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Second annual Documentary Lab selects 10 filmmakers

Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, has announced the filmmakers and projects selected for its second annual Documentary Lab, sponsored by Latino Public Broadcasting. Starting this week and continuing through the end of April, the Documentary Lab is an intensive seven-week program in Los Angeles, with the main focus of assisting documentary filmmakers on their works-in-progress and providing creative feedback. All of Film Independent’s Artist Development Labs are designed to support strong, original voices in developing their projects in a nurturing, yet challenging creative environment. This year’s Lab Mentors include filmmakers Laura Gabbert (No Impact Man), Doug Blush (The Invisible War), Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Caroline Libresco and producer Eddie Schmidt (This Film Is Not Yet Rated). Guest speakers include filmmakers Ava Duvernay (The Middle of Nowhere), Laura Walker (Waste Land), Katy Fairfax Wright (Call Me Kuchu) and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Call Me Kuchu).

“We had such a rewarding experience in our first year of the Documentary Lab, and the filmmakers learned so much. The stories they tell have the potential to influence major global issues or expose audiences to fascinating people and subject matters,” said Josh Welsh, Film Independent’s Co-President. “It’s truly an honor to be working with such a talented sophomore class of filmmakers, as well as our Documentary Lab alumni, mentors and guest speakers. We can’t wait to see their finished projects and have them shared with the world.”

The Documentary Lab was established last year to expand Film Independent’s programs which serve filmmakers working in the non-fiction arena. It is provided free to accepted filmmakers, and upon completion, they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support, including access to Film Independent’s annual educational offerings, on-staff Filmmaker Advisor and the Los Angeles Film Festival. Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Kouhali-Warall’s Call Me Kuchu, which was developed in the 2011 Documentary Lab, went on to world premiere at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival where it received the prestigious Teddy Award. The filmmakers also received the Chaz and Roger Ebert Fellowship at this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Upcoming submission deadlines for Film Independent’s other Artist Development programs include Screenwriters Lab (March 26), Project Involve (April 30), Producers Lab (July 9) and Directors Lab (October 1). To apply for these programs, please visit

The 2012 Film Independent Documentary Lab filmmakers and their projects are:

1. American Revolutionary – A 96-year-old revolutionary philosopher in Detroit offers a voice of hope and a program of action for transforming her city, the United States and the world.

Grace Lee is a director/producer whose most recent feature film, American Zombie, premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, screened at SXSW and Sitges Fantastic Film Festival and was released by Cinema Libre in 2008. Prior to that, she produced, wrote and directed The Grace Lee Project, a feature documentary that was called "ridiculously entertaining" by New York Magazine. The film opened theatrically in several cities, was broadcast on Sundance Channel and is distributed by Women Make Movies. Grace received her MFA in Directing from UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television where her thesis film Barrier Device won a Student Academy Award and Directors Guild of America award, screened in dozens of festivals, aired on Sundance Channel, and is distributed by Shorts International. She is the recipient of the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Digital Media, a Rockefeller Media Arts grant, the PPP Pusan Prize, as well as funding from the NEA, Center for Asian American Media, UCLA Institute for American Cultures and others. Other documentary credits include Best of the Wurst, which is permanently featured at the Currywurst Museum in Berlin and Camp Arirang. Grace is currently in post-production on the feature documentary American Revolutionary.

2. Billy Mize & the Bakersfield Sound – A performer on the brink of fame, Billy Mize’s story is a spectacular tale about identity and sacrifice in the music industry woven between acts of personal inspiration and horrible tragedy.

William J. Saunders is a director/producer and has written, directed, edited and produced features and documentaries for broadcast and cable networks such as HBO, FOX, ABC, CBS, ESPN, MTV, NFL Network and the BBC. As a Director, William has received many awards, including an Emmy® Award for his documentary Big Charlie’s. He has enjoyed success in non-fiction, as well as fiction and animated filmmaking. His short film Dash Cunning, received the 20th Century Fox/Farrelly Brothers Award for outstanding achievement in comedy. William’s first feature film, Sweet Little Lies, won several awards on the festival circuit before being distributed by Film Works Entertainment in the spring of 2012. He currently works for Mark Osborne on the animated feature adaptation of The Little Prince. After obtaining a B.A. in cinema from Southern Methodist University, William received his Masters degree in Directing from Columbia University's School of the Arts.

3. Boone – Three goat farmers in Southern Oregon are transformed by the physical and emotional grit of living a life of self-reliance in Boone, an exploration of what is possible when personal beliefs are aligned with action.

Christopher LaMarca is the director/cinematographer of Boone and is a first time filmmaker and professional photojournalist. He published his first monograph, Forest Defenders: The Confrontational American Landscape, in 2008 with Powerhouse Books. His work has been shown at the International Center of Photography’s triennial exhibition and published in both Aperture and Art and Review. His awards include NPPA’s Best of Photography and PDN’s 30 emerging photographers. Editorial clients include Rolling Stone, GQ, Time, Newsweek, New York Magazine and London Sunday Times Magazine.

Katrina Taylor is the producer/assistant editor of Boone and is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. She was assistant editor for the Academy Award-winning The Empowerment Project, as well as the grassroots coordinator for distribution. As associate producer for the Discovery Channel Global Education Project, she created and customized educational programming for an international audience. Katrina most recently acted as Director of Acquisitions for Collective Eye, spearheading the acquisition of socially engaging documentaries, as well as marketing and digital delivery to the educational market. She contributed to the success of the company's latest film Queen of the Sun, through assistance with educational distribution and strategy.

4. Cocaine Prison – From inside Bolivia’s craziest prison, a cocaine worker, a drug mule and his little sister reveal the country’s relationship with cocaine.

Violeta Ayala is an award-winning filmmaker, accomplished writer and theatre actress. In 2006, Violeta and Dan Fallshaw established UNITEDNOTIONS FILM to create thought-provoking media. They started their work in North Africa on a short film about corruption in the oil industry. In 2009, their first feature documentary Stolen premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, screened at IDFA in competition and has been shown in more than 70 prestigious international festivals, winning 14 awards along the way. Violeta is currently working on her latest films, Cocaine Prison and The Bolivian Case. She is a Tribeca Film Institute Fellow, and is also writing a screenplay called El Comunista, based on her grandfather’s life, with the support of the Australian Film and Television Radio School. She gives master-classes at the National Film School in London and the Edinburgh College of Art. Accolades include Best Feature Doc at the 2010 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Grand Prix at the 2010 Art of the Document Film Festival in Warsaw, Golden Oosikar Best Doc at the 2010 Anchorage International Film Festival, Best Film at the 2010 Festival Internacional de Cine de Cuenca in Ecuador and many, many more.

Daniel Fallshaw is the producer/director of photography for Cocaine Prison and is an award-winning producer with international experience. He produced, shot and edited the feature documentary Stolen, which has garnered much press worldwide and will be broadcast on public television in the US in 2012. Dan’s films have been selected to pitch at international forums from AIDC to Sheffield and IDFA. His projects have received funding from Screen Australia, Screen NSW, the Norwegian Film Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, IDFA’s Jan Vrijman Fund and Fond Sud.

5. Dancing in Jaffa – Pierre Dulaine, an internationally renowned ballroom dancer, is fulfilling his lifelong dream of returning to his birthplace, Jaffa, to teach Palestinian and Israeli children to dance together. The film explores the stories of four children forced to confront issues of identity, segregation and racism as they dance with their enemies.

Hilla Medalia is a George Foster Peabody Award-winning director and producer, and has received 3 Emmy Award nominations and won the Paris Human Rights Film Festival Jury Award, Fipa Biarritz Jury Award, Golden Warsaw Phoenix Award, Faito Doc Grand Jury Award, and more. Hilla directed and produced the documentary After the Storm, a film about a group of New York Broadway actors who travel to New Orleans to offer the remedy of art and expression to thirteen kids in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The film aired on MTV/Logo, broadcast on Ch8 Israel, participated in film festivals around the world, including the Los Angeles Film Festival, and won the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival and Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival. Hilla directed and produced To Die in Jerusalem, a story about a Palestinian suicide bomber and her unlikely Israeli doppelganger, who died at only 17 years of age in a Jerusalem market. It was broadcast in the United States on HBO and has aired on television globally, including YES in Israel, RAI is Italy, M6 in France, NHK in Japan, and numerous others. Hilla was a senior producer on 39 Pounds of Love (2005-HBO and Cinemax film), which was a Winner of the Ofir Award (Israeli Oscar) and shortlisted for an Academy Award. Other titles include Happy You’re Alive (ch1 Israel), Caught In The Net (Impact Partners, Tribeca Gucci, Chicken & Egg, YES Israel), which is currently in production and Dancing In Jaffa. Hilla has a Master’s Degree in Film and Television from Southern Illinois University.

6. Gore Vidal’s America – The film dramatizes Gore’s political and social views using recent interviews and historical footage and draws powerful conclusions on the fate and future of the nation through the eyes of one of its fiercest critics.

Nicholas Wrathall is an award-winning director first recognized for his documentary Abandoned: The Betrayal of America’s Immigrants, which won the 2000 Alfred I. Dupont Columbia Award for Broadcast Journalism. Nicholas also directed the documentary Haitian Eksperyans and produced and directed several short documentaries, including the story the New York Times picked up of modern-day gulags operating in Far East Russia. He has worked as a series producer on Surgery Saved My Life for the Discovery Network. For the past 10 years, he also produced television commercials and music videos for many high-level clients. Nicholas attended the Film Independent Producers Lab with this project at its inception.

7. Journey Into Africa – An Atlanta charter school 8th-grade class travels to Ghana, Africa to explore and connect with their ancestral roots. Through seeing life outside of America, they discover a new world inside themselves.
Redelia Shaw is a director/producer and began working professionally in entertainment in 2000 while completing post-graduate work in Atlanta as a development and production executive for Point 7 Entertainment. She worked closely with the Production and Development Teams to scout talent, pitch ideas to networks, and develop content and was also responsible for supervising and coordinating the production of original programming in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Redelia relocated to Los Angeles in 2005, and has been working as Talent Coordinator for various specials and comedy programming and as a creative consultant for independent production companies. In 2008, Redelia was selected as a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow and the Directors Guild of America Training Program Trainee. Currently, Redelia is a DGA 2nd assistant director and works on commercial television and film projects. This year, she was awarded an Artist-in-Residence Fellowship to the Wexner Center of the Arts to complete post-production for Journey Into Africa.

8. Now En Español – In a feature documentary that chronicles the ups and downs of being a Latina actress in Hollywood, Now En Español addresses issues of Latino identity and representation through the lives of the 5 dynamic women who dub Desperate Housewives into Spanish for American audiences.
Andrea Meller is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, born and raised in New York after her parents emigrated from Santiago, Chile. She has produced and shot for programs on PBS, MTV, TLC, Food Network, WE and Style. She recently co-directed the Emmy-nominated Hard Road Home, a feature length documentary that follows three men as they return home from prison. Hard Road Home had its premiere at SXSW Film Festival and screened at the New York International Latino Film Festival. The film was broadcast nationally on Independent Lens/PBS in 2008. Her directorial debut, 156 Rivington, a one-hour documentary about a community center founded by squatters, was broadcast nationally on the Sundance Channel and has screened at film festivals and by community groups in the U.S. and abroad. Andrea has also collaborated with producer Aaron Woolf to co-produce and edit 9/12, a film that captured the grief and recovery processes of airline workers post-9/11. The one-hour piece was produced in cooperation with United and American Airlines, Boston Medical Center, and the Robin Hood Foundation. Her shorter documentary work has been screened at the Netherlands Architecture Biennale, Museum of the City of New York, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Artist Space, and Apex Art Gallery. She is a fellow of the PBS/CPB and NALIP Producers Academies and participated in the NALIP Latino Media Market with Now En Español.

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film 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.

Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers. Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the 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.


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