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NBCU Academy and NBC News Studios Tap Seven Filmmaker Projects For Documentary Fellowships

Seven filmmakers’ projects will each receive $45,000 as part of the inaugural Original Voices Fellowships launched by NBCU Academy and NBC News Studios.

The recipients also will receive a one-year fellowship to support their feature-length nonfiction film projects. That includes access to archive research, mentorships, story and edit consultations and distribution strategy expertise. They also will get marketing and publicity guidance and production resources.

NBCU Academy was launched as part of NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde’s Fifty Percent Challenge Initiative, with the goal of an employee base of 50% women and 50% people of color.

The recipients include:

Bloodthicker, directed by Zac Manuel and produced by Chris Haney: The documentary, filmed over four years, is about three childhood friends, all young musicians, navigating adulthood while living in the shadows of their famous fathers.

Hummingbirds, directed by Silvia Castaños, Estefania Contreras, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger, and produced by Leslie Benavides, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Ana Rodriguez-Falco and Jillian Schlesinger: The project is described as the story of two best friends who “emerge at night to escape the cruel summer heat of their Texas border town, wandering empty streets in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging.”

I Didn’t See You There, directed by Reid Davenport and produced by Keith Wilson: A disabled filmmaker, spurred by the sight  of a circus tent outside his Oakland apartment, “launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency.” The project is shot entirely from the filmmaker’s physical perspective from his wheelchair.

La Flaca, directed by Jessica Chermayeff and Ana Veselic and produced by Alba Jaramillo: The project focuses on a teenager whose “flight from Honduras through Central America suddenly snaps into focus when she gives birth on U.S. soil,” as the story captures her assimilation in her new country.

MIJA, directed by Isabel Castro and produced by Tabs Breese and Yesenia Tlahuel: The story of music manager Doris Muñoz, whose undocumented family depends on her ability to discover young pop stars.

Untitled, directed by Sura Malluoh and produced by Mallouh, Laura Poitras and Yoni Golijov, with cinematography by Jason D’Souza: This project explores a conflict that divides a community, with the story unfolding in real time and told from all sides.

A seventh project, also untitled, was directed by Michael Premo and produced by Rachel Falcone. No description was provided.

Jeanelle Augustin, manager of film fellowships and artist development, said that “there is really a range [of themes] but what I would say first and foremost is that these are people telling stories from their own perspective.”

In announcing the fellowships earlier this year, NBC News Studios said that it identified 50 filmmakers to apply for the fellowships, with an emphasis on diversity, including Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous and tribal populations, LGBTQ , women or people with disabilities. No distribution rights are attached for NBC. “Their distribution is entirely up to them,” said Molly O’Brien, head of documentary for NBC News Studios, which launched last year. She added that “we hope we build the trust and relationships with all of these filmmakers so that they will want to work with us.”

Yvette Miley, senior vice president, diversity and inclusion for NBCUniversal News Group, said in a statement that the goal was to support “independent filmmakers who seek out stories that reflect our increasingly diverse communities.”

The fellows were selected by documentary filmmakers Dawn Porter, Nanfu Wang and Cristina Costantini.

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