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Film Independent + FOX HBCU Media Alliance Award Nekisa Cooper Inaugural Fellowship, Grant

Film Independent + FOX HBCU Media Alliance Award Nekisa Cooper Inaugural Fellowship, Grant

It was exactly a month ago when it Fox announced what it called “a transformative new partnership” with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) designed to further the development of diverse voices across the company’s entertainment businesses.

Called the FOX/HBCU Media Alliance (FHMA),
the union would bring HBCU students, faculty and alumni together with
executives from Fox’s media and entertainment businesses in an effort to
build a stronger pipeline for students interested in pursuing careers
in the film and TV industry, and advance the careers of HBCU alumni
already working in media and entertainment within Fox businesses.

As part of that partnership, FOX Audience Strategy established and funded the first-of-its-kind Fox Film Grant that will enable one FHMA member to participate in Project Involve, the year-long program of Film Independent.

A month later, it’s been announced today that producer Nekisa Cooper (Pariah) will be the first recipient of this new Project Involve Fellowship, which comes with a $10,000 production grant from FHMA that will go towards production of a feature film she’s producing (to be directed by her Pariah collaborator, Dee Rees) titled Bolo, described as a Southern crime thriller about a Memphis police
detective who investigates a murder in her community, which in turn
challenges her notion of home, human nature, and the difference between
right and wrong.

Now in its 20th year, Project Involve (a program we’ve highlighted several times on this blog) is a 9-month program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented
filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film
industry. During the program, participants create short films, receive
one-on-one film industry mentors, access to production-based master
workshops taught by top film professionals, career development training,
industry networking opportunities and more.

Congratulations to Nekisa Cooper, who certainly is no stranger to S&A readers.

Full details on the initiative and the award follow below:


LOS ANGELES (March 14, 2013) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, has announced producer Nekisa Cooper as the recipient of the inaugural Fox Film Grant. This grant is being awarded as the result of a new multi-year partnership between Film Independent and the FOX | HBCU Media Alliance (FHMA), an initiative created by Fox’s media and entertainment businesses in association with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“We are so happy to be partnering with the FOX | HBCU Media Alliance, and also to continue our support of the remarkable Nekisa Cooper,” said Josh Welsh, Film Independent’s Co-President. “We look forward to meeting more talented filmmakers from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and bringing them in to Film Independent’s Project Involve program.”

Cooper, a 2009 Project Involve Fellow, will receive a $10,000 production grant from FHMA for her feature film Bolo, a Southern crime thriller about a Memphis police detective who investigates a murder in her community, which in turn challenges her notion of home, human nature, and the difference between right and wrong.  The film, produced by Cooper and directed by Dee Rees will be the pair’s second collaboration.  The two had previously worked together on Pariah, which won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

“FHMA is extraordinarily proud to award this first fellowship to Nekisa Cooper, a gifted young filmmaker who embodies everything we hope that the FHMA will represent, “said Nicole Bernard, Senior Vice President of Fox Audience Strategy. “Her cinematic vision is remarkable and we look forward to seeing her new project come to fruition.  We also hope that her success will send a message that emboldens more HBCU students and alumni to apply for the FHMA Film Fellowship through Project Involve.”  

The FHMA (which is overseen by Fox’s Audience Strategy unit) leverages the collective resources unique to Fox’s multi-dimensional entities – film, television and sports – to promote professional advancement and other opportunities for African-Americans in media and entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, FHMA has chapters in Washington, D.C. and New York City, led by influential HBCU alumni from the media and entertainment industry. Howard University, Hampton University and Morehouse College currently serve as institutional partners. However, membership in the Alliance is open to all current HBCUs, their students, faculty and alumni that work in the media and entertainment sector. 

As of this year, members of FHMA are invited to apply to Film Independent’s Project Involve and are eligible for the FOX | HBCU Media Alliance Film Fellowship, a $10,000 unrestricted grant. FHMA will provide its members with an application fee waiver code for submissions received on or before April 10, 2013.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Project Involve is a nine-month program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.  During the program, participants create short films, receive one-on-one film industry mentors, access to production-based master workshops taught by top film professionals, career development training, industry networking opportunities and more.

Upon completion, participants become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support including access to Film Independent’s annual film education offerings, on-staff Filmmaker Advisor, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. Past Film Independent Fellows from Project Involve include Effie T. Brown (Rocket Science), Sheldon Candis (LUV), Jon Chu (G.I. Joe:Retaliation, Justin Bieber:Never Say Never), Nekisa Cooper (Pariah), Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, May in the Summer), Javier Fuentes-León (Undertow), Aurora Guerrero (Mosquita y Mari), Melissa Lee (Circumstance), Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned).  Previous mentors include Gregg Araki (Kaboom, Smiley Face), Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends with Money), Spike Jonze (Where The Wild Things AreAdaptation), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me, Eve’s Bayou), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception), Alexander Payne (The DescendantsSideways), John Singleton (Four Brothers, Boyz n the Hood), and Rodrigo Prieto (Argo, Brokeback Mountain). 

Film Independent’s Project Involve program is supported by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner Foundation and Fox Audience Strategy.

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