Meet the Filmmakers
Born the eighth child of ten siblings, David was only privy to content viewed by his older siblings such as Malcolm X, Menace II Society, and Higher Learning. These stories would later sculpt his creative mind, as he gravitated to directing stories that focused on societal dramas while studying film at Morehouse College and Loyola Marymount University’s graduate program.
In 2019, David was selected as a participant for the Village Roadshow Emerging Talent Program to develop a documentary based on inner-city heroes and later accepted into the Viacom – ViewFinders Emerging Director Program where he shadow directed two episodes of 13 Reasons Why. In addition to these accolades, David finished as a finalist under The Wrap’s Shortlist for his film, Z – MAN, and named the winner of the Urbanworld Film Festival’s Young Creators Showcase, for his dramatic short, Laced.
In collaborating with local writers and producers, David continues to search for narratives that explore themes of love, compassion, and intimacy set in inner cities. It is his mission to shed a glimmer of light to communities hidden in darkness through the art of visual storytelling and filmmaking.
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Deondray & Quincy
Artists, Activists, Deondray and Quincy LeNear Gossfield are the creators of the Emmy® Nominated streaming series, The Chadwick Journals (Amazon Prime), the GLAAD award-winning film anthology series, The DL Chronicles, and The DL Chronicles RETURNS. They are the producers and directors of the multi award-winning short film, Congo Cabaret about the LGBTQ+ presence and influence on the Harlem Renaissance.
As the first gay couple ever to appear on OWN’s, Black Love series, they were noted in 2020 by BET as one of the leading Black gay power couples. The married creative team has also developed and produced TV series such as Legendary (HBO Max), Sunday Best (BET), Kocktails with Khloé (FYI) with Khloé Kardashian, Face Off (Syfy), Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew (MTV), The Sing Off (NBC), and Make Your Mark Shake It Up Dance Off (The Disney Channel).
Their upcoming screen adaptation of Richard Bruce Nugent’s, Smoke, Lilies and Jade, featuring Alexandra Grey (Empire) and narrated by Emmy® Award-winner, Billy Porter (POSE) is slated for a 2021 release. They made history when they were married at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards during Macklemore’s performance of Same Love, featuring Madonna and Mary Lambert, officiated by Queen Latifah.
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So Young Shelly Yo is a first-generation Korean-American director, screenwriter, editor and visual creative from Southern California. She holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University of New York and a B.A. from University of California San Diego. Her shorts have screened at renowned film festivals around the world. Her recent short MOONWALK WITH ME was a finalist for HBO’s APA Visionaries competition and was granted AT&T’s InspirASIAN Film Award (CAAM) and Best Student Film (Dead Center Film Festival).
Shelly is a recipient of SFFILM’s Sloan Filmmaker Fellowship, VC Media’s AWC Fellowship, a two-time finalist for Tribeca’s Through Her Lens Filmmaker Program and the Athena Screenwriting Lab. She is also a 2nd rounder for the Sundance Development Lab in 2020 and a finalist for the SFFILM Westridge Grant in 2020.
Shelly started her film career immersed in experimental films and video art under the teachings of Jean-Pierre Gorin and Laida Lertxundi. Since then, Shelly has worked in television and commercials alongside powerhouse female filmmakers such as Showrunners Charlotte Stoudt (Homeland, Fosse/Verdon, House of Cards), Megan Martin (Animal Kingdom) and award-winning Director Kim Gehrig (Apple, Nike, Honda).
Most of Shelly’s work involves surreal and magical elements, rooted in a deeply emotional core. Her drive to tell stories comes from her immigrant background—to ensure that the narratives of both her generation and that of her parents are told truthfully—as well as the injustices she witnesses in her community. Shelly is currently in development for a variety of projects, highlighting the stories of Asian Americans, immigrants, misfits and people living on the fringes of society.
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Kantú Lentz is a Peruvian filmmaker who creates films that take place in alternate realities with magical realism elements.
She recently directed the award-winning short film “Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die” starring Justin Kirk (“Weeds,” “Angels In America”) and Olivia Edward (“Better Things”) which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Lentz is an AFI DWW, Sony Television Diverse Directors Program & Viacom Viewfinder Emerging Directors Program alumni. Her script “Coche Bomba” was one of five projects selected by the Tribeca/Chanel ‘Through Her Lens’ fellowship in 2019.
Over the past 3 years, Lentz directed over 50 political ads for One Vote at a Time, which creates in-kind campaign videos for democratic candidates who believe in gun safety legislation. In branded content and commercials she has worked with such brands & clients as New Balance, TUMI, Ulta Beauty, Aveda, Verizon, LG, Refinery 29, Vice Media, and YouTube Originals.
Her comedic video “Rollercoaster Break-up” starring Moses Storm (“Sunnyside,” “Unfriended”) went viral and currently has eight million views and counting.
Kantu is slated to make her tv directing debut on the Dick Wolf series; Chicago: Fire, as part of this year’s NBC: Female-Forward program. She also has been commissioned to write and direct a comedic short film for Paul Feig’s: Powderkeg Fuse anthology series.
Lentz is currently developing the feature-length version of “Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die”
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Gabriela is a writer/director and actor born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She is a USC graduate and is currently based between Los Angeles and Santo Domingo.
She is an Alum of the Sundance Institute playwrights intensive, HBO’s Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today and a semifinalist for the NBC Nosotros Monologue Slam and the WriteLA pilot competition.
As a writer and performer, Gabriela has toured her one-woman show, Las Garcia, across sold-out venues in Los Angeles, including the LATC, GoogleLA, USC, The Bootleg Theatre, and the Hollywood Fringe.
Her work in film seeks to deconstruct neocolonialism and build bridges through ancestral personal stories and alternative forms of documentation. Her first feature film, MORENITA, currently in post-production, is a finalist for the Sundance Institute 2021 documentary grant. The film deals with themes of displacement, womanhood and modern migration.
She is also developing her first narrative feature, Piratas, under the 2020 Cinema Femme mentorship. The film won funds in the Dominican Republic with the annual FONPROCINE contest and is currently in the works to be shot on the island under her production company: JEVITA FILMS.
Gabriela is writing a feature film for SONY PICTURES INTERNATIONAL and has a half-hour dramedy tv show in development.
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Born and raised in the Bay Area, Dre is half Mexican and half Sicilian-American. Her experience of otherness and fluidity has informed her worldview and shapes the lens through which she tells stories. After earning an MFA in screenwriting from Columbia’s School of the Arts, Dre earned a clinical master’s degree and completed her training as a therapist. Using psychoanalytic theory, and her experiences in the consulting room as both patient and therapist, Dre aims to bring psychological, emotional and relational realism to characters who find themselves at risk of being marginalized, distorted or erased and applies this same approach to explore morally ambivalent characters struggling to be ethical, blocked by blind spots around their privilege and agency but who strive for balance, empathy and grace. Dre’s belief in the healing power of storytelling, and her lifelong devotion to the potent magic of music, inspires her to make work that celebrates people’s capacity to heal, expand and grow.
Dre lives in LA with her family and writes for film and television. She’s written on shows including “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Exorcist,” and “The Bridge,” and has sold and developed numerous projects at Amazon, Hulu, Apple and others and is currently an executive producer and co-creator for Apple’s limited series “Lady In The Lake,” as well as an executive producer and supervisor for HBO Max’s series “Players Table.” Now, at last, two decades after starting film school, Dre couldn’t be more thrilled to be directing her first film!
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University of Southern California graduate with studies in theater, cinema, and International Relations- Boma Iluma is a writer, director, and visual artist from Abuja, Nigeria. He started his career acting in commercials for brands such as Cartoon Network and the NBA, acting in theatre productions in Atlanta before turning over to directing at USC.
He directed the visual art piece, Negus, which premiered in LA art circles in 2019. He followed this with HEiRS for Nike’s Air Jordan, a Generation Z reimagining of the brand-which premiered at 2020’s New York Fashion Week followed by a showcase at Jumpman LA.
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Johnson Cheng’s films have been official selections at over 100 international film festivals, including Tribeca, AFI FEST (Audience Award), Toronto, Palm Springs (Best Student Film Award), Aspen, and Atlanta. Johnson’s short film, IRON HANDS, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by Topic Studios and Film Movement. His latest short film, LONELY BLUE NIGHT, premiered at the 2020 AFI FEST and is currently streaming on HBO/HBO Max. Johnson is an HBO APA Visionary, recipient of the Princess Grace Award, and an alumnus of Film Independent’s Project Involve, VC’s Armed With a Camera Fellowship, the NYFF Artist Academy, and Columbia University’s M.F.A. Film Directing/Screenwriting program. Johnson is repped by WME.
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Elisee Junior St Prueux
Born and raised in North Miami Beach, FL, Elisee Junior St Preux began his journey in the performing arts industry as a brass instrumentalist and hip-hop dancer. Cultivated in a Haitian household where the arts have dominated all generations, he quickly became a music fanatic and true cinephile. In 2018, he obtained a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in IT and a minor in Theatre at Florida Atlantic University and immediately took the next step in his career by moving to Atlanta, GA. There he created a film blog, “The Movie Butter Playbook”, focusing on film news, movie reviews, analyses, and trivia. Shortly after, he founded “À La MODE Films”, a screenwriting label that binds innovation and vintage storytelling in a vault of over eighty screenplays and a filmography of seven; all written and directed by him.
In addition to being behind the scenes, Elisee also enjoys being in front of the camera. Theatrically, he has made an appearance on networks such as BET, OWN, and TV One, while commercially on campaigns for U Health and Telemundo. As a creative and natural businessman, Elisee will continue to share stories that push the status quo and display authenticity through his own experiences and dreams.
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Stacy Pascal Gaspard
Stacy Pascal Gaspard is currently a Directing Fellow at the AFI Conservatory. Initially a Pre-Med student at Nova Southeastern University, she went on to double major in Theatre and Media Communications — the first in her family to earn her Bachelor’s in the US.
On the screen, Stacy strives to share her rich vibrant Afro Latin Caribbean Culture and the intersectionality of the Black diaspora.
Stacy is a natural performer, with experience dancing Salsa, Hip Hop, and Modern. She has acted in narrative films and national commercials, and earned diversity scholarships for both Groundlings and UCB.
The oldest of five siblings, raised by her single Haitian mother and grandmother, Stacy Pascal Gaspard doesn’t take her dreams lightly, and doesn’t think you should either.
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Meet the Advisory Panel
Each filmmaker selected to be in the program will have access to mentorship and advice from the Rising Voices advisory panel.
Emmy Award-winning writer, creator and actor, Lena Waithe, has established herself as talent to be reckoned with, Waithe and her production company, Hillman Grad Productions, have become champions of spotlighting unrepresented voices, and in a short time, they have produced groundbreaking pieces of art such as the critically acclaimed debut film from Radha Blank, THE FORTY YEAR OLD VERSION, For her success and massive efforts to elevate marginalized POC and LGBTQIA storytellers, Waithe was presented with Variety’s 2020 “Creative Impact in Producing Award” and The Hollywood Reporter’s 2020 “TV Producer of the Year,” making her the youngest to receive the honor.
Born in London, raised in upstate New York and Portland, Oregon, Rishi Rajani discovered his love for producing while attending NYU. He went on to work for 20th Century Fox, UTA, Paradigm, and Studio 8 where he rose through the ranks to become a Development Executive working in both film and TV. Rishi joined Hllman Grad productions in June 2018 and currently serves as president of production and development. Since then he has been an Executive Producer on the shows Boomerang and Twenties, and continues to manage Hillman Grad’s ever-growing slate of films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos. As a passionate advocate for diversity in storytelling, he could not be more excited to be working for a company that continues to provide opportunities, break down barriers, and push the culture forward.
Raised in South Central, Los Angeles, Calmatic is a self-taught filmmaker, who discovered his passion for telling stories at a young age. As a director, he strives to humanize others’ unique experiences without infusing them with negative stereotypes. He seeks to stretch the limits of his viewers’ reality while highlighting the beauty in the mundane. His creative curiosity has allowed him to solidify a place for himself in a constantly evolving industry.
Through collaborations with the world’s most iconic artists, musicians, and global brands, Paul Hunter has established himself as one of the most creative and diversified directors working today. The co-founder of creative studio PRETTYBIRD, his award-winning work transcends mediums and genres as he pursues his passion for never-before-told, yet relatable human stories.
Matsoukas began her career shaping powerful brand stories with some of the biggest names in entertainment. She has previously directed projects for Jay Z, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Solange, Pharrell and Rihanna, for whom she directed the MTV Best Video Award-winning visuals for “We Found Love.” Matsoukas has also become a frequent creative brain trust for Beyoncé, dating back to 2011, when she was asked to come on as the creative director for the singer’s album, 4. Melina reprised her role as visual architect for the pop icon’s 2016 surprise album, Lemonade, directing the groundbreaking “Formation” music video. The video became a powerful rallying message for black people as they faced a divided country in the throes of tumult.
LaFawn Davis is Group Vice President of Environmental, Social & Governance at Indeed. She leads teams that focus on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Product Inclusion and Accessibility, Social Impact, AI Ethics and Environmental Sustainability. Indeed’s long-term ESG commitments are to close the opportunity gap, use technology to break down bias and barriers, reduce and prevent algorithmic bias and conserve the environment. LaFawn has spent more than 15 years serving in leadership roles at innovative global technology companies like Google, Yahoo, PayPal and Twilio. Leveraging this experience, she brings deep expertise for transforming companies through driving results, creating a culture of psychological safety and belonging, and building high-performing teams to her role at Indeed.
Chris Hyams is CEO of Indeed, leading the company’s mission to help people get jobs. He has worked in various tech companies in Austin, TX for 25 years. Chris joined Indeed in 2010 as VP of Product, responsible for technology strategy and innovation, and was appointed CEO in 2019. Before Indeed, Chris was Founder of B-Side Entertainment, a technology platform for the discovery and distribution of independent films. After 10 years of helping people get jobs with Indeed, Chris believes that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. He is committed to building technology to help level the playing field.