Film Independent Logo (PRNewsFoto/Film Independent)
Film Independent Logo (PRNewsFoto/Film Independent)

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.

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 LA Film Festival.

Project Involve alumni include names you’d be familiar with, like Effie T. Brown, Jon M. Chu, Cherien Dabis, Kahlil Joseph, Tina Mabry and Justin Simien.

“Diversity and inclusion are at the core of our mission at Film Independent and Project Involve has been walking the talk for 24 years,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development. “It’s great that the conversation about the issue is finally reaching a critical mass. We are thrilled to welcome this talented group of filmmakers and we invite the industry to get to know these bold creators.”

Film Independent also announced an increase in studio support of the program, with several new donor-named fellowships in the 2016-2017 Project Involve program: Amazon Studios Film Fellowship, which will be presented to a visionary filmmaker; Focus Features’ Lili Elbe Fellowship, which will be awarded to a transgender filmmaker; the LAIKA Fellowship, which will support a director working in animation; the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television Fellowship, which will be presented to an LMU alumnus; the Participant Media Fellowship; and the 5th annual, Sony Pictures Entertainment Diversity Fellowship. Each Fellowship underwrites one Fellow’s participation in Project Involve and includes a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant for the filmmaker. In addition, 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.

Past Industry Mentors include Ava DuVernay; Catherine Hardwicke; Barry Jenkins; Spike Jonze; Charles D. King; Christopher Nolan; Alexander Payne; Christine Vachon; Forest Whitaker and Bradford Young, ASC.

This year’s Project Involve Fellows by track are:

Aaron Edmonds
Atiya Walcott (Sony Executive Track Fellow)

Deanna Barillari
Marion G. Brooks
Kady Kamakaté
Carolyn Mao
Valerie Castillo Martinez
Joenique C. Rose

Esteban Arango
Thembi L. Banks
Christopher de las Alas
Brittany “B.Monét” Fennell
Daniel Foerste (Focus Features Lile Elbe Fellow)
Brandon Omari Lake (LAIKA Animation Fellow)
Carey Williams

Kristen Dávila
Ebony Gilbert (LMU School of Film and Television Fellow)
Rochée Jeffrey (FOX HBCU Fellow)
Aeden Keffelew
Diana Ly
Jimmy Mosqueda

Farhad Ahmed Dehlvi
Jomo Fray
Kazmo Kida
Andrea Gonzalez Mereles
Kalilah Robinson
Dennis Zanatta

Melanie Annan
Ashley Monti
Steven Pristin

The 2017 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.