The scene: New York City, 1996. Acting legend and Manhattan native Robert De Niro and his producing partner, Jane Rosenthal, whose dream of nurturing the local film community led them to found the Tribeca Film Center several years prior, need a finance whiz with a commercial real estate background for their growing venture. Enter Zicklin School grad Sandy O’Hearen (’91), who takes what proves to be a life-changing phone call from a job recruiter with an offer she can’t refuse.
Some might have been intimidated to dive headfirst into the entertainment world, but not Ms. O’Hearen, who credits much of her confidence to her Baruch education. She pursued her degree in the late eighties while simultaneously working nearly full time for a family-owned business. Despite long days traveling back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn, “just seeing the hustle and the bustle of everyone around me at college was so motivating,” she says.
After graduating she worked in accounting for a handful of companies—including handling finances for Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island—before landing her role with Tribeca. Her career highlights include working on the team that sold 50 percent of Tribeca to the Madison Square Garden Company and overseeing the finances of the very first Tribeca Film Festival in early 2002. “In the shadow of the tragedy of September 11, seeing it all come to life at the opening ceremony was something I’ll never forget,” O’Hearen says of the festival, whose launch was designed as a way to help restore vitality and hope to downtown New York. “It was an emotional moment, especially knowing I had played a part in bringing it all together.”
More than 22 years after that fateful phone call, O’Hearen is still with Tribeca, now as CFO of Tribeca Enterprises, where she helps shape what has become a New York City institution. O’Hearen oversees the business side of Tribeca, although she has found her role expanding over the years.
“I’m lucky enough to have a job where I do what I’m best at,” she says, “but this is arguably the coolest application of it that you could possibly imagine.” Nowadays O’Hearen spends a good deal of time in production meetings chatting with filmmakers, directors, and clients to work out the nitty-gritty details of filmmaking. “I’ve developed a real appreciation for arts and entertainment,” she notes, “and an understanding of the passion that creative people have for what they make.”