“Project Involve is a safe space to learn and grow.” That’s how one of the 30 filmmakers selected for Film Independent’s signature diversity program described her experience during the nine-month intensive program during a special screening event held on June 8 at the ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City during this year’s LA Film Festival.
At the helm of Project Involve are Senior Manager, Project Involve Francisco Velasquez and Artist Development Associate Angel Kristi Williams, who welcomed the audience to a night of authentic storytelling by a passionate and diverse group of filmmakers. The Fellows created a total of six films with the help of industry mentors, master workshops and top-notch production resources from Film Independent sponsors. Learn more about Project Involve here.
Sitting in the theater watching these six films felt like a breath of fresh air. Each film had such a unique point of view—yet the stories of identity, innocence, love, disillusionment and painful decisions were completely universal. The shorts were a window to a world of possibilities and triumphs for the 2016 Film Independent Project Involve Fellows.
The night began with They Charge for the Sun, a portrait of a futuristic Brooklyn where the wealth gap and racial lines are increasingly divided by a strictly enforced system that charges money for access to sunlight. Told through the eyes of a small schoolgirl with a big heart and the hard-working older sister raising her, the film reflects on the contrast in commodities for the different socioeconomic classes and how children begin to understand the world around them. The film was produced by Giulia Caruso, Ana Souza and Kady Kamakate. The screenplay was penned by Eugene Ramos based on an original story by the director Terence Nance. The film was shot by Andressa Cor and edited by Aleshka Ferrero.
Next up was Castor Oil, about a teenage boy who can’t get his mind off of his crush and how to ask her to his sophomore dance. What follows is a hilariously awkward church group sequence in which the boy’s mother and a jubilant female worshipper preach the sacredness of sex to him—all in front of his said crush. The story captures the nuances of young love and friendship, despite the characters’ long history of repression when it comes to all things sex. The film was produced by Ashley Chrisman and directed by Puja Maewal from a screenplay by Leon Hendrix III. The film was shot by Nico Navia and edited by Aleshka Ferrero.
Firefly follows a young girl that will not give up until she captures the “monster” that goes bump in the night, every night, around the same time. With the charming manner of a budding scientist, the young girl tries several different methods of tracking, analyzing, and capturing the mysterious creature. When she discovers that the thing she seeks may not be as bad as she thought it was, the girl realizes that some things are only scary because they’re new. This touching mixed-media portrayal of the grown-up world through a child’s eyes is absolutely heart-warming. The film was produced by Codie Elaine Oliver and directed by Yanillys Perez from a story by Brook Sitgraves Turner. The film was shot by Irvin Liu and edited by Steven Wang.
A senior-care home isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of a gay love story, but that’s exactly what makes Care so special. With warm and subtle cinematography, this short brings together two women whose eyes and hands speak volumes of the tiresome burden each has had to endure over the course of their lives. The film disregards stereotypes of age, race, and orientation to show a tender friendship slowly but surely becoming something more, all in one touching 10-minute film. The film was produced by Zoe Sua Cho and directed by April A. Wilson from a screenplay by Donna Choo. The film was shot by Isiah Donté Lee and edited by Sara Pellegrini and Paige Bethmann.
Reagan is a teenage girl who’s been taken in by a violent pimp—one who has yet to pay her for the “work” she’s done. The young girl is faced with the painful decision of continuing on down the road with her abuser to Vegas, or returning to the group home she had previously escaped. This film, with gritty and raw images, sparks a meaningful conversation about the children and teens that become victims of prostitution, and (to a different extent) the victims of a near-broken system that often fails to provide the necessary relief. The film was produced by Oby M. Okoye and directed by Christopher Nataanii Cegielski from a screenplay by Elton Loud. The film was shot by Carmen Delaney and edited by David Aristizabal.
The final film of the night was Get The Life: another raw, truthful film, this one about a transgender man who accidentally becomes pregnant by his boyfriend. The film wonderfully illustrates how the protagonist suffers both mental and emotional distress over the situation—not just the physical dilemma of pregnancy. It’s an issue that unfortunately very few people in the medical field know how to address properly. The film also depicts a complex portrait of an LGBTQI relationship in the Latinx community. The film was produced by Sue-Ellen Chitunya and directed by Ozzy Villazon from a screenplay by Adelina Anthony. The film was shot by Simu Feng and edited by Franzis Muller.
Check out daily recaps, filmmaker interviews and event highlights from this year’s LA Film Festival by watching the playlist above. Click here to for more info about Project Involve, and to learn how to become a Member of Film Independent, just click here.
Project Involve is made possible with the support of: Time Warner Foundation, Kiehl’s since 1851, EFILM | Company 3, HBO, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, The National Endowment for the Arts ART WORKS, Sony Pictures Entertainment, AbelCine, Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles, and The Walt Disney Studios.