In mechanical terms, an “amplifier” is a device used to increase and project an unsupported input signal. It seems appropriate, then, to use the word for the name of Film Independent’s latest addition to its ever-increasing menu of Artist Development programs: The Amplifier Fellowship. And while “amp” may conjure (for some of us) the mental image of a towering Marshall stack shivering with each rake of a 1980s hair-metal power chord, our bailiwick in this instance isn’t guitars—it’s the next generation of super-talented indie filmmakers.
Supported by Founding Sponsor Netflix, the Film Independent Amplifier Fellowship is a highly customized program designed to support six Black artists on the cusp of a major career breakthrough. While other programs throughout the industry are designed to help filmmakers get their foot in the door, this one is intended to yank them all the way through.
How? Through year-round support in the form of grants, mentorship and professional coaching to strengthen not only our Fellows’ craft, but to bolter business acumen, confidence, financial sustainability and ability to achieve their greater career aspirations—plus a $30,000 unrestricted grant, just for fun.
“The six Fellows transcend form, medium and genre, but all share immense artistry, a wholly original voice and greater desire to create change through their stories and work,” says Angela C. Lee, Associate Director of Artist Development, Film Independent. “We’re thrilled to support this incredibly talented group. Supported projects include:
- Project: Walk for Me
- Writer/Director: Elegance Bratton
- Logline: Walk for Me is a reverse coming out narrative about Hanna, a Black trans woman who after becoming a legendary voguer in the ballroom scene realizes that she is actually not a woman—or even really a man—and must come out and risk losing her chosen house family.
- Project: Life + Life
- Director: Contessa Gale
- Logline: An incarcerated musician struggles for healing and peace as he comes of age in this documentary-musical odyssey composed behind bars.
- Project: Coyote Boys
- Director: Hayley Elizabeth Anderson
- Logline: Homeless and wandering the streets of New Orleans, 18-year-old Trey searches for his older brother Marcus, a graffiti writer, and leaves on a train-hopping journey across America to find him. Coyote Boys is a contemporary odyssey through fringe communities, centered on rootless youth experiencing loss and loneliness—trying to find alternative ways of surviving 21st-century America.
- Project: Lincoln
- Producer/Director: Huriyyah Muhammad
- Logline: A biographical drama, set in 1968, of comedian Lincoln Perry, aka Stepin Fetchit: former Hollywood millionaire, now aging, bankrupt and “cancelled” by the Civil Rights movement. Lincoln struggles to reclaim his legacy and reconcile his place in the changing racial landscape of America by landing a starring role opposite Flip Wilson the TV hit that years later would become known as Sanford and Son.
- Title: Freelancers
- Writer: Mamoudou N’Diaye
- Logline: When invoice after invoice goes unanswered, putting everyone in various financial binds, a group of four freelancing friends decide to take matters into their own hands; plan a heist, get their money by any means possible, and don’t get killed. Along the way, they stumble onto a union-busting billionaire’s nefarious plans for not only them but all of Brooklyn, forcing them to come together with whatever cobbled-together skills they have to make a stand—perhaps their final.
- Project: Us Again
- Producer/Director: Mel Jones
- Logline: A modern romance about two relationships, but only one couple. Damien (29) and Sam (27) broke up eleven months ago but have agreed to go on a second “first” date. Cutting between their two relationships—to one we hope for in the present, and the one that failed in the past.
With their Amplifier Fellowship participation generously supported by Netflix, this year’s amazing inaugural group of Fellows—and their projects—include:
Bratton began making films as a US Marine after a decade spent homeless. Today, he holds a BS from Columbia University (2014) and MFA from NYU Tisch Graduate Film (2019). He wrote and will direct the feature The Inspection, which is being produced by Gamechanger and A24. The film was selected as part of Film Independent’s Producing Lab and Fast Track programs in 2019. He is the creator and executive producer of the Viceland TV series My House. Pier Kids, his feature documentary debut, has played at 50 film festivals worldwide and was the winner of the Truer Than Fiction Award at the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Contessa Gales is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist, and an Emmy-nominated producer. She tells stories about identity, movement and social change, with a focus on race and gender.
Haley Elizabeth Anderson
Haley Elizabeth Anderson is a filmmaker, writer and photo-based visual artist from Houston, TX. She recently graduated from New York University’s Graduate Film Program as a Dean’s Fellow. Her work often explores coming-of-age experiences, race and the ever-growing class divide, often in a documentary/narrative hybrid aesthetic.
Hurriyyah Muhammad is the producer of the critically acclaimed feature film Farewell Amor, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the US Dramatic Competition and was released in 2020 by IFC Films. She is also an award-winning writer, director and producer whose projects have been invited to the Sundance Film Festival, AFI Fest, Tribeca Film Institute, Austin Film Festival, London Film Festival, New Voices in Black Cinema, American Black Film Festival and many others. She is also recipient of the 2020 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Award, for Farewell Amor.
Mamoudou N’Diaye is a Brooklyn-based Mauritanian-American comedian; TV and film writer; filmmaker, activist/creative consultant for issues of racial justice, climate justice and mental health; DJ; and a former 7th-grade teacher.
Mel Jones is a multi-talented producer, director and writer. Her credits include Justin Simien’s Dear White People and Gerard McMurray’s Burning Sands. Jones made her directorial debut at Sundance with “Leimert Park,” a MACRO/Homegrown digital series. Currently expanding into TV and film directing, she has directed a pilot for BET and Issa Rae’s Color Creative.
Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs, Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, and Grants and Awards providing over $1M+ annually to visual storytellers.