The Emerging Voices Mentorship program, an initiative of the New Orleans Film Society, was created in 2014 and founded on the principle that to create a more diverse storytelling landscape, filmmakers of color in Louisiana need greater access to gatekeepers.
In its inaugural year, the program sought to fill the lack of opportunities for local African-American and Black Diaspora directors to meaningfully connect with industry leaders, expand career opportunities, and to help strengthen the local film community. In 2015, Emerging Voices expanded to include all filmmakers of color based in Louisiana, adding an even more vast and diverse perspective to the program and reflecting the depth and breadth of the state.
Applications for 2019 Emerging Voices Mentorship Program will open in July 2019 and the program will be held during the 30th New Orleans Film Festival (October 16-23, 2019).
Applicants include filmmakers with narrative or documentary projects (shorts, features or web-based), experimental films and music videos in the development/pre-production stage. Once selected, during the annual New Orleans Film Festival, selected filmmakers are paired with a Film Industry leader who acts as a mentor through one-on-one meetings. Mentees also participate in short intensive meetings with other industry professionals during the NOFF Industry Exchange to pitch their projects and build further connections.
The program works to empower the local community as well as to promote the unique perspectives and cultures created in Louisiana to the rest of the country, and the world.
Would like to learn more? Download Emerging Voices 2017-18 report here.
Emerging Voices is supported by 21 Century Fox Inclusion, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
Since 2014, the Emerging Voices mentorship program has supported 25 filmmakers of color, connecting them to prominent industry insiders to broaden their networks nationally and gain invaluable feedback on their own projects in development. Emerging Voices engages a cohort of 6-8 filmmakers annually to participate in an intimate and focused mentorship and workshop experience during New Orleans Film Festival and throughout the year. Mentees receive guidance on their projects from mentors with relevant experience in their project’s genre and attend a number of facilitated networking opportunities.
Samantha is a Belizean-American director/writer whose work is rooted in storytelling traditions of the American South and the folklore of Belize. She is an alum of the NBC/Universal Diversity Director Program and a recent recipient of the Belize Film Commissioner’s Emerging Storyteller Feature Film Award.
Project: Little Lying Wild (Narrative Feature)
When an outcast girl with an obsession for stories is the only witness to a murder in her Belizean village, she has to prove that what she has seen is not an illusion.
Mentor: Moira Griffin, Executive Director, Production, Creative Labs for 21st Century Fox
Moira Griffin is the Executive Director, Production, Creative Labs for 21st Century Fox where she oversees development labs for writers, directors, and producers for TV and Film, as well as festival and organization partnerships. Previously she was the Head of Diversity Initiatives department at the Sundance Institute.
Originally from New Orleans and now based in Shreveport, Lonzell works as a commercial director and cinematographer and is Video Production Manager at LA New Product Development Team. He has directed a number of music videos for Southern artists and is currently at work on a documentary short.
Project: “Disable” (Documentary Short)
Diamond Excell is a motivational speaker based in Atlanta who was born without arms, seeking to show the world that anything is possible.
Mentor: Michèle Stephenson
As co-founding member of the Rada Film Group, filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling deeply personal stories in a variety of media that resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on a variety of broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime and MTV. Her most recent film, American Promise, was nominated for three Emmys including Best Documentary and Best News Coverage of a Contemporary Issue.
Based in Baton Rouge, Abraham is a director by way of writing and editing for print and television. He has directed music videos for some of Louisiana’s top artists, and his most recent short film, “Jane” is screening at NOFF2018. His work explores humanity and race, and he was recently invited to speak about race at the recent Black Out Loud Conference.
Project: “Please Maintain an Awkward Silence” (Narrative Short)
In a metaphor for race in America, a routine ride in an office park elevator turns unexpectedly foul for everyone involved.
Mentor: Robert Patla, Talent Development & Programming, HBO
In 2013 Robert joined XLrator Media as an Acquisitions Executive, working with his former Weinstein Company mentor Barry Gordon. As Co-Head of Acquisitions for PACE, Robert helped XLrator Media become a leading distributor of multicultural content, curating a slate of independent feature films and documentaries made by, featuring, and targeting the African American, Hispanic and other under-represented communities of the world. Currently, as an Executive in HBO’s Talent Development and Programming department, Robert helps keep a constant influx of the best and brightest writers and directors coming through the HBO doors.
Marion Hill is a New Orleans–based filmmaker and photographer with roots spreading from Vietnam and England to France and the US. Her art focuses on women, world cultures, sexuality, and music. Her first film “Bird of Prey” screened at Sidewalk and Frameline. She studied film at Northwestern University with a focus in directing.
Project: Mejanelle (Narrative Feature)
After ten years, three old New Orleans lovers–two of them recently married–meet in Southern France.
Mentor: Alece Oxendine, Distribution Consultant
Alece Oxendine has dedicated her career to ensuring diverse content finds an audience–a goal she’s actively pursued while at New York Film Festival, BAMcinématek, Rooftop Films, Fandor, Distribber, and Good Deed Entertainment. Alece is a graduate of Columbia University and Winston-Salem State University. She is originally from Durham, NC and has lived in New York City, San Francisco, but now she calls Los Angeles home.
A multi-media, communications professional, Mayaba has cultivated years of experience in various aspects of creating compelling storytelling and messaging. The focus of her interdisciplinary background remains anchored in her passion for radical black feminism, human rights, and social change.
Project: “WandARlust” (Augmented Reality Project)
WandARlust is an immersive, interactive, and self-guided tour of New Orleans, using photos, artistic renderings, and live action vignettes to explore hidden histories.
Mentor: Amanda Shelby, Immersive Content Producer
After a decade in broadcast entertainment, Amanda had a successful tenure as the Head of VR Production at Radiant Images, working with clients such as Facebook, Hyundai, Disney, and the Obama Administration. Recently, Amanda launched her own VR company to work as an independent VR producer and consultant to create custom solutions for a wide range of clients. She specializes in developing new VR tools and workflow solutions that ensure the creative vision is flawlessly executed for an immersive audience experience.
Zuri Obi is a Haitian-American filmmaker based in New Orleans whose work centers on women’s lives and the diasporic experience. Her short “Fucked Like a Star” recently won a jury award at Blackstar and is screening at NOFF2018. She also teaches filmmaking through COOL Cooperative.
Project: “Blood Peach” (Documentary Short)
Wild peach groves grow full and lush along the Mississippi River, but the people of Natchez know the bloody history of the land that feeds these strange fruit.
Mentor: Melissa Haizlip, Producer/Director/Writer
Melissa Haizlip was born in Boston and raised in NY, the US Virgin Islands and CT, where she attended Yale University. Melissa produced the award-winning narrative LGBTQ short “You’re Dead To Me,” which won the 2013 Imagen Award for Best Short and screened at over 75 festivals worldwide. Melissa produced several two-channel art films and installations including “A Day in the Life of Bliss,” recently acquired by MoMA for their permanent collection. Mr. SOUL! marks her directorial debut.
Born in New Orleans, Ashley’s multimedia artwork explores the complexities of black femininity through painting, collage, and animation. She has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Joan Mitchell Center and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and in February 2019 Ashley will mount her second solo show Ido at Larrie in New York.
Project: “SEA 422″ (Experimental Short)
An abstract exploration of the experience of a New Orleanian in Miami.
Mentor: Akosua Adoma Owusu, Director/Producer/Cinematographer
Akosua Adoma Owusu is a Ghanaian-American filmmaker, producer and cinematographer whose films address the collision of identities, where the African immigrant located in the United States has a “triple consciousness.” Owusu interprets Du Bois’ notion of double consciousness and creates a third cinematic space or consciousness, representing diverse identities including feminism, queerness and African immigrants interacting in African, white American, and black American culture. Owusu’s films have screened internationally and are included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, of the Centre Georges Pompidou, and of the Fowler Museum. In 2015, she was named by Indiewire as one of 6 pre-eminent Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema. Her films Reluctantly Queer and Mahogany Too screened at the 2016 and 2018 New Orleans Film Festival respectively.
Carl Harrison Jr.’s directorial debut, the narrative short Straight Line, premieres at this year’s NOFF. Currently, Carl works as crew for Queen Sugar.
Project: St. Roch (Documentary Short)
A filmmaker examines change and life in New Orleans’ St. Rock historic neighborhood through the lens of his family who’s lived there for four generations.
Mentor: Niema Jordan is the program manager for the Off/Page Project, The Center for Investigative Reporting’s collaboration with Youth Speaks. She has a Master of Journalism in Documentary Film from UC Berkeley and her focus is on socially conscious films.
Bron Moyi is a filmmaker based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. He’s worked primarily in the film industry since 2010 and has since garnered over 30 credits to his name in both the art and camera department. He is particularly drawn to coming-of-age stories.
Project: Round Lake Road (Narrative Short)
A barely teenage boy is exposed to a night of drugs, sex, and violence in a small town in Florida.
Mentor: Moira Griffin is the Executive Director, Production, Creative Labs for 21st Century Fox where to oversees development labs for writers, directors, and producers for TV and Film. Previously she was the Head of Diversity Initiatives at Sundance.
Asli Ozyenginer is a New Orleans-based Turkish filmmaker and writer. After studying Western Literature in Istanbul, she shifted her focus towards Visual Arts while at Dartmouth College graduate school. Her work focuses on displacement, notions of identity, belonging and forms of intimacy.
Project: Taxidermist (Documentary Short)
Taxidermist explores the human obsession with preservation through Rick, an ex-air force veteran and taxidermist living in New Orleans.
Mentor: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her latest film, Quest, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017.
Philip Williamson Jr is a Creative Director at The Colored Section. As a filmmaker, Philip’s work has been showcased by PBS and HBO. His latest documentary “After Claudetteia,” was selected for Artless Media’s 2016 Magnifying Glass grant.
Project: Perfectly Audible (Narrative Short)
A deaf young man must come to terms with his romantic feelings for his male bandmate in this short film about music, love, and gender.
Mentor: Lisa Cortés, CEO of Cortés Films was executive producer of the Academy Award–winning film Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Her films have earned 70 international awards and nominations, including the Academy Award and the Golden Globe.
Alejandro de los Rios is a Cuban-Venezuelan writer and filmmaker with experience writing for ESPN the Magazine, VICE, the Associated Press, and Deadspin and directing nearly a dozen short films, in addition to news documentaries, music videos, and commercials.
Nicholas Manuel Pino made his acting and narrative directorial debut with “British Quarter Hustler” and won “Best Music Video” from Offbeat Magazine. Recently, Pino directed a Juan Lafonta f/ Big Freedia commercial which has been called “Iconic” by Fader Magazine.
Project: Contrabanda (Narrative Short)
Two friends who are caught with contraband at customs give conflicting accounts that reveal a deeper emotional story about family and loss.
Mentor: Christine Dávila is a Creative Executive at Stage 13, a new original digital-first content brand that is part of Warner Bros. Digital Networks. She has over twelve years of experience in film programming at festivals like Sundance, where she has been a Programming Associate since 2008.
Edward Buckles is a filmmaker, writer, and high school digital media instructor. He has directed content for Saint Heron, Complex, MTV, BET, VH1, and XXL and interned with director Spike Lee on the remake of Oldboy. Buckles is also the recipient of the 2017 Millennial Award for Film.
Project: Katrina Babies (Documentary Feature)
Katrina Babies sparks first time conversations with young New Orleans natives about the impact of the storm on their physical, mental, and social well being.
Mentor: Maurice James is the Head of Creative and Development at NBCUniversal Digital Content Lab. He was also the founder and senior vice president of Soul of the South Television Network, a 24/7 broadcast/cable TV network in 35 million households and 28 markets.
Jasmin Mara López is a New Orleans-based journalist, radio producer, and youth media educator. Born in Los Angeles with familial roots in México, her childhood was impacted by issues experienced on both sides of the U.S.- México border.
Project: Silent Beauty (New Media)
Using super 8 silent home movies and incorporating sound design that mimics the sounds of hearing loss, Silent Beauty is an experimental autobiographical exploration of a family history with abuse and a culture of silence.
Mentor: Jessica Ann Peavy, a filmmaker and visual artist has exhibited across the US and abroad with spaces and has worked directly with film education initiatives organized by Tribeca Film Institute and the Maysles Documentary Center. She is currently a member of NEW INC, the art and tech incubator at the New Museum.