Arts & Entertainment

Sundance Institute announces Producers Lab and Intensive fellows for 2023

SUNDANCE, Utah—The Sundance Institute has recently announced the selection of 10 producers to participate in the highly anticipated Producers Lab.

This prestigious event is set to take place from July 24-28 at Utah’s Sundance Mountain Resort. The fall Producers Intensive has also identified 11 talented and promising producers to join their esteemed ranks. The Producers Program is dedicated to supporting the current and upcoming generation of talented producers within the realms of both fiction and nonfiction film.

The program offers an extensive array of year-round initiatives that encompass ‘mentorship, grants, educational and professional development resources, community gatherings, and invaluable networking opportunities within the industry.’ This commitment to independent producers is a cornerstone of the Producers Program.

One of the hallmark events of the program, the Producers Lab, is tailored to cultivate emerging fiction and nonfiction independent film producers. These participants will receive one-on-one guidance from accomplished producer advisors, engaging in intimate group sessions. This invaluable support will allow these aspiring producers to refine their creative instincts, develop effective problem-solving skills, and craft winning strategies in pitching, financing, production, navigating the marketplace, and ensuring sustainability.

“As the media landscape evolves and often poses new challenges to creating bold, risk-taking work, we were humbled and inspired by the creative possibilities expressed by this year’s projects and the determination and ingenuity of the producers behind them,” said Shira Rockowitz, producing and artist support director, and Kristin Feeley, documentary film program deputy director, in a press release.

The Producers Lab has handpicked five fiction film producers and five nonfiction film producers, each with their respective projects. It is an exceptional opportunity that promises to foster their potential and nurture their growth.

Projects and fellows for the 2023 Sundance Institute Producers Lab:

Feature Film Program

Pierre M. Coleman with Ricky (U.S.A.): Newly released after being locked up in his teens, 30-year-old Ricky navigates the challenging realities of life post-incarceration and the complexity of gaining independence for the first time as an adult.

Pierre M. Coleman is a native of Newark, New Jersey. He received a degree in film production from Howard University’s School of Communication. He has worked in production for over 15 years, with renowned companies including HBO, 20th Century Fox, BET, and Dreamworks. Pierre recently produced the short film Ricky (2023 Sundance Film Festival).

Julia Kennelly with Clare (U.S.A.): After the untimely death of her brother, high school senior Clare finds her life spiraling out of control as she grapples with her grief, the end of her longtime childhood friendship, and an emotionally dangerous relationship with her high school French teacher, Mrs. Larsson.

Julia Kennelly is a producer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her producing work includes The Neighbors’ Window, which won the 2020 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. Additional projects have played in competition at SXSW, Tribeca, Outfest, Aspen Shortsfest, and Palm Springs Shortfest, among others.

Liz Lian with Skin (U.S.A.): A body positivity influencer enters a desperate bid to save her self-loathing sister when the latter becomes a test subject for their aunt’s plastic surgery and skin-lightening racket.

Liz Lian is a Los Angeles–based filmmaker from New Jersey. Her work includes the DGA Award–winning horror short Morse Code, the Sloan Foundation supported short Hot Air, and numerous branded content campaigns. She earned her MFA in film and television production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Valerie Castillo Martinez with Anita (India/U.S.A.): Desperate for a better life, ambitious Anita escapes her conservative town in India by orchestrating her own arranged marriage and moving to the U.S. But when her fierce pursuit of the American Dream threatens her marriage, she must confront the very life she escaped in order to achieve true independence.

Valerie Castillo Martinez is a Filipina American filmmaker who founded IndieFlip to make films dealing with underrepresented subjects and cross-cultural themes. Her first feature, Death of Nintendo, premiered at the 2020 Berlinale Generation. She is a Project Involve fellow, Berlinale Talent, and U.S. Air Force veteran currently teaching at Columbia University.

Cameron Morton with Lollygag (U.S.A.): In an attempt to outrun her phantom illnesses, Eva convinces her husband to move upstate, where their marriage quietly disintegrates. Haunting the margins of her new suburban existence is the boy next door… an uncanny reminder of a macabre childhood memory.

Cameron Morton produced the award-winning short film Lollygag, which premiered at Outfest 2022. A graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts and a Jacob Burns Film Center Creative Culture Fellowship alum, Cameron’s work has played at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival, Palm Springs ShortFest, Slamdance, and Fantasia Festival, among others.

Documentary Film Program

Colleen Cassingham with Life After (U.S.A.): Life After interrogates the contradictory political ideologies surrounding death and disability while coalescing the missing voices of the disabled community in the contemporary debate around medically assisted suicide.

Colleen Cassingham is a producer at Multitude Films focused on politically committed artful nonfiction. Current projects include Queer Futures (CPH:DOX 2023), Reid Davenport’s Life After, and Sundance-supported To Use a Mountain. She was a Video Consortium/Sony 2021 Mentor, a 2019 Points North fellow, and a 2018 UnionDocs Collaborative Studio fellow.

Nicole Docta with The Dead Zone (U.S.A.): Innocent people die in jail and can be held for years in “the dead zone,” what lawyers call the limbo between arrest and conviction, because they cannot afford bail. But, five extraordinary people are trying to change that from within and outside of the pretrial detention system.

Nicole Docta is an award-winning filmmaker from Wisconsin who focuses on socially impactful projects and BIPOC stories. Her latest producing credits include Belly of the Beast (HRWFF 2020) and Through the Night (Tribeca Festival 2020). She’s an inaugural USC NextGen Creative fellow and 2022 DOC NYC 40 Under 40.

Emma D. Miller with Untitled Mistress Dispeller Project (China/U.S.A.): Wang Zhenxi works as a “mistress dispeller” in China, hired to break up extramarital affairs and save marriages in crisis. With intimate access to private lives usually hidden from view, the film follows Wang and her lovelorn clients, exploring how class, capital, and cultural norms shape modern romantic relationships.

Emma D. Miller is a filmmaker who recently produced Gotham Award–nominated, SXSW award–winning What We Leave Behind (ARRAY Releasing/Netflix). Prior credits include Showtime’s Couples Therapy, Oscar-nominated Knife Skills, and Sundance award winner Unrest. Named one of DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 in 2022, her projects attempt to forge new ways of seeing, connecting, and knowing.

Jolene Pinder with Fun House (Brazil/U.S.A.): In this hybrid documentary, award-winning Brazilian American filmmaker Luisa Dantas, explores the question: What happens when truth becomes a casualty in the pursuit of power, money, and the American Dream? Through an investigative and personal journey, she unearths how a toxic stew of money, power, and corruption are shaping (and endangering) democratic processes across the globe.

Jolene Pinder was born, raised, and is based in the American South. She is a documentary producer, arts administrator, and academic working at the convergence of social issue storytelling, strategic leadership, and regional filmmaker advocacy. She has produced with Big Mouth Productions, helmed the New Orleans Film Society, #CreateLouisiana, and Kartemquin Films and now teaches at Tulane University.

Flor de oro Tejada with Wild Darlings Sing the Blues (And It’s a Song of Freedom) (U.S.A.): Wild Darlings Sing the Blues (and It’s a Song of Freedom) is a feature-length hybrid documentary following the Wild Darlings, a queer healing arts collective of Black women and nonbinary activists, as they embark on a journey from New York City to a former slave plantation in Virginia.

Flor Tejada is a multidisciplinary filmmaker whose work explores Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ communities through fantasy, futurism, and healing. Her latest short film, Bone Black: Midwives vs. the South, screened at Tribeca Festival and will appear at Blackstar Film Festival and American Black Film Festival Miami in 2023.


Fiction Fellows

Alifya Ali and Samantha Skinner with ’06-’07: 2006 in Paradise Hills, South Bay San Diego, California: With a big family move on the horizon, 15-year-old Ly makes the most of her last school year in the only home she’s ever known.

Alifya Ali is a Pakistani American producer from Texas now based in Brooklyn. They are an award-winning commercial producer, and their narrative work includes the short film When You Left Me On That Boulevard, which won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Samantha Skinner is a Brooklyn-based independent producer and second-gen Korean American from Austin, Texas. With a focus on Asian American storytelling, her producing work includes the 2023 Sundance Grand Jury Prize–winning short When You Left Me On That Boulevard and documentary feature KapwaTexas.

Paula González-Nasser with Saca Tu Lengua: After the sudden death of her stepfather, Luciana and her grieving mother travel to Tennessee to confront their in-laws who stole valuable possessions during the funeral.

Paula González-Nasser is a Colombian producer-director based in Brooklyn. She is the co-founder of 5th Floor Pictures, where she most recently produced the short film Weapons and Their Names (2023 Sundance Film Festival). She is a two-time Gotham Week Project Market attendee (2018 & 2020). Currently, Paula is a production coordinator at Multitude Films.

Kyra Knox with South Side Girls: Set in the early 2000s, a reclusive teenager and her outspoken best friend lean on each other to navigate troubled home lives and first loves in a Puerto Rican neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Kyra Knox is an award-winning impact producer and director. Her debut feature documentary, Bad Things Happen in Philadelphia, executive-produced by Allen Iverson and Mark Mims, premiered at the 2023 American Black Film Festival. Kyra prides herself on creating a safe space on her sets and behind the scenes.

Xin Li with Santa Anita: Summer, 2004. Strange, interconnected events transform three generations of lives in the Southern California foothills — an aging heiress haunted by visions of her dead mother, an aspiring young female novelist running a video game arcade, and a trio of teenage musicians caught in an increasingly tense dispute between local gangs.

Xin Li, born and raised in China, has lived and worked in the United States for the past decade, from the Midwest to both coasts. Her work is supported by Film Independent, Visual Communications, HBO, Netflix, and LA Media Fund and recognized by The New Yorker and the NAACP Image Awards.

Tony Yang with Let The Sleepers Lie: When Helena’s brother suddenly dies and her grieving mother’s behavior becomes increasingly feral, Helena is forced to confront long-hidden secrets that threaten to shatter her family.

Tony Yang is a Chinese American film producer based in New York City. He has produced 30 short films, including Same Old, which played in main competition at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Yang holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Producing from Columbia University.

Nonfiction Fellows

Karla Claudio-Betancourt with MatininóMatininó tells the story of a multigenerational family of Puerto Rican women who transform their experience of domestic violence into a science fiction film.

Karla Claudio-Betancourt is an artist, filmmaker, and educator born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has a BFA in Film from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her experimental short documentary la masa (2021) was part of the group exhibition “Momento del yagrumo” at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico. She makes experimental documentaries on Caribbean traditional crafts and ethnobotanical knowledge.

Alan Domínguez with Commerce CityCommerce City is a visually striking portrait of the lives and resilience of the Latinx and Indigenous residents of Commerce City, Colorado — one of the most polluted ZIP codes in the United States — as they live and resist in spite of the environmental racism that surrounds them.

Alan Domínguez, a Chicanx border crosser since birth, is Denver-based with Nuevo Mexicano roots. His films have addressed many subjects, with his gravitational point being the unique cultural fabric and social landscapes of the Southwestern United States. He recently co-directed and produced for American Masters’ In the Making series.

Artemis Fannin with Untitled Epilepsy Documentary: Approaching 30, filmmaker Skylar Economy realizes that to move ahead, she must reckon with her past and come to terms with the secret of her epilepsy.

Artemis Fannin is a producer who makes films that uniquely amplify marginalized voices. She served as Associate Producer on documentaries: Mama Bears (SXSW 2022), Black Voters Matter, and Acts of Reparation and co-producer for Kickin Chicken (HBO). She is the AP for Insurrection 1898 (PBS) and is producer for Untitled Epilepsy Documentary (2023 Southern Producers Lab).

Brit Fryer with Adam’s Apple: Spanning almost two decades, Adam’s Apple is a personal documentary about a family in transition, intimately filmed from the perspectives of artist Amy Jenkins and her transgender son, Adam. Each equipped with a camera, the film creatively chronicles an ever-shifting dynamic as Adam charts his own path toward manhood.

Brit Fryer is a New York–based Queer and trans producer from Chicago’s South Side. His recent credits include Lydia Cornett’s Bug Farm, Maya Cueva’s A Rebel Without a Pause, and Crystal Kayiza’s Rest Stop, winner of the Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Chelsea Moore with Untitled Texas Doc: When a young filmmaker delves into his father’s work as a death penalty defense attorney in Texas, personal secrets threaten their newfound relationship.

Chelsea Moore is a femme filmmaker, producer, programmer, and chair of the DPA’s Union Research Sub-Committee. They strive to cultivate healing work and relationships with creators, participants, and audiences. Chelsea’s latest work, Inner Wound Real, was a 2021 Black Public Media 360 Incubator+ fellow and premiered at Tribeca Festival 2022.

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