With the glitz and glamor of awards season having reached its ultimate conclusion in this universe and, presumably, across the multiverse (even the hot dog fingers one), the indie film community now returns to the harsh realities of Hollywood: stingy budgets, reluctant financiers and the general faint purchase of support that largely defines the greater independent filmmaker experience.
To that end, now that the final yards of canvas tent have been rolled up on the Santa Monica Pier and returned to storage for yet another year, Film Independent now focuses on the work that is at the core of our mission: to champion creative independence in visual storytelling in all its forms and to foster a culture of inclusion.
This support of a global community of artists and audiences who embody diversity, innovation, curiosity and uniqueness of vision is ever-present in our robust Artist Development Labs and Programs, proudly celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2023.
In addition to our year-round offerings, our Artist Development programs encompass a wide range of initiatives that help filmmakers push their projects forward, including this year’s inaugural Imaginar Producers Residency, made possible by The Walt Disney Company, Searchlight Pictures and in collaboration with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP).
You may recall that we launched the program back in November. And guess what—we have updates! Selections have been finalized and we’re thrilled to announce three new Imaginar Fellows, who over the course of nine months will receive a $50,000 cash grant, mentorship, professional and financial coaching, project development and more to gain significant traction for their projects.
The Imaginar Fellows’ collaboration with Disney and Searchlight executives will help the participants gain a deeper understanding of how to package and set up projects for studios so that they may find success with both independent and studio projects.
“The Imaginar Producers Residency is an innovative and holistic program that provides Latinx Producers tailored support with the goal to help achieve long-term sustainability.” said Angela C. Lee, Director of Artist Development, “We couldn’t be more thrilled to launch this program with these three immensely talented artists.”
“Our goal with this initiative is to build community, and to support and nurture the next wave of filmmaking talent,” added Mahin Ibrahim, Director, Creative Talent Pathways, Representation & Inclusion Strategies and Searchlight Pictures’ VP of Production Richard Ruiz. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to help advance the work of these three immensely inspiring producers, especially in a time when it’s important to continue bringing fresh and innovative filmmakers to the forefront.”
The Imaginar Fellows will receive creative and strategic support to propel their careers and projects forward while also gaining insight on how to package projects for studios, bridging the gap between producing independent and studio features.
Fellows will receive professional coaching in partnership with Renee Freedman & Co, and financial and business advisement and coaching in partnership with The Jill James. Each Fellow will also receive a $50,000 unrestricted grant to provide sustainability and support their creative endeavors.
“Our goal is to provide the three Latinx Fellows with the necessary tools and resources to take their projects to the next level. We are excited to see the outcomes of this collaboration and the success of our Fellows as a result of our joint effort.” shared Diana Luna, NALIP Executive Director.
Our 2023 Imaginar Producers Residency filmmakers and their projects are…
Maria Altamirano is a Peruvian-American producer. A Film Independent Producing Lab Fellow and The Gotham/Rotterdam Lab Fellow, Maria’s work has been featured at festivals worldwide, including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW and San Sebastián. Her credits include Alexis Gambis’ Son of Monarchs (HBO Max), winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Raven Jackson’s award-winning short Nettles (Criterion Channel) and Jackson’s debut feature All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, produced in partnership with PASTEL and A24, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. She was also a co-producer on Season Two of HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy series Los Espookys. Maria completed New York University’s MBA/MFA program, where she was awarded the Media Services Award for excellence in creative producing. Prior to filmmaking, Maria was Market Research Manager at Paramount Pictures where she generated key development and marketing insights for the studio’s slate.
Maria Altamirano’s projects are:
- Title: Plasir
- Logline: A struggling Brooklyn comedian abandons her life to join an artist commune in the south of France.
- Title: The Story of the Whale
- Logline: After an unlucky Cuban fisherman accidentally nets a whale and becomes a local celebrity, an approaching hurricane threatens to destroy his catch and wash away his newfound glory.
In her words: “As a Latina independent producer, I’m deeply grateful to have been selected for the inaugural Imaginar residency and for the invaluable support of Film Independent, The Walt Disney Company, Searchlight Pictures and NALIP, during a pivotal moment in my career.”
Nicolas Blanco is a queer filmmaker from Bogota, Colombia. He realized the importance of diverse representation on screen at an early age and became fascinated by the ability of films to create community and bring people together across cultural borders. Nicolas currently lives in Los Angeles, where he attended the American Film Institute. He has produced and directed award-winning films in both fiction and documentary. His work focuses on highlighting underrepresented voices and stories that explore the human condition and how its uniqueness makes it universal.
Nicolas Blanco’s projects are:
- Title: Best Man
- Logline: Mattie begins to question his picture-perfect relationship when he realizes he might have feelings for his best man, in this exploration of gay friendship and desire.
- Title: Digital Dolls
- Logline: Stuck in the rural conservative environment of her hometown, an Andalusian teenager turns to the internet to seek herself. But when her best “online” friend suddenly vanishes, she is forced to face her own reality, reconnect to those around her and start to understand the complicated meaning of letting go.
- Title: Born to be Kissed in the Dark
- Logline: A lush visual and musical journey that follows an eclectic cast of characters as they navigate the underground queer nightlife scene in LA.
In his words: “Being selected for this residency is a dream, as it means I can truly focus on my own projects, and knowing that Film Independent, The Walt Disney Company, Searchlight Pictures and NALIP picked me is an incredibly validating experience as an independent producer.”
Gia Rigoli is a Los Angeles-based Mexican-American film producer who made her producing debut at the age of 20 with the feature film, Rock Steady Row. The film premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and won both the Narrative Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best Narrative Film. Gia holds a BFA in Creative Producing from Chapman University and was mentored by Michael Apted. Her senior thesis film was a Student Academy Award Finalist.
Gia Rigoli’s projects are:
- Title: The Weight of Land
- Logline: When a family of Latino ranch hands learn they’ve inherited one of the largest ranches in region, the promise of a better future seems certain. But when ranch hands become ranch owners, small-town politics and feuds spurred by that windfall drive a wedge between the Estradas and their small town. As the stakes rise, the cracks within their own family start to show.
- Title: Paper Trails
- Logline: In rapidly gentrifying North Philadelphia, two genius Black siblings at risk of eviction begin doing the coursework of local college students in exchange for cash. When one of their clients, a white woman, goes viral from an essay they wrote, they’re forced to come to terms with her using their voices for personal gain.
- Title: The Gospel According to St. Mary
- Logline: Everything is changing in the town of Turbio, and Maria thinks the women are behind it. As she becomes infatuated with the power of men and suspects the women of her town to be conspiring against the mysterious charismatic leader, Maria must choose between chaos and obedience, leading her town to a new order.
In her words: “Film Independent has been a crucial part of my career development as a producer for years. I am so thrilled and honored to be one of the recipients of the inaugural Imaginar Fellowship and am so grateful to be able to work with The Walt Disney Company, Searchlight Pictures, NALIP and the entire Film Independent team. This is an important stepping stone for my career. I am excited to see where it takes me, and beyond grateful to have the support of all these organizations.”
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