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Film Independent Sets Fellows For Third Annual Amplifier Fellowship

EXCLUSIVE: Film Independent has named the Fellows and projects selected for the 2024 edition of its Amplifier Fellowship, a program that provides direct support to emerging and mid-career Black or African American filmmakers. They are Zandashé Brown (The Matriarch), Moira Griffin (The Prince of 7th Ave: The Legend of WilliWear/Willi Smith), Crystal Kayiza (The Gardeners), Mobolaji Olambiwonnu (Chosen Fathers), Avril Speaks (Pure), and Monique Walton (Anita).

Over the course of the year-long program, supported by Netflix and its Fund for Creative Equity, Fellows will receive bespoke support to further both their career and current projects as well as customized mentorship pairings with a Netflix executive and board member from Film Independent. Each will also receive professional coaching in partnership with Renee Freedman & Co, financial and business advisement in partnership with The Jill James, and a $30,000 unrestricted grant, intended to support the sustainability of their creative endeavors.

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“The Amplifier Fellowship provides impactful creative and strategic support to selected Fellows so that they can further strengthen their foundations as both artists and entrepreneurs to have lasting and sustainable careers,” said Angela C. Lee, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent. “We are so excited to support our impressive third cohort of Amplifier Fellows and work with them over the next year to help them reach the next level in their careers.”

For more information on this year’s Amplifier Fellows and their projects, read on.

Zandashé Brown, Writer/Director

Zandashé Brown is a storyteller and writer/director born-and-bred in and inspired by southern Louisiana. As a daughter of the abandoned American South, she blends Black Southern introspection and spirituality with surrealistic horror to tell stories about neglected places and peoples. Brown is an alum of the 2022 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Directors Lab for her debut feature-in-development, The Matriarch, as well as an alum of the 2021 Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film for 2022.

The Matriarch

Fiction Feature

Logline: In the aftermath of her mother’s psychotic break, a precocious teenage girl battles her own impending wellness crisis by grounding herself in her late grandmother’s spiritual practice.

Moira Griffin, Producer

Moira Griffin is a producer, strategist and former executive with New Bumper and Paint Productions in partnership with writer/director Marshall Tyler. Their most recent award-winning projects include Slow Pulse (CBS/BET), Cap (HBO), Night Shift (Sundance) Executive produced by Juvee Productions, and Landline (Hulu). Her projects have premiered at festivals including Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, ABFF, and the Tribeca Film Festival. NBP is currently developing projects across all genres including the documentary, The Prince of Seventh Ave and the narrative film Fever Dream. In addition, she is producing the documentary The Inquisitor directed by Angela Tucker through her company Alice’s Plan.

The Prince of 7th Ave: The Legend of WilliWear/Willi Smith

Nonfiction Feature

Logline: The Prince of 7th Ave: The Legend of WilliWear/Willi Smith is a feature-length documentary exploring the incredible life, career and legacy of Willi Smith, an innovative Black American designer who disrupted the fashion industry with his eponymous label, WilliWear and single-handedly changed the way we dress today–yet somehow, he remains largely unknown.

Crystal Kayiza, Director/Producer

Crystal Kayiza is a filmmaker raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma now based in Brooklyn, NY. Her film Rest Stop, won the Jury Prize for Best US Short at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Her film, Edgecombe, screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and premiered on POV. The following year, See You Next Time, was selected for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was released by The New Yorker. Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film, Crystal is a recipient of the Creative Capital Award, Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship and HBO / The Gotham Documentary Development Initiative.

The Gardeners

Nonfiction Feature

Logline:The Gardeners follows the Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery, keepers of one of the oldest Black cemeteries in Mississippi.

Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, Writer/Director/Producer

Mobolaji is a storyteller/educator with Jamaican Christian and Nigerian Muslim parents. Growing up mediating multiple cultural identities has inspired him to use cinema as a tool to illuminate the superficial conditions that divide us and accentuate the merits of shedding our prejudices. He attended UCLA and The American Film Institute. His feature documentary, Ferguson Rises, won an Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and represented Independent Lens/PBS at the Television Critics Association. Noted film critic Kenneth Turan called Ferguson Rises, “excellent and impressive.” Mobolaji is a Gotham/HBO Fellow and repped at UTA.

Chosen Fathers

Nonfiction Feature

Logline: An intimate and unflinching look at Black fathers navigating the trauma of losing a child to violence over the course of a week-long retreat.

Avril Speaks, Producer

Avril Speaks is an award-winning producer, director and showrunner based in Los Angeles. She has produced several award-winning films including Jinn, Dotty & Soul, and the South African film African America, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, four African Movie Academy Awards and streamed on Netflix. Most recently, Avril was the showrunner for the docuseries Uprooted which is available on Max and was an executive producer for Files of the Unexplained, coming soon to Netflix. Avril has been a Sundance Momentum Fellow, a recipient of the Dear Producer Award, and is also a co-founding member of Distribution Advocates.

Pure

Fiction Feature

Logline: For 17-year-old queer Celeste, senior year in her affluent Black community means following family tradition and becoming a debutante… but she longs for a different kind of coming out.

Monique Walton, Producer

Monique Walton is an independent producer. She is the 2024 recipient of the Film Independent Spirit Awards Producers Award. Walton’s films include Sing Sing (dir. Greg Kwedar) which premiered at TIFF in 2023, and Bull (dir. Annie Silverstein), which premiered at Cannes – Un Certain Regard in 2019. She produced the feature documentary Hollow Tree (dir. Kira Akerman), which premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival. Walton was a 2016 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, a 2020 Rotterdam Producing Fellow, and a 2021 Cannes-Producers Network Fellow.

Anita

Fiction Feature

Logline: 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 to achieve true independence.

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