PASSION, DRIVE, AND RESILIENCY
Our team builds grit to help students succeed in life.
The Youth Cinema Project is project based learning that produces competent, resilient, and real world problem-solvers and bridges the achievement and opportunity gaps by creating lifelong learners and the entertainment industry’s multicultural future.
EDUCATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Born February 24, 1947, East Los Angeles, at The First Japanese Hospital to Pedro Olmos and Eleanor Huizar. Raised on Cheesebrough’s Lane, he attended Greenwood Elementary and Montebello Junior High. He then graduated from Montebello High School in 1964. After which he received an Associative Arts Degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice at East Los Angeles College in 1966. Olmos since then has gone on to receive many accolades from the City of Montebello, including the Alumni of The Year from Montebello High School in 2014, and Man of the Year Award from The Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in 2015.
He has achieved extraordinary success as an actor, producer and humanitarian. The Tony, Emmy and Academy Award® Nominated actor, is probably best known to young audiences for his work on the SYFY television series “Battlestar Galatica” as Admiral William Adama. Although the series kept the actor busy during its run from 2003 through 2009, it didn’t stop him from directing the HBO movie “Walkout” in 2007, for which he earned a DGA Nomination in the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television category.
Olmos’ career in entertainment spans over 30 years. In that time he created a signature style and aesthetic that he applies to every artist endeavor, often grounding his characters in reality and gravitas. His dedication to his craft has brought him attention across the industry, and with audiences worldwide.
Bonifacio “Bonny” Garcia is the managing partner and a founder of Garcia, Hernandez, Sawhney & Bermudez, LLP. Mr. Garcia specializes in negotiations, collective bargaining, labor and employment, complex litigation and strategic counseling and planning. Garcia has extensive experience representing governmental entities including cities, school districts, community college districts and special districts, throughout the state of California.
Garcia began his legal career as a commercial litigator and spent more than 16 years handling complex litigation and real estate matters. He currently serves as City Attorney of the City of Delano, Special Counsel to the Ventura County Community College District, Palmdale School District, Pasadena Unified School District, and the Delano Mosquito Abatement District among others. Mr. Garcia also serves as a chief labor negotiator for other school districts and local governments throughout California.
Garcia has the highest “AV Attorney” Rating by Martindale-Hubbell for ethics and competence, and in 2015 he was named “Top Lawyer – Labor and Employment” by Corporate Counsel Magazine, American Lawyer Magazine and National Law Journal. He sits on the Board of Trustees for the Catholic Charities of Los Angeles Inc., and for the Advancement Project, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Garcia is a graduate of Harvard Law School.
Jay Nomura, began his vision of success, hard work and determination that has spawned into a very exciting and diverse career by working alongside his parents in a family-owned flower business, M’s Flowers, established in 1957 in Montebello, California. Mr. Nomura has since served on many community Boards and was a former member of the Planning Commission for the City of Montebello, as well as the Past President and 50-year Board Member of the City of Montebello Chamber of Commerce.
Among his many accomplishments and accolades, Nomura has received such honors as the 1992 City of Montebello “Business Person of the Year” award, the 2001 and 2005 City of Montebello Chamber of Commerce “Chairman’s Award,” and the 2011 East Los Angeles Community Youth Center “Angel Award.” In 2012, Nomura received the Montebello High School “Hall of Fame” award.
It is Nomura’s continued passion and tenacious drive that exemplifies his total commitment and care for the community he lives in. He received an Associates Degree from East Los Angeles College, and earned a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Cal State Los Angeles. Nomura is a Founding Member of the Friends of Montebello Unified School District Foundation.
Dr. Rick Miller has taught at the elementary and secondary levels and has been an elementary and high school principal. In addition, Dr. Miller has served the last 27 years as a school district superintendent. Most recently he has served in the Santa Ana Unified School District and Riverside Unified School District.
The focus of his 40 year career as a school administrator has been on school reform and improved student achievement in diverse settings. He has also co-founded a collaborative assistance program for teachers and administrators and concentrated his organizational efforts on building more collaborative structures within our school organizations. A collaborative leader, Dr. Miller believes in working with parents, students, teachers, and the community to build rapport and create strategies and policies to ensure student success. He utilizes grass-roots efforts to inspire support for his initiatives. He implements new ideas as volunteer projects and pilots, using enthusiastic responses from teachers, students, and parents to catalyze growth. He has sought national, state, and community partnerships to further technology initiatives and help compensate for budget shortfalls.
He currently serves on a number of state and national advisory boards including: Consortium On Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE), Advisory Board; Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project, Advisory Board; SchoolCNXT, Advisory Board; and the Lancer Educational Housing Corporation, Board of Directors.
Dr. Miller holds four academic degrees including a Ph.D.; Ed.Sp. (Education Specialist); M.Ed. (Masters in Education); and a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. Dr. Miller has authored a number of professional articles and has presented regularly at state and national conferences. Rick has been recognized with a number of awards including: Mike Kneale Educational Excellence in Leadership Award; Community Service Award, Riverside NAACP; Honorary Doctorate of Letters, California Baptist University; Champion for Justice, Riverside County Fair Housing Council; and the 2008 Educational Leadership Award, University Council for Educational Administration, University of California Santa Barbara.
Dr. Miller is passionate about student learning and reduction of the learning gap between various student populations.
Steven Zubkoff is Executive Chairman of Associated Financial Inc., a vertically integrated real estate investment trust and private mortgage bank. He has extensive experience in the valuation and securitization of asset-backed securities in the USA and Internationally. He began his career in the development and financing of affordable housing in the USA, South Africa and Mexico. He is a founder and Director of StudyNet Foundation, an online educational platform dedicated to creating and distributing quality academic digital content.
Rafael Agustín is the 2016 Sundance Episodic Story Lab Fellow for his half-hour family comedy, ILLEGAL, based on his life as a former undocumented American. Agustín is also the co-writer and co-star of the national touring, award-winning autobiographical comedy, N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK, which received acclaim from the LA Times, New York Times, Denver Post and won awards for its advancement of social justice in the arts.
In 2015, the LA Times gave Agustín the Emerging Leader Award at the annual Latinos de Hoy Ceremony. Also in 2015, Agustín was named Alumnus of the Year by Mt. San Antonio College, and contributed to a new book entitled “Portraits of the Dream: The Importance of Investing in Undocumented America,” which promotes Dream Act legislation in Washington D.C.
Rafael Agustín is the past Festival Manager of Edward James Olmos’ Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF).
Agustín received his BA and MA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television, and is an alumnus of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase.
Bodie is an Actor and Producer, who has appeared in many different television and film projects. He was the Head of Development for Olmos Productions for six years, creating and developing social and cultural content for ABC/Disney Studios. Bodie has found a passion working in film and television in various degrees and continues to explore the many avenues the creative arts has to offer, both executively and artistically. He joined the Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project in 2016 and is assisting in the executive growth and development aspect of the institute. He received his BA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television.
Janel King is a writer and LFIYCP instructor. She earned her bachelor’s degree from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and her master’s degree in education from LMU. She also holds a teaching credential and an administrative credential in California. In her eight years in the classroom, teaching film and other subjects, she was awarded the Teacher of the Year Gold Award, as well as chosen as a teaching member of the UCI Writing Project. Out of the classroom, she chaired the 2013 California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) Teacher of the Year Committee and increased arts district-wide as Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for her school district. Janel is currently writing an end-of- the-world drama set in space and enjoys experimenting with special FX makeup.
Sergio Monserrate, is a director and producer who has over a decade of experience in the film industry. He is the co-founder of the production company, Annoying Cousin.
A UCLA alumnus, Monserrate majored in Sociology and currently serves as Director of Operations for the Latino Film Institute, where he heads the Youth Cinema Project. He has produced the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) and other major live events in Los Angeles landmarks like the TCL Chinese Theater, The American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater, El Capitan, and The Orpheum Theater.
Monserrate is an accomplished public speaker and winner at the 2003 Phi Rho Pi National Speech and Debate Tournament. He is currently developing his first feature film as a writer and in post-production for his series “LA 143”.
Gabriela Acevedo is a filmmaker from Puerto Rico. She left her tropical paradise for Boston where she attended Harvard University. She graduated with a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies, which is just a fancy way of saying Film Production.
Seeking warmer climates and to further her craft of screenwriting, she moved to Los Angeles. In 2013, she graduated from the American Film Institute with an MFA in Screenwriting. She continues to live in LA where she writes in coffee shops and collaborates with other filmmakers. Working with LFI YCP has been an amazing experience.
Brenda Avila-Hanna is an independent filmmaker and video journalist born and raised in Mexico City and currently based in the Bay Area. Brenda received a Master’s degree in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz where she completed her first documentary short, VIDA DIFERIDA (LIFE, DEFERRED), the coming-of age story of an undocumented teenage girl in New Mexico.
The film screened at several film festivals including the San Francisco Latino Film Festival and Lakino Berlin. During her time as a graduate student at UCSC, she also produced “The Audio-Gadgeteer,” a finalist for the International Documentary Challenge 2012 that premiered at Hot Docs Toronto.
Her latest short, Libertad, tells the story of an indigenous, transgender woman from Oaxaca, Mexico who lives in the Bay Area as she plans to return to her mother in Mexico after 20 years apart. The film won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Short at the 2016 Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.
Brenda is also the field producer for No Place to Grow, a Cal Humanities grant recipient about food justice for inner-city Latino immigrants currently in post-production. Brenda is a member of New Day Films, an independent filmmaker collective bringing social-justice films to educators.
Being raised in a small town in South Carolina, a local theatre arts program is what fueled Jordyn Barber’s fire to pursue her dreams of moving to Los Angeles to partake in the film industry. Years later Jordyn Barber has become a SAG-AFTRA actress, obtained a MFA in Film and TV Production from the University of Southern California, and produced an independent feature. She believes in the power of film as the most efficient impactful artistic mode of communication in our society, deeming it critically necessary for diverse voices to be versed in the craft of filmmaking in order for our stories to be heard, felt, and ignite change in our ever evolving society. The foundation of positive growth is our youth, so just as her local arts program gave her the confidence to create she is excited be apart of the Latino Youth Film Institute to do the same for others.
Maria Cano was born in Zapopan, a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. In 2003 her family decided to move to the United States, and she has lived in California ever since. Now based in the Salinas area, Maria is a producer and director, who graduated from the Art Institute of California-Sacramento with a Bachelors of Science in Digital Film and Video Production.
She enjoys her career because through filmmaking she’s able to create stories that closely portray real life situations. She wants the public to be able to relate to her films and to make a difference by reaching as large of an audience as possible, as well as to share her Mexican culture through the production of high-quality cinema.
Some of her notable works include: Wind Street Station, Entre Suenos “Between Dreams”, Bring the Dance Leave the Guns, and Mia’s Wish, which had a segment on Good Day Sacramento.
Christopher Michael Castillo (or simply Chris) is an animator, character designer
and story artist from West Covina, CA. He is the son of a Mexican mother and a
Salvadoran father. Since he was 4 years old drawing with his etch n’ sketch art
and cartoons were always huge facets of his life. As long as he can remember in
school he was your typical best artist in the classroom. Disney films like “Beauty
and The Beast” and the “The Lion King” fascinated him growing up along with
non-Disney films like “An American Tail”. More importantly he was interested in
watching the behind the scenes content that took you through the process of
creating an entire film. The art and amount of drawing completely captured Chris’
attention through his high school and early college years. When he learned that
he could build a career making cartoons he knew that he had to find a school
that would give him the tools to do so. Chris was accepted into Woodbury
University for their animation program and in 3 years he earned his BFA in
He is also a proud member of Latinx in Animation (LXIA) and has aspirations to
work as a character designer and to create an animated series of his own. Chris
came to discover Youth Cinema Project while volunteering for LALIFF (Los
Angeles International Film Festival). His short films have premiered at San
Diego Comic Con and the Palm Springs International Animation Film Festival.
He is now a proud mentor here Youth Cinema Project looking to help bring the
idea of animation as a career choice to communities like his like he wished he
could’ve had as a child.
Makes socially relevant documentaries about the intersection of science, technology and the social consequences of war. The National Science Foundation, Fulbright Colombia, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation amongst others have supported her research, writing, and films.
In 2012, she was a Flaherty Film Seminar Fellow. Her VR hybrid documentary, Virtual War, is currently in post-production. Her previous documentary Bodies at War/MINA (2015) which she directed, produced, shot and edited, premiered at El Festival de Cine de Bogota where it was nominated for a UNICEF award. She was a cinematographer for Bronx Obama (2014) directed by Ryan Murdock, which won Best of Fest at AFI Docs.
Her short film Iraq Veterans Against the War Perform Operation First Casualty (2007) reached audiences through public access platforms, the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival, and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Her articles have been published in American Anthropologist, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Body and Society amongst others.
She earned her doctorate in Anthropology (2011) at New York University where she learned the art of ethnographic filmmaking. Cohen Ibañez was a Wenner-Gren Fellow in Ethnographic Film at the Center for Documentary Arts Research at UC Santa Cruz from 2016-2017.
Mark Columbus is a Student Academy Award® finalist for making “Battle of the Jazz Guitarist.” His films played at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA), Rooftop Summer Series, Palm Springs Shortsfest, and Vimeo Staff Picks.
He directed part of the omnibus feature Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards starring James Franco, Matthew Modine and Rico Rodriguez and released by Cinedigm. He developed a half-hour TV Pilot with his mentor and Sundance Lab Artistic Director Gyula Gazdag called Homies that premiered in the Episodic Competition at the 2017 Nashville Film Festival.
Before directing, he was an editorial assistant for The Onion and The Weinstein Company. He received an MFA in directing from the UCLA School of Film and Television, and is a 2015 Film Independent Project Involve Fellow and Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors Program alum.
He directs and edits for clients such as Buzzfeed, Blizzard and Disney – and is currently in post-production on his first feature, Return of the Jazz Guitarist.
Colombian director Camila Saldarriaga has spent her life living between Bogotá, Miami, and Los Angeles. Her initial move from Colombia to the United States at 15 years old marked the beginning of both her transition to adulthood and a lifelong interest in addressing the patriarchy, female oppression, and human rights issues through film. Camila is dedicated to embracing diversity as well as spotlighting social issues and female experiences in her work.
Given her strong connection to her South American heritage, each location has served as an opportunity to experiment, develop her unique style, and strengthen her fascination with using atmospheric color palettes to tell stories.
Camila has a B.A. in Communications from Florida International University with a minor in Photography and Art. Her experience in photography and creative producing has nurtured a passion for filmmaking, which led her to start directing. Her first self-directed-and-produced short film, ¡Mais Duro!, was accepted to eleven film festivals in Colombia, Italy, Brazil, Argentina and the United States during the festival run. It won Best Narrative Short at Nordic International Film Festival, and it garnered a Special Mention by juror Kim Yutani, Sundance Senior programmer, at Provincetown Film Festival. It was also featured on www.hellogiggles.com and in Cléo Journal. Several of Camila’s other bodies of work (photography and moving images) have been published in Noctis Magazine and Nylon Español (London), in Revista Exclama (Bogotá) and in Milk Magazine (New York), among others.
Steve Elkins is a filmmaker, educator, writer and musician based in Los Angeles. In addition to producing promotional content for Disney, Paramount Pictures and Academy Award-winning director Marin Scorsese, Elkins is more widely known as the director, cinematographer and editor of two ambitious globe-spanning feature documentaries. The most recent (“Echoes of the Invisible”) premiered at SXSW 2020, where it received the ZEISS Cinematography Award for “the very best imagery in storytelling.” His debut feature (“The Reach of Resonance”) received the “Best Film Essay” award at Montreal’s International Festival Of Films On Art (FIFA) and top prize at Temps d’Images Lisboa (Portugal) “for a film which reflects the importance of arts in human society in the most original way.” It was subsequently presented at film festivals, universities and art museums in nearly twenty countries, including the Louvre (Paris), Harvard University, National Gallery Of Art (Washington D.C.) and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czech Republic).
Elkins has become a sought-after guest lecturer on cinema and aesthetics internationally, speaking at institutions ranging from the Art Institute of Los Angeles, Chicago School of Professional Psychology, MUTEK International Festival of Digital Creativity (Mexico City), CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (Switzerland), Tuvan State University (Russia) and the San Francisco GLBT History Museum. His passion for rare and under-appreciated cinema hailing from countries typically excluded from film history led to his founding of the Hibbleton Film Series, a weekly event in Fullerton where Elkins introduces and moderates community discussion about cinema from regions such as Iran, Mongolia, Mali, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Tunisia and El Salvador.
Rodrigo is a Mexican filmmaker focused on comedy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in law from Iteso University in Mexico ’06, and an MFA in writing from the AFI conservatory ’14. He credits his parents with instilling in him a love of books, and movies. His latest short, “Atomic Couple!” (2016) is currently on the festival circuit.
Luis Alberto Garcia (born July 16, 1987) is Latino American Producer. His family is from Mexicali, Mexico a small border town where he was raised. After one semester at UVM (Universidad del Valle de Mexico) studying international business he transitioned to Los Angeles Film School to pursue his real passion filmmaking.
During his time at LAFILM, Luis achieved a Bachelors Degree in Entertainment Business and an Associates Degree in Film. While attending LAFILM, he worked at various internships and taken a myriad of roles on many different film set including commercials, short film, features, and live events. He is now currently working as a producer having recently produced a music video, a short film and has begun the development process for his next project.
Jo Howard recently acquired his B.A. in Film Studies and English at UC Berkeley where he founded the student-taught course, Filmmaking for Activists. Jo has experience writing, directing, editing and filming for documentary, narrative and experimental short films.
Additionally, as a member of the LGBTQ community, Jo is passionate about utilizing digital media to generate empathy and understanding, thus prompting political and social progress. His most recent films explore themes of trauma and healing, especially as it relates to structural and social inequality within the United States.
Bijon is the first Bangladeshi Film Production/Directing MFA- graduate from the prestigious Film, Television, and Theatre Department of University of California, Los Angeles. His directorial debut film Kingdom of Clay Subjects World Premiered at 42nd Seattle International Film Festival.
He has received numerous awards for his filmmaking including Motion Picture Association of America Awards, Edie and Lew Wasserman Film Production fellowship, Dorothy Arzner Memorial Awards, and The Nancy Richardson Fund. Bijon’s documentary proposal Surf Girls won the Colors of Asia competition at Tokyo Docs.
Matias Munoz-Rodriguez is a Chilean Director/Producer with years of experience working in entertainment. He received his degree in Filmmaking & Production from ARCIS University (Chile) and since then has worked on a variety of projects including short and feature films, documentaries, music videos, and advertising projects. During his career in Chile he collaborated with renowned Chilean directors and producers.
In 2012 he released “La Siembra”, a music video he directed for a famous Chilean ensemble Inti-Illimani. In Los Angeles, he has specialized in short format documentary about the LA Art scene, one of which, “Estampas de la Raza” about the history of Chicano printmakers in Southern California was considered for an Emmy nomination in 2016. Munoz-Rodriguez is currently developing his first narrative feature film as a Writer and Director.
Joanna Nava Goldsmith was born on March 20, 1988 in Mexicali, BC, Mexico. She is of American, Mexican and Hungarian descent. Joanna became involved in modeling and acting at the age of 12, as a student in Barbizon School of Modeling in San Diego. Early in high school she was selected by them to participate in IMTA, to represent the school alongside other top students in the Talent category. During her High School years she had several local modeling and acting jobs. The entertainment business was always her passion but rules of parents led her to build it as a hobby rather than a degree, she had to “get a real career first”. Joanna got two bachelor degrees: Marketing and Management, meanwhile trying to stay involved in the entertainment business and learning as much as she could with different courses and studies on the side.
Joanna studied acting and film in the theatre school: Shakespeare La Cuarta Pared, with Ricardo Gómez in Mexicali, BC. Joanna was also an alumni of Mexican actor, Silverio Palacios, for a couple of years in intense acting workshops. In 2015 she worked in a news program, 4tOscuro, as the Entertainment News Host and also did local theatre. Joanna contributed in the production for a TV series teaser “Código de Justicia” where she also had a small role. In 2015, she took part as a reporter in the feature film Belzebuth, by Emilio Portes. In 2016 she received a lead in a short film, Noche de Bingo, which won two awards in the Calexico Short Film Festival: Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice. Joanna landed the lead role for an upcoming TV series, Porque No Te Has Casado, directed by Luis Garcia.
From 2015-2019 Joanna landed several lead and supporting roles in theatre plays, music videos, commercials, short films, including Rogelio Sanchez’s, Travestia, which has won 6 festivals. She also produced her first music video with a second one on the way. She is currently writing a couple of her own projects.
In her spare time Joanna enjoys drawing/painting, doing wall murals, reading, writing, exercising and spending time with her family and friends. With no doubt, by far, one of her favorite activities till now is mentoring her YCP students and learning as much from them as them from her.
Farzad Ostovarzadeh is a graduate director of The Young Fellow Filmmakers Organization of Tehran. Having trained first in the field of engineering, he found his passion in filmmaking after working with Iran’s famed directors: Naser Taghvailand Bahram Beizali, whereupon he committed to follow his dream of becoming a director.
While living and working in Tehran, he had the privilege of directing an award winning theatergroup in the staging of Henrik Ibsen’s world class production, “Hedda Gabler”.
Director Ostovarzadeh graduated from the AFI directing program after directing his two thesis films.
Even” and “Hidden.” He was the only member of his graduating class to complete two such projects.
Since graduating, Ostovarzadeh has traveled and worked closely with director, Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation, studying closely with the academy award winner and working as his assistant. In addition to his film pursuits, Director Osowarzadeh is also a poet and writer of short stories. His films explore the indinate unseen emotions of characters forced upon then in conditions beyond of their power. In humanity and appreciation of other’s hidden emotions that bindus,
An adrenaline junkie who loves junk food, Erin was born in the US to immigrant parents from Taiwan and raised in New Jersey. She chased what she thought was the American Dream and worked on Wall Street before pursuing her passion for filmmaking. Her unique journey informs her films, which often explore the dark side of ambition.
A sci-fi filmmaker and fan, she won the Mary Shelley Award for directing Kepler X-47 and her original vision and world-building. Narrative films that Erin directed have been praised by Upworthy, Gizmodo, Vimeo (Staff Pick), SciFi Now, Huffington Post, Mitú, and curated by LACMA Young Directors Night, Killer Films, Comic-Con, Slamdance, Refinery 29, New York Fashion Week, and SITGES.
Her short film, THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF EVERYTHING, was set to premiere as a film within the feature, AVIVA, at SXSW this year. The film, a fable about love and loss told through dance, will now premiere online in June.
As a commercial director, Erin’s work has been recognized by SHOOT and Free the Work. She’s on the director roster of We Are Invisible. Select clients include: Omaze, (RED), Lets.Give, Call of Duty, and General Electric.
Erin has held directing fellowships with the FOX Filmmakers Lab, AFI Directing Workshop for Women, and Film Independent Project Involve. She recently shadowed producing director James Bamford on the CW series, ARROW. She’s represented by APA, Thruline, and Cohen Gardner Law
Erin is also bilingual (English and Mandarin Chinese) and enjoys traveling and short walks on the beach.
Growing up, I didn’t like my first name, but I was a fan of the movie Uncle Buck. So I asked my Mom to change my name to “BUCK Pisano” … thankfully, she ignored me.
I was raised in the city of San Francisco and during a short-lived rambunctious phase, my Mom gave me a one-way ticket to Bolivia, so I cleaned up my act real fast. Later, I would teach playwriting in Juvenile Halls, which was a sweet way of coming full circle.
In high school, I was a baseball and wrestling champion. Artistic outlets included freestyle rap battles and dancing in a hip-hop troupe, but please, don’t ask me to do the splits – it won’t be pretty.
When I moved to the Big Apple, I studied acting with world-renowned teachers: Lloyd Richards, Patsy Rodenburg, and at The Public Theater. I also studied screenwriting at NYU and wrote one- man shows. My comedy show, Judgement, was presented at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in L.A. Acting on TBS’ Men at Work, opposite Oscar Winner JK Simmons, was a particular highlight.
I’ve participated in the prestigious National Hispanic Media Coalition’s TV Writers Program sponsored by ABC and NBC. In addition, I made the top five percent in the selective Warner Bros. TV Writers’ Workshop and my Big Bang Theory spec was chosen for Nickelodeon’s Writer Script Review.
I wrote & directed When the Bomb Drops starring Golden Globe Winner Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This project was nominated for an Imagen Award for Best Comedy Web Series. I’ve also written for the ABC Talent Showcase for two years and for the for the CBS Comedy Showcase as well.
In addition, I directed Bollywood Stripper featuring Melanie Chandra of CBS’ Code Black and the comedy sketch Thick Skin Required starring David Marciano of Homeland is available to stream online.
I co-wrote the feature, Northern Lights, which advanced to the 2nd round of the 2016 Sundance Screenwriter Lab — and I was the sole author of Annie Hernandez, which advanced to the 2nd round of Sundance’s New Voices Lab.
My 1⁄2 hour pilot, James Harden’s Beard, was sold to Super Deluxe and I’m currently developing a TV series with Jared Stern (The LEGO Batman Movie) at Warner Bros.
Eugenia is a writer, director, cinematographer and editor. Most of her work is centered around her life experiences as an immigrant woman. Born and raised in a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico she moved to California when she was 12 years old and that’s when her interest in filmmaking started. She attended CSU Monterey Bay and graduated with a B.A. in Cinematic Arts & Technology. Shortly after, she co-founded her production company Inspira Studios, making it her platform to produce her own content such as, Sharing Stories/ Compartiendo Historias video series and short film Through Your Eyes.
BENJAMIN-SHALOM RODRIGUEZ (or simply, “Ben”) is a gay, Mexican-Israeli-American, Jewish writer, director and comedian. His #humblebrags include: selected for the 2020 Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, recipient of a feature film development grant from The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, selected for Ryan Murphy’s HALF Directing Mentorship, the NHMC TV Writers Program, the Fox Writers Intensive, and that he’s an alumnus of Film Independent’s Project Involve and CBS Showcase. As a writer/director Ben’s had 20+ comedic shorts/webisodes produced – some playing international fests – and 2 dramatic, award nominated/winning shorts produced, both playing international and Oscar-Qualifying fests.
But before coming out as a full blown artist, Ben assisted the producers of DJANGO UNCHAINED, was a talent manager in Miami for telenovela stars, and a features exec for the Lionsgate-backed, 3Pas Studios (HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER, OVERBOARD).
Now, Ben’s an out and proud filmmaker mentor with Edward James Olmos’ Youth Cinema Project, and a charter member of the queer Latinx writers collective, The Clubhouse, which fosters fellowship and emotional support among queer, male-identifying writers.
Erika Sabel Flores is a Los Angeles based filmmaker. Born and raised in Mexico City, she attended university in the UK and acting conservatory in NY. She holds a BA in Business and MA degrees in Communications and Psychology. She has over 10 years of experience working in front and behind the camera, in above and below the line positions.
As a producer, she has worked at different budget levels and in a variety of media, but particularly loves producing narrative content at the indie level. “Shine”, a feature she recently co-produced, premiered at Urbanworld and won the 2017 “Best Feature Audience Award.”
She recently directed a series of PSA’s for the California Coalition for a Healthy California and “Cascabel”, her narrative directorial debut, is currently in post-production. She is currently developing her first feature and two new media projects as a writer.
She also loves casting and has served as a casting director in over 20 films internationally. Multiple projects she cast are currently in the festival circuit. In her spare time, she loves teaching and mentoring youth. “The Last Deal” a short film she produced as a mentoring project for teens from The Boys and Girls Club of Oxnard, won the 2017 “MetLife National Merit Award for Program Excellence.”
Adriana González-Vega is a filmmaker born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After realizing her passion for film while still in high school, she immersed herself in her new found passion by forming a Cine Club in her school, joining a filmmaking workshop, as well as auditioning and acting on a feature film directed by Marcos Zurinaga. In 2012, she received a BFA in Film from Syracuse University. She also studied abroad at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in the Czech Republic where she directed her first 35mm narrative short film. Her film and entertainment experiences have included internships at Mandalay Entertainment Group, the sitcom RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Badillo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, FAST AND FURIOUS: FAST FIVE and Paradiso Films.
Her undergraduate thesis short film FRENTE AL MAR (OCEANFRONT) won the David Orlin Prize for Outstanding Capstone Project at Syracuse University, Best Student Film at Carmel Art and Film Festival 2012 and Best Actress at Cinefiesta 2012, and was an official selection at the Montreal World Film Festival 2012. Focusing on Directing, González-Vega attended the American Film Institute Conservatory becoming the first fellow to receive the Time Warner Fellowship. Her thesis film AKA AMBER premiered at Cinequest Film Festival in 2016 and participated in other national film festivals.
In 2017, she worked on the feature film, TO THE NEW GIRL, as the director of visuals. Her most recent short film, JUNITO, started its international film festival run and was awarded Best International Short at the 22 nd Madrid International Lesbian Gay and Transsexual Film Festival.
González-Vega has also been working on several projects as a production coordinator. In the upcoming months, she will be producing two short films and directing one of them, as well as directing a music video.
González-Vega is also developing several feature films including a dark comedy called DON’T BEAT AROUND THE BUSH, which is a collection of eight short stories from the female point-of-view that explores the depth, cruelty, and hilarity of dating in the 21 st century both in the straight and queer community and a dramatic thriller based on one of her short films called CONCEPTION.
Alejandro is a Mexican director born and raised in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. After graduating from college, he worked directing TV commercials for several years before being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to begin his graduate film studies at USC School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC, he also received the John Huston Scholarship for Directing. His short film G.I. Jose was awarded the USC First Look Industry Award in the category of Social Change.
Alejandro recently shadowed DGA-award winning director Dan Attias on a Hulu/Fox produced TV show; and is seeking to develop a career as a television director.
Kayden Phoenix is a Chicana Writer and Director from Boyle Heights, California. She received a full ride academic scholarship to Loyola Marymount University where she acquired a BA in Business Administration, with an Emphasis in Marketing. Upon entering the industry, the first thing she noticed was the industry dominated standard- complete with character generalizations.
In response, she became a huge advocate for diversity both in front and behind the camera, giving a voice to stories untold. She plans on evening the playing field for the under-represented through her unique and diverse film making.
“A big part of my life’s purpose is to give voice to stories as multifaceted, atypical, and diverse as the people we find in the real world.”
Alicia Rice is a documentary filmmaker and visual artist that looks to redefine ideas of what it means to be an educator. Alicia enjoys exploring texture, moments of meditation, cuts on the beat, the way stillness moves, collaboration, the full body experience of sound, and variations of play. She has created documentary films on a range of topics, including: fair trade coffee, occupational scavenging, a children’s home for Burmese refugees, homelessness, puppets, process based photography, and play-based education.
Alicia holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis in Video Production from Santa Clara University and an M.F.A. in Social Documentation from UC Santa Cruz. Her current documentary film, “When Kids Meet a Creature” has played at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival and the Alameda International Film Festival. Additionally, she has worked for an alternative education group in Thailand and at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose.
JERELL ROSALES is a talented Filipino-American film and television writer and director. His short films have garnered numerous awards and have played in over eighty (and counting) film festivals worldwide. He is the latest winner of the 2018 Humanitas Prize for his comedy script, FLIP.
Jerell holds an MFA from UCLA in directing, where he was the rare exception with having two of his films win the Spotlight award (UCLA’s highest honors). His UCLA thesis film, THESE THINGS TAKE TIME, stars Zackary Arthur (The 5th Wave, Amazon’s Transparent, and Mom & Dad). Jerell has also directed Amy Smart (Just Friends, The Butterfly Effect), Tyler Alvarez (lead of Netflix’s American Vandal) and Lana Condor (star of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).
His television directorial debut, HIGH SCHOOL LOVER, premiered on LIFETIME in February 2017. The made-for-TV movie stars François Arnaud (star of NBC’s Midnight Texas), Paulina Singer (Freeform’s Dead of Summer), and James Franco (127 Hours, The Disaster Artist).
Jerell grew up as a “military brat,” living on bases as far away as Japan. He’s based in Los Angeles, where he teaches writing and directing classes for UCLA Extension.
Wesley “Wes” Rodriguez is a first-generation Cuban-Guatemalan American writer, director, and cinematographer based in Los Angeles, California.
He is a NALIP Latino Media Market Fellow and a recipient of the Director’s Guild of America John Frankenheimer Fellowship.
As a writer, Wes was invited to the 2019 NALIP Media Summit where he and his co-creator, Zakaria Schwartz, pitched SYSTEMA, a LatinX, sci-fi adventure series to 20+ TV network executives and agencies.
As a writer-director and cinematographer, Wes produced and co-wrote Palante (2017), a slice-of-life short film shot in Cuba, where he worked closely with acclaimed director Werner Herzog. Palante has since garnered multiple accolades from film festivals across the U.S. and abroad, as well as media recognition from former Univision reporter Maria Elena Salinas. More recently, Wes’ film Disconnected (2018) premiered at the HBO Presents New York Latino Film Festival in Times Square.
Wes is an MFA graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and holds a B.S. in Production from the University of Florida.
Chris Gallego Wong is a first-generation American filmmaker born in New York City. He became obsessed with movies at a very young age, primarily due to his fondness for Christopher Reeve’s Superman. He was heavily involved with the theatre arts programs at his middle school and high school and began working professionally as an actor in his teens.
Chris went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He studied both acting and directing at Playwrights Horizons and Stonestreet Film and Television studios and had the distinct honor of training for a semester at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Chris was one of sixteen American actors chosen for the highly competitive Shakespeare in Production program at RADA and studied under the tutelage of some of the world’s most distinguished teachers.
With a solid foundation in both performing and directing, Chris bought himself his first Hi8mm camcorder and started working as a freelance videographer shooting sporting events and banquets at local schools. Knowing it would be a valuable asset to his future career as a director,Chris taught himself how to edit his own content, and it wasn’t long before he was ready to make the big transition to Los Angeles and narrative work.
Over the following decade, Chris worked his way up both in front of and behind the camera. Starting as a production assistant on a commercial and a featured extra on Grey’s Anatomy, Chris would continue to work in any position that offered him on-set experience. By the time he landed his co- starring role as Jake Gleason on ER, he was also starring in several national commercials and simultaneously producing his first short film.
Most recently, Chris directed, edited, and co-produced the award-winning short film, Saviors, which won Best Short Film at Fernleif Production’s Best of the Best Competition 2018. Chris also won the Papaya Films Bursary Best Emerging Director award at the 2018 FirstGlance Film Festival, and his lead actor won Best Actor in a Short Film. Prior to Saviors, Chris directed the award-winning feature film My Name is David, starring Keith Powell (30 Rock), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), and Adepero Oduye (12 Years a Slave). The movie premiered at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and won Best Feature Honorable Mention at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
Chris lives in Burbank, CA with his beautiful wife Jennifer and two incredible daughters, Madeline and Sophia. He is thrilled and honored to be working with the Youth Cinema Project.
Paul traveled the world as a journalist, television producer and
software developer. Paul’s award-winning work as a television news
producer and editor spanned both NBC and ABC networks. Bored with
television news, he went to USC Cinema as a grad student then
As an entertainment consultant, he created the first digital
storyboarding software for the industry, he worked directly with major
studios including Fox, Sony, Dreamworks, Paramount, Warner Bros and
Universal. Currently, Paul lends his expertise in both narrative and
corporate videos to change the world for the better.
She has worked as a freelance filmmaker for the last eight years, creating original
award-winning shorts, commercials, web series and branded content.
Emilio Kobak is an up & coming writer, cinematographer, and video editor. Son of migrant parents who were abruptly displaced by their deportation from the United States in 2006, Emilio strives to fight back with art against the system that left him and his family dispossessed, displaced, and heavily disadvantaged. Most importantly, he considers his duty as a revolutionary to cheer his people on and empower them by making art that reflects their realities.
Emilio attended the University of California in Santa Cruz where he studied Film Production and Latin American and Latinx Studies. Most of Emilio’s works consist of personal and social documentaries, although he also enjoys blending fantasy with reality when writing for narrative-based projects. One of his short films, Entre Sangre y Fuego, was selected to be screened at the international art festival CompArte por la Humanidad: “Contra el Capital y sus muros: todas las artes”, In Chiapas, México, where it was favorably praised.
On his free time, Emilio makes good use of his gringo-privilege to travel; primarily up and down Califas and frequently to his home in México. He considers himself a “Wanderer of Worlds”, often not belonging neither here nor there, but rather wandering through it all while collecting lessons and experiences. By not conforming with common notions of space and time, Emilio considers his storytelling and story-listening to be rooted in ancestry but fused with futurisms. He understands that knowledge shouldn’t be privatized, and is excited to share the lessons that he has acquired with all that take part in his journey.
Nelson Melgar is an independent filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was born in San Salvador, El Salvador and migrated to the the Bay Area at the age of ten. In his late teens, he moved to Los Angeles to major in Film and Media Studies graduating with a Bachelors Degree from Occidental College. Immediately after graduating,Nelson directed, shot and edited a short documentary on the neighborhood of Eagle Rock “Eagle Rock Then and Now” and simultaneously directed, shot and edited numerous music videos. With the desire to return to El Salvador as a filmmaker, he along with fellow artists, spent half a year in El Salvador where they collaborated on a short documentary “Suchi Jazz” which highlighted a small town’s launch of local Salvadorian jazz talent. There, Nelson also participated as film mentor for the non-profit organization “Casa Clementina” that serves to educate emerging film talent in Suchitoto, El Salvador.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, Nelson concentrated on cinematography and camerawork leading him to work as an ENG Videographer for the national news broadcast Noticias MundoFOX and international sports broadcast FOX Deportes. After three years of journalistic work, Nelson decided to take some time to pursue his own photography, filmmaking and yearning for long term travel, taking him to Asia and Australia for a total of two years abroad. He has recently returned home to the Bay Area with the desire to pursue long form journalism and documentary work as a cinematographer.
Brian Ahumada is a Teacher/Founder of Technology Education Art Curriculum Honors (T.E.A.C.H.) program known for roles in helping students in Art, Graphic Design, Multi-Media, Construction Trades and Entrepreneurship, for which he provides hands-on experience and internships throughout the community and the technology industry. A Long Beach native, he graduated from California State University of Long Beach and has been teaching in the Bellflower Unified School Districts for the past 15 years.
He began working as a graphic designer from a young age, and has taught young adults and teenagers in the Large Format Printing, Graphic Design, Laser Engraving, Photography and Multi-Media Industry. More recently he assisted in redeveloping the CTE career paths and designed new computer, construction and entrepreneurship/small business labs and business center in the Bellflower Unified School District.
Dr. Patrick Gittisriboongul has been involved in information and educational technology throughout his career as an educator and professional for 20 years. He is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for Lynwood Unified School District and previously worked as Chief Technology Officer. In Lynwood, he has been responsible for the district’s staff development, data-driven instructional planning, state and federal reporting, program evaluation, networking and data communication infrastructure, computer systems, web and application development, security and backup/recovery plans, and telecommunications. He has led efforts to implement district-wide programs, including educational technology blended learning programs, computer science, and coding.
He has served in executive and administrative positions in the past with the Huntington Beach Union High School District and the Montebello Unified School District. Patrick is a credentialed mathematics teacher and began his career teaching mathematics at the secondary level. Patrick also has experience working in the private sector as a web and software developer, project manager, and programmer. Patrick received his Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California in 2013 and has additional degrees from Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly Pomona.
Wes Kriesel is the Coordinator of 21st Century Learning in Santa Ana Unified School District. He is a leader in the educational fields of personalized, blended, and online learning, and deeply committed to providing access to high quality educational experiences and materials for all students.
Wes Kriesel has extensive background in public education, both in the classroom and out, mentoring and coaching teachers, and providing professional development for administrators and educators. In addition, Wes has played an instrumental role in school improvement efforts as an instructional coach for teachers of a wide variety of disciplines and an executive coach for principals. Wes has implemented California’s adopted teacher formative assessment model, written online classes for teacher induction programs, trained and coached instructional coaches in a culturally responsive instructional coaching model.
He lives in Irvine, CA, with his wife and family.
Dr. Gustavo Ortiz-Escalante is a distinguished educator with thirty years of experience working in the Los Angeles Unified School District. A product of LAUSD, he went on to graduate with Bachelors and Masters of Arts Degree from Cal State University Los Angeles, a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Mt. St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, and a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Southern California in 2002. Dr. Ortiz has served as a teacher’s aide, teacher, and now as principal at inner city schools in South Los Angeles and Watts and currently serves as Principal at Hooper Elementary. Dr. Ortiz has published articles in various journals and written about Bilingual Education Policy and access to educational opportunities for all students.
The Multilingual and Multicultural Office at USC’s School of Education honored Dr. Ortiz with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Recently, Normandie Elementary led by Dr. Ortiz received the State Award of Distinction for Civic Learning from the California Department of Education and the California Judicial System.
Raised in the Chinese auto city of Changchun, Boson Wang is a Film Director inspired by living and working in China and the States.
As a Director and Cinematographer he shot official commercial spots for: Kobe Bryant, Walmart, Hasbro, UFC, VICE and pilots such as Uninterrupted’s Same Energy (*eventually becoming The Shop on HBO).
Wang is bilingual and in his free time competes as an Amateur MMA fighter. His ultimate goal is feature films and will pursue that as part of the incoming USC class of 2023 for a MFA in Film Production.
Jennifer Lafleur is an actor and producer most recently seen on the television shows Big Little Lies, American Crime, Billions, Chicago Fire, and Workaholics. She received critical acclaim and festival awards for her work in the independent film MAD that premiered at Slamdance. She also starred in Sarah Adina Smith’s The Midnight Swim, which won dozens of awards including
at it’s US premiere at AFI, and she can be seen in the Independent Spirit Piaget Producer’s Award-winning film she co-produced called LAMB, directed by Ross Partridge, which premiered at SXSW and was released by The Orchard to rave reviews.
She co-created the series WEDLOCK with Ross Partridge and starred alongside Mark Duplass and Rob Corddry. A frequent collaborator of the Duplass Brothers, she was one of the leads of The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, and was in their films Baghead and Jeff Who Lives At Home. She has also been seen in FX’s Married, Comedy Central’s Review, TNT’s Major Crimes, Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, Newsreaders, and You’re Whole, and films such as Jenee LeMarque’s The Pretty One, Matthew Watt’s Mutual Friends, Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years, Megan Griffith’s The Night Stalker, Amber Sealey’s No Light And No Land Anywhere, and the horror anthology Holidays. She currently has five feature films on the festival circuit and can next be seen this fall in the Duplass Brother’s HBO show Room 104 and in Season 2 of the Netflix show Friends From College.
Marc Rivas is a Sound Designer, Composer, and Location Sound Mixer from Sunnyvale CA. After earning his B.A. in Digital Audio Production at Cogswell Polytechnical College, Marc has designed soundscapes and audio assets for corporate commercials, interactive applications, and award winning animated narrative films. Marc currently works as Audio Lead with B.co Creative Agency in San Jose.
Portfolio – https://www.marcrivasaudio.com/
Michael D. Olmos (Writer/Director/producer) Graduated from Columbia University in NY (’00), BA Creative Writing & BA in Contemporary American Literature. In 2005 Michael co-founded Chamber Six Productions, an independent film production and comic book publishing company represented by WME. The company developed their graphic novel SEED with Michael De Luca and writer John Ridley at Sony pictures. Later that year he wrote, produced and directed the feature film SPLINTER for DARK HORSE COMICS.
He partnered with filmmakers Youssef Delara and Victor Teran on his second feature BEDROOMS, where each directed a section of the ensemble film.
Michael developed, directed and produced his third feature film FILLY BROWN. The film was in US Dramatic Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was later acquired by PANTELION/LIONSGATE. The film was one of the highest performing specialty films in the box oﬃce during its release and launched the career of star Gina Rodriguez.
Michael produced the first Mexico/US coproduction animated film “EL AMERICANO: 3D” starring Rico Rodriguez, Lisa Kudrow, Cheech Marin and Edward James Olmos. The film has distribution deals with SONY & HBO in LATAM, Lionsgate/Grindstone for the US market, and Netflix. It was released theatrically in several countries, including Russia, Dubai and Latin America. As VP of Development for Olmos Productions he’s placed and sold TV projects into development at ABC Studios and Spike television.
In 2016 he partnered with VFX and Animation company Boxel Studios, located in Baja, Mexico and Los Angeles. As the in-house Director and Executive Producer he developed the companies slate of original properties and manages their VFX and animation productions. The projects for the studio included: THE SHALLOWS for SONY, OUIJA 2 for Blumhouse, ROOTS for A&E, A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS for Netflix, SNOWFALL for FX, and the animated show MAX STEEL (2017) for Mattel.
Michael’s feature film, THE GREEN GHOST, a Latino superhero movie, is currently in post- production. The film stars Danny Trejo and Kuno Becker. Most recently, Michael directed WINDOWS ON THE WORLD starring Edward James Olmos and Ryan Guzman. Currently in post, the film is centered around a young man's journey to NY from Mexico in search of his father, an undocumented immigrant who was working in the World Trade Center on September 11th.
Here’s my bio (below) and headshot (attached). Also, I’m cleaning up my IMDb right now, so for now here’s the link to my documentary: thelaundromatdoc.com
VANESSA YEE is a third generation Angeleno and Chinese American. She became a filmmaker to challenge stereotypes and prevailing perceptions of the underrepresented by telling stories that inform and inspire.
She received her MFA in Directing at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. While there, Vanessa directed and produced the documentary feature The Laundromat. The film follows her personal journey to examine the silence and shame pervasive in Asian American culture that can often lead to depression and suicide. Since then she has directed two documentary shorts commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; shot a short on human trafficking for a national faith-based organization; and produced both narrative and nonfiction pieces for her Bruin filmmaking community.
When she was not producing and directing, Vanessa worked as the Post Production Manager for American Ninja Warrior Seasons 6, 7, and 8. She enjoyed delivering an amazing 2-hours of television content on time while receiving the chance to collaborate with every department.
At the moment, she co-hosts a podcast about the intersection of Asian American culture and mental health called The Bull & The Badger and writes a diverse array of narrative fiction. But to pay the bills, Vanessa produces videos and digital content in the Bay Area that address the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in tech.
Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón is the Director of Research and Civic Engagement for the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA. Dr. Ramón is a social psychologist who has worked on social justice issues related to equity and access in higher education and the entertainment industry for over ten years. She is the co-principal investigator of the Hollywood Advancement Project and manages its graduate research team. She is the co-author (with Dr. Darnell Hunt) of the annual UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report series that the project produces. She is also the managing editor of LA Social Science, an e-forum that showcases the vibrant and cutting-edge knowledge generated within the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA. She co-edited a book (with Dr. Hunt) titled Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities (New York University Press, 2010). On behalf of California Social Science Researchers, she also co-authored (with Dr. Hunt) amicus briefs in support of affirmative action that were submitted to the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was most recently the Assistant Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. Dr. Ramón has a B.A. in psychology from Stanford, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Growing up in the Chicagoland area, Susan is the product of a vibrant, sequential K-12 arts program. Because the power of the arts gives us all the ability to reinvent ourselves, she has had many diverse positions over the course of her career. It is this ability to be creative, innovative, and nimble that drives her passion to bring sequential K-12 arts education back to Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD). Susan has held many roles in education, from lunchroom monitor to special needs aide, and as a general education, juvenile hall, and alternative school teacher. This is her fourth year as Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts for PVUSD on the Central Coast of California. One of the many responsibilities Susan enjoys is the challenge of making sure all students in PVUSD have access to quality visual and performing arts education.
Beth de Araújo is a Writer and Director recently featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Her feature screenplay, Josephine, participated in the 2018 Sundance Directors Lab, Screenwriters Lab and is a recipient of the SFFILM Rainin Filmmaking Grant. Josephine is being produced by RT Features and will mark her feature directorial debut.
Last year Araújo performed in three sold out shows for The Moth Mainstageat BAM Theater in NYC, Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, and The Palace Theater in Los Angeles. Currently, her AFI Directing Workshop for Women short film, based on her Gawker essay, I Want To Marry A Creative Jewish Girl, is having its festival run. In 2017, Araújo directed 2 episodes of television for Lifetime Movie Network and was a shadowing director within the Ryan Murphy HALF Program.
Araújo has a BA in Sociology from The University of California Berkeley and an MFA from the American Film Institute. Her mother is Chinese-American and her father is from Brazil. She was born in San Francisco and is a dual citizen of both Brazil and the United States.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Karolina Esqueda grew up in between Tijuana and San Diego, sisters cities in the border between Mexico and the United States. Her experience as an edgewalker communicates and inspires a lot of her visual and performance art, in which she enjoys to explore the complexities of identity and multiculturalism.
She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2018 with a degree in Media Studies and a minor in Theatre and Performance Studies. She also holds two associate degrees in Communication and French.
During her time at Berkeley, Karolina worked on four short films while also mastering her editing skills by working as an editor of video lectures for the online Masters in Public Health program. After graduation, she has volunteered her time and camera operation expertise for events for the National Association for Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Media Summit two years in a row and for their Diverse Women in Media Forum.
While in San Francisco, Karolina worked as a camera operator for a local LGBTQ+ online talk show. Karolina completed a video production fellowship with the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), for which she directed a video celebrating the 40 year legacy of The Women’s Building, which was showcased in the Bernal Heights Film Crawl event in 2019. She is currently assisting the filming of her mentor’s feature documentary while working for BAVC as a Youth Program Outreach Coordinator and co-mentoring for YCP.
In her free time, she paints, plays music, takes videos of her family and friends, watches old movies and goes to the theatre to see live productions.
Justin Gourley has always had a love for story-telling. Inspired to create his own work, he moved from his home in Michigan to California where he received his Bachelor’s degree in digital film and video production. While in school he found he had a natural eye and an affinity for Cinematography and continued to hone his skills behind the camera.
Along the way he won many awards including two Addy awards for a local commercial. His Senior thesis film, Mi Tierra, won Best Picture at the 5th annual Imperial County Film Festival in San Diego. And his most recent work was an official selection in the Sacramento Film & Music Festival.
From working on sets in L.A. to where he currently lives in Sacramento, Justin has continued to shine with his ability to create exceptional work. He is currently working as a live sports camera operator and continues to write his next screenplay.
His goals with the Youth Cinema Project are to teach the youth of today to push beyond the scope of what they know, to challenge themselves and continue to guide them in a positive direction.
Layth Haddad is a filmmaker and content creator. He started as a production assistant on a network television show in New York and now directs, shoots, and edits a variety of short films and projects in the Bay Area.
Dawn Spinella holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, and is currently finishing her MA in Creative Writing. She’s taught at UCLA and UOP, as well as workshop events. She’s thrilled to watch her students win screenwriting accolades, but more than that – she loves to inspire them and watch that transfer to the page.
She’s had the honor of working with, and learning from amazing filmmakers like Dustin Lance Black (MILK), Bobby Moresco (CRASH), Paula Wagner (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE), and Wolfgang Petersen (THE PERFECT STORM).
Dawn’s background includes acting, directing, producing, writing, photography and teaching. Having experience in front of, and behind the camera gives Dawn a comprehensive view of storytelling and filmmaking.
The only thing she is more devoted to than filmmaking & writing is her teenage daughter.
Osahon Tongo is a Nigerian-American filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. Tongo has written feature films for Rabbit Bandini Productions (James Franco) and Significant Productions (Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi). His short film Happy Bird screened at Cannes Short Corner, The Chinese Theater, The Skirball Cultural Center and earned him the honor of being one of the inaugural Ryan Murphy Half Foundation Directing Fellows where he shadowed director Barbara Brown on Scream Queens. He is the writer/producer on the award-winning short film Iman And The Light Warriors that premiered at HBO’s ABFF Festival and has screened at film festivals around the world. Tongo has also written short film scripts for a series for SnapChat/NBC Indigo. In 2018 he produced a virtual reality project with Ayana Baraka, called “Greenwood Avenue” for Google’s innovative VR180 platform. In 2017 he worked as a cinematographer on Jesse Williams and Hank Willis Thomas’ Question Bridge installation that premiered in the African American Smithsonian. Tongo creates short inspiring documentaries for Notre Dame’s Grotto Network and consults for Georgia Tech’s Athletic Association. He has produced branded content for many Fortune 500 companies from Emory University, Microsoft, Nike, and Morgan Stanley.
One of America’s leading visual artists Dr. Judith F. Baca has been creating public art for four decades. Powerful in size and subject matter, Baca’s murals bring art to where people live and work. In 1974, Baca founded the City of Los Angeles’ first mural program, which produced over 400 murals and employed thousands of local participants, and evolved into an arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC). She continues to serve as SPARC’S artistic director and focuses her creative energy in the [email protected] Digital/Mural Lab, employing digital technology to promotes social justice and participatory public arts projects. She is an emeritus Professor of the University of California Los Angeles, where she was a senior professor in Chicana/o Studies and World Art and Cultures Departments from 1980 until 2018.
Beginning with the awareness that the land has memory, she creates art that is shaped by an interactive relationship of history, people and place. Baca’s public artworks focus on revealing and reconciling diverse peoples’ struggles for their rights and affirm the connections of each community to place. She gives form to monuments that rise up out of neighborhoods. Together with the people who live there, they co-create monumental public art places that become “sites of public memory.”
Baca has stood for art in the service of equity for all people. Her public arts initiatives reflect the lives and concerns of populations that have been historically disenfranchised, including women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and immigrant communities throughout Los Angeles and increasingly in national and international venues.
Her most well-known work is the Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is located in San Fernando Valley, the mural spans half a mile and still is a work in progress engaging another generation of youth. The mural- making process exemplified community involvement, employing more than 400 youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds, artists, oral historians and scholars. In 2017 the Great Wall of Los Angeles received national recognition on the National Registry of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District named a school after her called the Judith F. Baca Arts Academy, located in Watts, her birthplace. She is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship and over 50 awards from various community groups.
Pilar Flynn is an Emmy-nominated producer on Disney/Marvel’s “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” as well as on Disney’s “Elena of Avalor,” which follows Disney’s first princess inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.
An adventurer herself, Pilar is a native of Chile and Ecuador and spent much of her life in countries throughout South America and Europe.
She began her animation career at DreamWorks where she co-produced the award-winning short, “First Flight,” and worked on the production of films such as “The Road to El Dorado,” “Sinbad,” “Spirit,” “Madagascar” and “Flushed Away.” Pilar then went on to serve as associate producer of the animated feature films “Mean Margaret” and “Astro Boy.” Most recently, Pilar co-produced the groundbreaking R-rated animated feature “Sausage Party” starring Seth Rogen.
Following her passion for innovative media, Pilar also wrote and produced “My Beastly ABCs,” a heartwarming interactive storybook named a Top Ten Kid App of the year by USA Today.
Osvaldo Reyes is a Mexican-American filmmaker, producer, and storyteller. Originally from Bell Gardens, CA. Osvaldo grew up in a community sprawling with poverty, crime, environmental hazards, and a largely Latino population.
At the age of 13, Osvaldo started his filmmaking journey and has since produced over 200 videos from short films, commercials, event videography, corporate videos, and music videos. With experience in all fields of the filmmaking process and a love for producing and directing. He is passionate about better representation in media and showcasing talent from underrepresented and misrepresented groups.
Osvaldo is a first-generation college graduate with a degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine, The Paul Merage School of Business, and a minor in Film and Media Studies. Recipient of the esteemed Robert H. Carter Leadership Award, California Senate Resolution, along with community recognition for his volunteer service and contribution to education in the community. Osvaldo has mentored over 50 students and continues to mentor minority students from Bell Gardens High School through a program called Lancer News which he founded in 2012. He also serves as the Creative Director at his local Christian church and leads a team of 15 young creatives in producing visual content, managing live production, and online platforms.
Currently working at the Latino Film Institute | Youth Cinema Project as the Technical Assistant and volunteering at LatinX in Animation. He is involved in several non-profit organizations for education through The Bicycle Hotel & Casino Community Foundation and is a member of the Student-Advisory Board of the Southeast Community Foundation.
Osvaldo seeks to become a leader in the entertainment business as well as use his creative and business background to make films and fight for causes that positively impact society.
Mia-Carina Mollicone (Mia) is proud to represent the half-Paraguayan, half-Italian Americans of the world. She studied film at the University of Michigan and trained in acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, in Ivana Chubbuck’s master class, and at UCB. As a filmmaker, she makes personal, low-key dramedies exploring family, identity, and the absurdity of every interaction she has with her parents. Her first project, This is Normal., written, produced, and featuring Mia acting alongside her actual parents, earned a Special Jury Prize and inspired a new award for best ensemble acting at the University of Michigan. She is a member of the Coronet Writers Lab as an actress and, in addition to YCP, teaches screenwriting with the Young Storytellers Foundation.
Randy is a Salvadoran-American Los Angeles Native. For the past decade, she has worked in the hospitality industry. Randy is passionate about film education because film is a source of entertainment and information. A former LALIFF volunteer she has also been an educational advocate at the Natural History Museum, CICLAVIA, and served as the secretary at her former neighborhood council.
Randy received her bachelor’s from CSUN in film theory and criticism, and an Associate’s of Science in Film Production and Media from Cypress College. While at Cypress College Randy’s short film Sacramentum was selected for the Cypress College Film Festival and won the Film Noir award.
In her spare time, Randy frequents theme parks, cinemas, and everything that is Halloween. She currently lives in Orange County.
Alexander Gonzalez is a Latino Filmmaker with the ultimate goal to honor diverse experiences in a way that allows people to feel included, inspired, and hopefully, learn something new. His passion for filmmaking sparked as a result of feeling like he did not fit in with his immediate community, so he found inspiration and purpose in watching and making movies. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended San Francisco State University’s film program; a program that celebrates diverse, creative, and ambitious filmmakers so that people from different backgrounds can feel like their voice is heard.
He is drawn towards jovial stories that are designed to be universally understood while tugging on the audience’s emotions. He is fascinated by new technologies as a tool to only enhance a good story and uses them to build upon his filmmaking craft. He pushes himself professionally in an effort to experience every corner of the media world from interning at Disney to working at KQED in San Francisco. He retains great pride for his thesis film’s recognition from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) at NALIP’s Latino Media Festival.
He found belonging in movies and now he is set on offering belonging and joy for the people who may have felt lonely like he was. On a really good day, you may catch Alexander watching a Godzilla film while sipping a cup of iced coffee.
Laura G Chirinos is an avid creative storyteller and proud LA native.
From producing performance art in support of the LGBTQIA community while in college, to acting as Creative Arts Director for the Boys & Girls Club, Chirinos has been dedicated first and foremost to artistic expression, the development and implementation of diverse and female-led stories, and to supporting those who would create them.
After producing three feature films and learning post production at Hollywood’s premiere color-processing house Technicolor, Chirinos decided it was time, at long last, to direct. Revelations (2013), her directorial debut, screened both domestically and internationally including at HollyShorts, Lady Filmmakers, and London’s Portobello Film Festival. Her 2015 film The Last Deal in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club was given their National Award of Achievement, and it was this return to creative mentorship that led Chirinos to a position with the American Film Institute (AFI).
In 2017, Chirinos was part of establishing the inaugural Los Angeles session of the female-led non-profit Camp Reel Stories and became a Page International Screenwriting Awards semi-finalist with co-written short script History of Intent. While still supervising production at AFI, her WWII dramatic proof of concept Heed the Call (2018) screened at the prestigious SCAD (Savannah College of Art + Design) and Athena Film Festivals. It is now in series development.
As a live music photographer, Chirinos has shot eclectic artists such as Solange, Portishead, Janelle Monae, The Dillinger Escape Plan, FKA Twigs, Nick Cave, Savages, Wu-Tang Clan, Bat For Lashes, and Run The Jewels.
Gerardo ‘Gerry’ Maravilla is an award-winning filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles. A graduate of Occidental College, he earned a BA in Film and Media Studies. His short, “Cross”, the story of a Filipino-American backyard boxer, screened at festivals throughout the country following a grassroots crowdfunding campaign that connected with Filipinx and Latinx communities throughout Los Angeles. The feature script for CROSS participated in the 2018 Stowe Story Lab and was a semifinalist in the Latino Screenwriting Project.
Previously, he served as Head of Crowdfunding at Seed&Spark after he launched a successful campaign to fund “Cross”. At Seed&Spark, he helped hundreds of filmmakers reach their audience building and crowdfunding goals while leading the team responsible for the highest crowdfunding success rate in the world.
He was a member of the 9th annual Artist Academy as part of the 57th New York Film Festival. His latest scripts include the horror feature THE HALLOWEEN CLUB, which placed in multiple screenwriting contests including the top 10 of horror entries in the Emerging Screenwriters Genre Competition, as well as the dramatic thriller “Enseñame Como Morir” which landed in the top 25 of the Roadmap Shorts Competition.
Grant Corvin is a Bay Area native who graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s in Radio / Television/ Film and Studio Art, with honors in Theater.
Growing up, he loved all things film. He saw it as a bridge of collaboration and culture, able to express things in a way no other medium could. He wanted to extend that passion into telling more stories to others and to be able to work with other like-minded individuals. Now, he works as an independent producer, creating various content. Alongside film, he works on creating video games and comics in his spare time.
Parisa Barani is an award-winning Iranian American Canadian film director.
Barani is currently attached to direct the upcoming features HARAM, HAJI and is in development for another feature based on Jennifer Blackmer’s play HUMAN TERRAIN. Her proof-of-concept short for HUMAN TERRAIN, which was produced in association with Abigail Disney and Adrienne Becker’s Level Forward studio, stars Maggie Siff and Sarita Choudhury and will be distributed by Refinery29/Shatterbox. It debuted at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival and was recently in competition at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival.
Previously, her directorial debut ABLUTION screened at festivals worldwide, including Mill Valley Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, and Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase.
Barani is also a participant of the 2019/2021 Universal Directors Initiative and 2021 Creative Capital’s On Our Radar and a recipient of the 2016 Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Grant and a grant from Neda Nobari Foundation. She has been shortlisted and semi-finalist for the 2017 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, 2019 Sony Pictures’ Television Diversity Program, 2020-2021 NBC Female Forward/Emerging Director program, and 2021 Creative Capital Award.
In addition to filmmaking, Barani has curated and spoken on panels at SXSW and San Francisco State University. She is a graduate of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women and SITI’s Theatre Intensive Training at Skidmore College, where she was mentored by the legendary Anne Bogart.