Film Independent Chooses 30 Filmmakers For Project Involve 2018

Film Independent Project Involve

Film Independent Project Involve


LOS ANGELES (December 19, 2018) — Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that creates the Spirit Awards and the LA Film Festival, has chosen 30 filmmakers for Project Involve, the organization’s signature diversity mentorship program, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The Project Involve Program cultivates the careers of talented filmmakers from an array of communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. Project Involve alumni include:

Effie T. Brown (Dear White People), Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Step Up 2: The Streets); Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, Empire), Javier Fuentes-León (The Vanished Elephant, Undertow), Kahlil Joseph (Lemonade), Mako Kamitsuna (Mudbound, Pariah), Tina Mabry (Queen Sugar) and Justin Simien (Dear White People).

In addition, Project Involve is a free nine-month program for writers, directors, producers, editors, cinematographers and entertainment executives from a variety of diverse backgrounds. During the Project Involve program, individuals meet one-on-one with film industry mentors, create short films, attend master-workshops taught by top film professionals and industry networking events.

The Project Involve Fellows receive passes to the Film Independent Forum, Directors Close-Up and LA Film Festival. The 2018 Project Involve participants were chosen based on the quality of their projects, their passion, vision, talent, and commitment to truly pursuing a career in the film industry. 

“Film Independent is thrilled to welcome the 2018 Project Involve Fellows and celebrate 25 years of being a place where so many talented filmmakers from every facet of our multi-cultural community have been nurtured to grow and become the wonderful storytellers they are now,” said Francisco Velasquez, Senior Manager of Project Involve. “Our immense gratitude goes out to all of our sponsors, mentors, advisors and friends who, with their constant support, have made Project Involve the premier diversity program it is today and will continue to be for generations to come.”

Kiehl’s Since 1851 is returning one again for the fourth year, as lead funder of the Project Involve Shorts. Kiehl’s is proud to continue to support this essential arts education program that celebrates diversity in independent filmmaking.

Film Independent also introduced the continued studio support of the program, with a variety of donor-named fellowships for the 2018 Project Involve program: 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion will support two Fellows, one on the creative track and another on the executive track; Amazon Studios Film Fellowship, which will be presented to a visionary filmmaker; LAIKA Fellowship, which will also support a director working in animation; the Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television Fellowship, which will be introduced to an LMU alumnus; the Participant Media Fellowship; and the 6th annual, Sony Pictures Entertainment Diversity Fellowship.

Each Fellowship underwrites one Fellow’s participation in Project Involve and includes a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant for the filmmaker. Additionally, the third annual Sony Pictures Executive Track Fellowship will provide a year-long paid executive training fellowship in development and production with Columbia Pictures along with participation and mentorship through Project Involve.

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:


Bruce Cole

Ante Cheng

Michael Dallatorre

Bongani Mlambo

Zamarin Wahdat


Sam Bailey

Marques Green

Faren Humes

Iesh Thapar

Daniel Willis


Shayar Bhansali

Autumn Dea

Ruben Navarro

Steph Zenee Perez


Jamilah Alston

Sheri Bradford

Kimberly Han 


Ashim Ahuja

Katherine Fisher

Melina Lizette

Mariyam Mahbub

Diego Najera

Yu-Hao Su

Diana Ward


Tasha Henderson

Sahar Jahani

Henry “Hank” Jones

Kase Pena

Jessica Shields

Film Independent Artist Development

Film Independent Artist Development helps promote distinct independent voices by assisting filmmakers in creating and advancing new work through its Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting), Grants Program which awards over $800K annually to filmmakers, the Fast Track finance market, and Fiscal Sponsorship Program.

For information on all past Film Independent Fellows, you’re more then welcome to visit the online Film Independent Talent Guide.

In addition, Film Independent’s Project Involve is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder Time Warner Foundation, Lead Sponsor Turner, and Project Involve Shorts Lead Funder Kiehl’s Since 1851. 

Main Sponsors include 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, EFilm | Deluxe, HBO, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, National Endowment for the Arts and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Film Independent Project is also supported by Amazon Studios, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Formosa Group, LAIKA, Participant Media, and The Camera Division.


Film Independent is a nonprofit arts organization that stands behind independent visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who proudly represent diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Furthermore, 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 are made up of an inclusive community of people across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Pretty much, 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 the LA Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

With over 250 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