WIF Emerging Producers Program, Indie NFTs, Rooftop Lineup, More — Film Briefs – Deadline

Women In Film Los Angeles has selected the first class of participants for its new Emerging Producers Program, which is designed to provide women and non-binary people access to master classes, mentorship and advising early in their producing careers.

Participants looking to build careers across various producing tracks in both film and TV were selected by a jury of industry leaders and veteran producer mentors, a list that includes Jenn Asaro (VP Physical Production Finance, Warner Bros), Chelsea Barnard (BooksmartIf Beale Street Could Talk), Yolanda Cochran (SVP Live-Action Long-Form Production, Nickelodeon & Awesomeness), Linda Goldstein Knowlton (We Are the Radical MonarchsCode Black), Niija Kuykendall (EVP Film Production, Warner Bros), Monica Levinson (Borat Subsequent MoviefilmThe Trial of the Chicago 7), Lyn Sisson-Talbert (Jingle Jangle: A Christmas JourneyBookmarks) and Jeanette Volturno (partner/co-founder, Catchlight Studios).

Vertical Entertainment Acquires Hannah Marks’ ‘Mark, Mary & Some Other People’ Before Rom-Com’s Tribeca Premiere

The inaugural class:

  • Apoorva Charan an L.A.-based producer who was born in India, raised in California, and started her career at FremantleMedia Singapore as a digital producer.
  • Lydia “Sue-Ellen” Chitunya is a filmmaker who hails from Zimbabwe and is a graduate of the UCLA Professional Producing Program.
  • Luz Agudelo Gipson, a Colombian native whose commercial works the “Obama for America” 2008 presidential campaign, which received the Titanium and Integrated Lions Grand Prix award at Cannes.
  • Vanessa Haroutunian (they/she) is a queer producer, artist and curator.
  • Takara Joseph, born in the Virgin Islands and raised in Atlanta, is a 2020 Film Independent Project Involve fellow and a Daytime Emmy-nominated producer and director of BET’s Giants.
  • Quan Lateef-Hill is a producer, filmmaker, and creator developing and producing multi-platform content in television, film, digital, podcast, live event and experimental production. She was an inaugural member of the 2019 Blackhouse Foundation/Independent Film Project Multicultural Producers Fellowship.
  • Sophie Luo is a producer and filmmaker whose recent work includes campaigns and videos for TED’s Climate Countdown global initiative, a viral Desus and Mero collaboration with Timberland and a collaboration with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats.
  • Alexandra Perez is a producer and production manager who has worked on content spanning television, film, digital and commercial platforms. She worked at eOne and Blumhouse before becoming production supervisor on Blumhouse/Hulu’s anthology series Into the Dark.
  • Juliana Schatz Preston is a Colombian-American documentary film producer and director whose debut, Los Comandos, was shortlisted for the 2019 Oscar.


Sharon Leal

Courtesy Buchwald

Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls, Supergirl) has joined the cast of First Love, the romantic comedy drama from writer-director A.J. Edwards that stars Diane Kruger, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jeffrey Donovan and Sydney Park.

The film, currently in production in Los Angeles, follows Jim (Tiffin), a senior in high school who experiences the highs and lows of his first love with Ann (Park). At the same time, Jim’s parents (Kruger and Donovan) are dealing with the familial fallout spurred by the financial crisis of 2008.

Henry Kittredge, Lucas Jarach, Nadine de Barros and Edwards are producers. Kruger serves as an executive producer. De Barros’ Fortitude International is fully financing.

Leal is repped by Buchwald.




Rooftop Films has set the lineup for its annual Rooftop Films Summer Series throughout New York, starting with its traditional short film showcase on Thursday, June 17 at Green-Wood Cemetery. The series, presented by SundanceTV, will run through mid-September and follow CDC guidelines for gatherings to present more than 40 outdoor screenings along with the annual lineup of live music, performances and filmmaker Q&As.

Films on offer included Janicza Bravo’s Zola on the lawn at Fort Greene Park, the world premiere screening of the ESPN series Once Upon a Time in Queens about the 1986 Mets, documentaries including Joshua Rofé’s Bob Ross: Happy Accidents and special screenings of festival pics including Natalie Morales’ Language Lessons.

The full lineup and tickets are here.


Producers behind the recently indie dark comedy Stealing Chaplin are auctioning off 15 NFTs crafted from the pic, inspired by a true story about two brothers who dig up and steal the corpse of Charlie Chaplin. It was filmed on the Las Vegas Strip and Freemont Street and on Wayne Newton’s 27-acre ranch.

The pic, available via VOD and DVD, was directed by Paul Tanter and co-written by the film’s stars Simon Phillips and Doug Phillips under their Dystopian Films banner with fellow producer Ken Bressers. Proceeds from the auction (find it here) will go toward funding their next project, which the filmmakers believe could be a viable financing revenue stream for the industry.

“This new NFT market is especially exciting because it not only appeals to collectors and financial speculators but also to those, in our case, who want to support independent filmmakers,” Bressers said.


Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American VOD rights to Illegal, Nick Alexander’s feature-length documentary that traces the journey of Salvadoran immigrant Laz Ayala on his path to U.S. citizenship, the challenges of present-day immigration, and his mission to humanize immigrants and reform immigration for the benefit of all. It will hit digital platforms July 6.

Illegal raised more than $40,000 via Kickstarter and has been playing at several festivals including the Beverly Hills International Film Festival. Lazaro Ayala is the producer.

Illegal tells the story of undocumented immigrants from the perspective of a once undocumented immigrant who challenges a broken system of foreign labor, human trafficking, and exploitation,” said Ayala. “Illegal is about the immigrant, the American story and the American dream.”

Freestyle negotiated the deal with Glen Reynolds of Circus Road Films.

Here’s the trailer:


Born To Play

“Born To Play”

Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Born to Play, Viridiana Lieberman’s sports documentary that chronicles the women’s tackle football champions Boston Renegades, who play in the the Women’s Football Alliance. The Park Pictures film, which debuted on ESPN Originals last year, will now be released on demand later this month.

This reps the second partnership between Vertical and Park Pictures after they teamed on Other People, the 2016 indie drama starring Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon.

Born To Play shines a light on a team of remarkable athletes, ranging in age from 19-49, from a spectrum of backgrounds who put their bodies on the line while maintaining full-time careers that support their lifelong dream. Theodora Dunlap, Sam Bisbee and Lieberman produced, with Jon Bulette, Lance Acord, Jackie Kelman Bisbee and Rudy Valdez executive producing.