadway Stages didn’t get a penny and got no preferential treatment,” Ciafone said. “The only thing they’ve got is grief and bad publicity.”
At the time of this article, no criminal charges were filed against the mayor.
Argento told Lioness, “The project looks like it will be progressing and moving shortly. Many of our big hit shows have already filmed at Arthur Kills and we look forward to taking over the property and to putting our Broadway Stages touch on it, so that we can provide for all the needs of our clients and the amazing shows they produce.”