The Sundance Institute has set 10 fellows for its inaugural Producers Intensive, taking place virtually from October 21-22.
The artists and projects selected on the nonfiction side are Rachel Dickinson (Let the Little Light Shine), Alba Jaramillo (La Flaca), Rajeswari Ramanathan (The 1980 Civil Case), Chris Renteria (Chain of Rocks) and Shannon Sun-Higginson (You Lucky You Got a Mamma). Those chosen for the Fiction fellowship are Beverley Gordon (Experience), Lauren López de Victoria (forward), Breanne Thomas (In the Jackpot), Jesy Odio (Molokai’ Bound) and Ashley Chrisman (The Homesick).
The Producers Intensive was designed through a collaboration between Sundance’s Documentary Film and Feature Film Programs, as a means of providing creative, strategic and professional development support for emerging fiction and nonfiction producers from traditionally underrepresented communities.
The two-day program features interactive group sessions and round table conversations on topics including the producer/director collaboration, pitching, legal & business affairs, packaging and financing, and budgeting. It will be supplemented by a Sundance Collab self-guided curriculum and a legal workshop conducted in partnership with the Cardozo Law School’s Filmmakers Legal Clinic.
Production counsel Nicole Compas (Ramo Law) will be joined as an advisor at this year’s intensive by veteran producers Allison Rose Carter (Zola), Jennifer Dana (The Assistant), Mel Jones (Burning Sands), Ruchi Mital (We Could Be King), Kim Parker (Catch the Fair One), Kishori Rajan (Random Acts of Flyness), Anya Rous (Pray Away), Greta Fuentes (MACRO) and Megan Gilbride (Fathom).
More information on the 2021 fellows and the projects they’ll be developing through the program can be found below:
Rachel Dickson has a number of producing credits, including ’63 Boycott (2016), which was named on the Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentary Short Subject, The School Project, a web series produced by Kartemquin Films, and Hard Earned (Al-Jazeera America, 2015), which won the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award.
Let the Little Light Shine
A high-achieving elementary school just south of downtown Chicago is a lifeline for Black children—until gentrification threatens its closure. As Chicago Public Schools, the mayor, and politicians debate the future of the school, the film brings you inside to meet the students, parents, and educators fighting to save it.
Alba Jaramillo is an independent filmmaker, producer, and commissioning editor at the BBC. She is producing La Flaca, a coming-of-age film supported by IDFA, NBC, and Points North. She directed the documentary Motorrodillo (Colombia-France, 2021), an immersive lyrical ride through a tropical forest, revealing the communal efforts of informal work.
A teenager’s flight from Honduras, through Central America suddenly snaps into focus when she gives birth on US soil — launching an epic coming-of-age tale of assimilation in America.
Raji is an award-winning journalist and a documentary filmmaker based in California. She currently serves Al Jazeera (AJ+) as Senior Video Producer. Outside of work, she puts her energy into documentary films. She aims to tell stories that expose systemic barriers, especially when it relates to race, immigration and women.
The 1980 Civil Case
In April 1980, three Klansmen went on a shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee, injuring five Black women. As usual, the criminal courts treated the Klansmen lightly. But the five women fought back in a new way with the support of civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin, who helped the women win an important victory against the Klan and set a legal precedent for today’s court battles on racial violence.
Chris Renteria has produced and lensed films focused on social and environmental challenges and the brilliant people at the center. Magnolia Pictures’ Whose Streets? was Chris’ first foray as a producer for feature-length documentary films. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017 and was nominated for many awards. He recently served as cinematographer for the Academy Award-nominated St. Louis Superman (MTV Documentary Films).
Chain of Rocks
A death row inmate confesses to a crime after 30 years of maintaining his innocence. Now, an activist who once fought for his exoneration is faced with the moral dilemma of whether the fight was in vain. Chain of Rocks is an animated feature-length documentary that explores the complexities of race and masculinity and how they skew our worldview and play a role in oppressive systems.
Shannon Sun-Higginson is a New-York based documentary filmmaker whose work has screened at Sundance and SXSW, and on PBS, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and CNN. She is currently producing her third feature documentary, You Lucky You Got A Mama, and directing two episodes of the upcoming HBO docuseries Take Out.
You Lucky You Got a Mamma
Directed by nurse and activist Brittany Ferrell, You Lucky You Got A Mama is a love note to Black pregnant people from across the United States who differ in background, socioeconomic status, and gender identity, but all share one goal: they intend to not only survive, but thrive.
Beverley Gordon is an award-winning producer and founder of BrownBag Pictures. Her producing credits include The Other Brother, Chutney Popcorn, About Scout and Student Academy Award winner Wednesday Afternoon. Beverley holds an MFA from AFI, JD from Tulane and a BA from Harvard. Born in Antigua, she currently resides in LA.
Set in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, a lonely, emotionally scarred African-American bus driver, estranged from her family and working through the grief of losing her sister, discovers a beautiful love doll on her bus, and begins a journey to find its owner and perhaps heal in the process.
Lauren López de Victoria
Lauren López de Victoria is a Puerto Rican producer with an MFA from Columbia University. She was a recipient of the PGA Debra Hill grant and a Film Independent Project Involve Producing Fellow. Lauren has worked at UTA and is currently coordinator at a company with a deal at Amazon Studios.
After moving to the working class part of the Hamptons, a Latinx teen cleaning for the elite explores identity and love in the shadows of gentrification and inevitable loss.
Breanne Thomas is a self-taught, Brooklyn-based producer whose award-winning short films have played Rotterdam, Palm Springs, and several American regional festivals. Beyond her producing career, she has a decade of experience as a strategist having worked with companies like A24, Facebook and Samsung Mobile on social media and influencer campaigns.
In the Jackpot
Strapped for cash working a dead-end job, Ash gets a fresh start trafficking marijuana from corporate growhouses in Colorado to the black market across state lines. But when Ryder, Ash’s loose cannon of a lover, scams $100,000 during a drop, they find themselves on the run.
Jesy Odio is an independent creative producer from Costa Rica, based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she was selected to participate in the 2021 Gotham Week Project Market with the feature Moloka’i Bound. Jesy is the founder of the production company Teenager and the film journal The Cosmophage.
Kainoa De Silva is on parole and committed to reconnecting with his family including, most importantly, his son Jonathan. But acclimating to the normal life in Hawai’i is harder than it seems and Kainoa tends to do all the wrong things for the right reasons.
Ashley Chrisman is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Southern California. She was a fellow of Film Independent’s Project Involve, The Blackhouse Multicultural Producers Lab, and Industry Academy with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In addition to The Homesick, Ashley is also developing three TV pilots.
While on vacation in Cape Coast, Ghana, a man’s plan to propose to his girlfriend gets derailed after his younger brother crashes their trip and drags them into a wager awakening the haunted past of one of West Africa’s oldest slave castles.