Film Independent Selects 30 Filmmakers for Project Involve 2019

Contact: Melanie Bates, Film Independent
Tel: 323.556.9338 or

Gladys Santos, Ginsberg/Libby
Tel: 323.645.6800 or


LOS ANGELES (January 15, 2019) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, has selected 30 filmmakers for Project Involve, the organization’s signature diversity mentorship program. Now in its 26th year, the Project Involve program fosters the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. Project Involve alumni include Effie T. Brown (Dear White People), Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Step Up 2: The Streets) and Justin Simien (Dear White People).

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. The 2019 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.

“It is with renewed vigor and excitement that Film Independent welcomes the 2019 Project Involve Fellows.” said Francisco Velasquez, Senior Manager of Project Involve. “In 2017, the Project Involve Short Film, Emergency, not only screened at Sundance and SXSW but also won awards at the festivals. We also celebrated the 25th Anniversary with a Gala celebrating many of our outstanding Fellows now working in the industry. The 2019 Project Involve Fellows will launch the next 25 years of the program and as always we are most grateful to all of our sponsors and supporters that continue to make our work possible. This year we are proud to announce that HBO, a longtime supporter of Film Independent and Project Involve, will serve as the official Project Involve Shorts Lead Funder. HBO will also have the exclusive first right to consider licensing the shorts for distribution on its platforms.”

Film Independent also announced continued support of the program, with several donor-named fellowships for the 2019 Project Involve program: 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion Fellowship; Amazon Studios Film Fellowship, which will be presented to a visionary filmmaker; the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship; the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television Fellowship, which will be presented to an LMU alumnus; the Participant Media Fellowship; the seventh annual Sony Pictures Entertainment Diversity Fellowship; and the third annual Turner Fellowship. Each Fellowship underwrites one Fellow’s participation in Project Involve and includes a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant for the filmmaker. In addition, blockchain entertainment studio SingularDTV will provide $5,000 unrestricted cash grants to each of the six Project Involve short film teams, totaling $30,000 and available via digital wallet on the SingularDTV platform.

Past Project Involve Mentors include Ava DuVernay (Selma); Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight); Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich); Charles D. King (Fences, Mudbound); Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento); Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants); Christine Vachon (Carol, Boys Don’t Cry); Forest Whitaker (Arrival, The Last King of Scotland) and Bradford Young, ASC (A Most Violent Year, Selma).
This year’s Project Involve Fellows by track are:


Ezequiel Casares
Morgan Cooper
Lorena Durán
Carlo Canlas Mendoza
Kunitari Ohi


Mary Evangelista
Martina Lee
Jerell Roales
Enrique Unzueta


Leo Chan
Christine McAuliffe
Sunghwan Moon
Brandon Porter
Grace Simonett


Elizabeth Franco
Sydney Lowe
Amy Ma


Apoorva Charan
Adanne Ebo
Nasir Kenneth Ferebee
Steve Kim
Jhanvi Motla
Surekha Paruchuri
Gia Rigoli


Stephanie Adams-Santos
Alicia Carroll
Omer Levin Menekse
Michelle Sam


Johnson Cheng
Rammy Park


Film Independent Artist Development promotes unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting), Fast Track finance market, Fiscal Sponsorship, and our Grants and Awards, which provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.

For information on all Film Independent Fellows, please visit our online
Film Independent Talent Guide.

Film Independent’s Project Involve is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder Time Warner Foundation, Lead Sponsors Turner and TikTok and Project Involve Shorts Lead Funder HBO. Principal Sponsors include EFILM | Deluxe, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, National Endowment for the Arts, SingularDTV and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The program is also supported by 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, Amazon Studios, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Formosa Group, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Participant Media and The Camera Division. Additional support provided by the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation.


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a Member, visit