Film Independent Selects 30 Filmmakers For 2015-2016 Project Involve



Kiehl's Since 1851 Returns as Lead Funder of the Project Involve Shorts

Jan 25, 2016, 13:31 ET from Film Independent

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the LA Film Festival, has selected 30 filmmakers for Project Involve, the organization's signature diversity mentorship program which fosters the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

Film Independent also announced major new studio support of Project Involve with Focus Features' Lili Elbe Fellowship, which will be awarded to a transgender filmmaker in the 2016-2017 program, and will provide the filmmaker with a $10,000 grant. Additionally, the 5th annual Sony Pictures Entertainment Diversity Fellowship in Project Involve will provide a $10,000 grant to a current Fellow, and the second annual Sony Executive Track Fellowship will provide a year-long paid executive training fellowship in development and production with Columbia Pictures along with participation and mentorship through Project Involve.

This year's mentors include producer Nina Yang Bongiovi (Fruitvale Station, Dope), writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), writer/director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines), casting director Kim Coleman (Chi-Raq, Dope), writer/director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, The Bourne Legacy), cinematographer Michael Gioulakis (It Follows, Split), writer/producer Misha Green (Underground, Sons of Anarchy), writer/producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Apocalypse, Fantastic Four), writer/director Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned), cinematographer/director Reed Morano (Meadowland, Vinyl), writer/director Justin Simien (Dear White People), producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don't Cry, Carol ), and cinematographer Bradford Young, ASC (A Most Violent Year, Selma).

"We are thrilled to welcome the 23rd class of Film Independent's Project Involve," said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development. "Through Project Involve and across all of our programs, we are working to change the landscape of the industry by discovering and nurturing unique and underrepresented talent. Our commitment to diversity stems from our desire to see the richness of human experience represented in film and television; it is through the stories we tell that we create empathy, dialogue, and deeper cultural understanding. We are thrilled to have Kiehl's Since 1851 returning to support the Project Involve shorts this year. This funding will allow our fellows to bring their visions to life."

This year's filmmakers are:

David Aristizabal – Editor
Juan Avella – Writer
Giulia Caruso – Producer
Christopher Cegielski – Director
Sue-Ellen Chitunya – Producer
Zoe Sua Cho – Producer
Donna Choo – Writer
Ashley Chrisman – Producer
Andressa Cor – Cinematographer
Carmen Delaney – Cinematographer
Simu Feng – Cinematographer
Aleshka Ferrero – Editor
Leon Hendrix III – Writer
Erica Lang – Industry Track: Creative/Development Executive
Isiah Donté Lee – Cinematographer
Irvin Liu – Cinematographer
Elton Loud – Writer
Puja Maewal – Director
Franzis Müller – Editor
Terence Nance – Director
Nico Navia – Cinematographer
Oby M. Okoye – Producer
Codie Elaine Oliver – Producer
Sara Pellegrini – Editor
Yanillys Pérez – Director
Eugene Ramos – Writer
Ana Souza – Industry Track: Festival Programmer
Brook Sitgraves Turner – Writer
Ozzy Villazon – Director
April A. Wilson – Director

Project Involve is a free nine-month program for writers, directors, producers, editors, cinematographers and entertainment executives from diverse backgrounds. During the program, participants meet one-on-one with film industry mentors, create short films, attend master-workshops taught by top film professionals and industry networking events. Project Involve Fellows receive passes to the Film Independent Forum, Directors Close-Up and Los Angeles Film Festival. The 2016 Project Involve participants were selected based on the quality of their projects, their passion, vision, talent, and commitment to pursuing a career in the film industry.

Past Film Independent Fellows from Project Involve include Andrew Ahn whose feature debut Spa Night will premiere in Dramatic Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Effie T. Brown (Dear White People), Jon Chu (Step Up 3D, Step Up 2: The Streets), Cherien Dabis (Quantico, Amreeka), Jennifer Phang (Advantageous), and Justin Simien (Dear White People).

Previous mentors include Gregg Araki (Smiley Face, Mysterious Skin), Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends with Money), Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me, Eve's Bayou), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento), Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election), Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach, The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips), Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Illusionist), John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Four Brothers), and Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland). 

For information on all past Film Independent Fellows, please visit our online Film Independent Talent Guide.

Film Independent's Project Involve is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder Time Warner Foundation and Project Involve Shorts Lead Funder Kiehl's Since 1851. Principal Sponsors include EFILM | Company 3, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The program is also supported by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and HBO.

About Film Independent
Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent's Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.

Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers. Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.  

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent's Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent's signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. For more information or to become a member, visit

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SOURCE Film Independent