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NewFilmmakers LA and WarnerMedia’s OneFifty Announce First NewNarratives Grant Winners

With partners like NewFilmmakers LA, OneFifty aims to introduce emerging talent to WarnerMedia' distribution pipelines. Here's what's behind their latest collaboration.

The 2021 NFMLA NewNarratives grant recipients.

The 2021 NFMLA NewNarratives grant recipients.


Update, November 23: NewFilmmakers Los Angeles has announced the recipient of its inaugural NewNarratives grant, a program supported by WarnerMedia’s OneFifty division created to support and develop emerging global storytellers. Filmmaker Jim Vendiola will receive $40,000 for the development of his feature “Argus,” about a disaffected private eye who is hired to reinvestigate the case of a missing teen long thought to have run away. It shifts points of view between the detective, an obsessive killer, and the pre-abduction life of the victim and is described by NFMLA as a “subversive, BIPOC, female-driven reimagining of 1970s Neo-noirs.”

The Chicago-based Vendiola, a first-generation Filipino-American, is a writer, director, and development exec who has thrice been a Newcity FILM 50 honoree. He’s also a NFMLA alum

“I’m truly ecstatic and grateful to NFMLA and OneFifty for this incredible opportunity. For years I’ve taken meaningful risks with the form and content of my work, which has been a double-edged sword of maintaining my artistic integrity while being largely ignored by the usual gatekeepers, for telling stories that do not offer tidy conclusions nor lend to homogenous franchises bled of freshness and nuance. I can’t wait to bring this project to audiences hungry for something different, with the support of this amazing program,” Vendiola said.

NFMLA put out a worldwide call for submissions in July and received over 200 entries from over 40 countries. The program aimed to select one winner for a grant of between $10,000 and $100,000, but organizers said the quality of submissions prompted them to award three additional grants. In addition, the winners will also be introduced by OneFifty to WarnerMedia executives for further development consideration.

Nora Mariana Salim and Rami Kodeih will receive up to $50,000 toward the development of a to-be-announced project.

Salim is a Los Angeles-based writer who recently worked on the Peacock miniseries “Angelyne” and was a 2020 Fellow at the Jewish Film Institute. She and Kodeih are both writers for Apple TV+’s “Little America” and are working on an original series with Participant Media. Kodeih’s most recent work, the Alia Shawkat-starring short “Alina,” won Best Short Film, Drama Award at the Best of NFMLA Awards.

Gabriela Ortega will receive $5,000 toward the development of her narrative feature “Huella,” which follows a restless flamenco dancer resigned to a call-center job, who, after his grandmother dies, breaks a family ritual that unleashes a generational curse.

Ortega is a Dominican Republic native based in LA, who was selected to be part of Lena Waithe’s Rising Voices initiative, where she produced a short version of “Huella,” which premiered at Tribeca. Her film “Papi” was nominated for a 2021 Best of NFMLA Award and is set to premiere on HBO next year. She has a half-hour dramedy in development with Wilmer Valderama’s WV Entertainment, is a staff writer for the “Bioshock 4” game franchise, and Season 2 of Netflix’s “Go Off.”

Set Hernandez Rongkilyo will receive $5,000 toward the development of their feature documentary “Unseen,” which follows an aspiring social worker who is blind and undocumented. The audio-based film reimagines the accessibility of cinema while exploring the intersections of immigration, disability, and mental health.

Hernandez, who is non-binary and an undocumented immigrant, saw their 2019 short doc “Cover/Age” nominated for a 2021 Social Impact Media Awards. They are the co-founder of the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, which advances equity for undocumented immigrants in the media industry.

“We’re very proud of the four selected projects and the filmmakers whose visions these funds will support. The greatest challenge of this competition was choosing from the overwhelming number of strong, unique and exciting proposals that we received. It was an absolute pleasure to work with our screeners on this project, entertainment journalist and member of the LA Film Critics Association, Carlos Aguilar and film curator, producer and programmer at Cleveland International Film Festival and Atlanta Film Festival, Ivonne Cotorruelo. Their keen eyes and thoughtful input were instrumental in identifying our finalists,” NFMLA Programming Director Bojana Sandic and co-founder/Executive Director Larry Laboe said in a statement.

Over half of the NewNarratives applicants were women and over a third were LGBTQ+. Around a third were white, 28 percent were Latino, 20 percent were Black, 13 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, 6 percent were indigenous/native, and 5 percent were Middle Eastern.

Earlier, July 20: With support from WarnerMedia’s OneFifty division, the nonprofit NewFilmmakers Los Angeles has launched NewNarratives, a program aimed at identifying, funding, and supporting emerging artists and projects from NFMLA’s pool of talent. The recipient will receive a grant to support the development of a new project over the next year, which will also be introduced by OneFifty to WarnerMedia executives for further development consideration.

Organizers are seeking applications centered around an episodic or feature project from people all around the world. (Find more details at the bottom of the page.) They’re aiming to amplify fresh, unique voices with ideas that “transcend borders and dismantle convention.” And they really mean it.

“We’re really keeping it very open. In our programming, you’ll find stuff that feels very mainstream, stuff that fits a commercial model, but you’ll also find content that feels very experimental,” said Larry Laboe, executive director of NFMLA in an interview with IndieWire. “I think it’s a balancing act of trying to support artists who you see something special is there and helping them find a way to monetize that and build a stable and steady career to where they can keep creating content.”

Laboe, who co-founded NFMLA 14 years ago as a booster and programmer of emerging storytellers’ work, said OneFifty is a particularly unique partner for the organization, given its mission to nurture out-of-the-box projects in a range of mediums.

The division started about six year ago as a content incubator before it moved into grant-making. Now OneFifty’s head Axel Caballero describes it as an artistic studio within WarnerMedia, one that funds, develops, and acquires projects that can go overlooked by other channels, including those from underrepresented creators.

“OneFifty relies really strongly on the partnerships that we create to uncover this talent, these stories, and these projects. That model allows us to reach a wider net of projects that we couldn’t necessarily do ourself. We’ve found that NewFilmmakers has been a perfect partner for that,” Caballero told IndieWire.

For example, OneFifty announced its relaunch in April alongside its acquisition of Tomer Shushan’s Oscar-nominated “White Eye,” which is now available on HBO Max. Shushan is a NFMLA alumni and is currently working with OneFifty on another project.

Projects that come through the OneFifty pipeline have the chance to be presented to WarnerMedia executives looking for new content for HBO Max, Warner Bros., CNN, TBS, and the company’s other properties. OneFifty plans to announce 15 more acquisitions in the next three months. Last month it announced the acquisition of Sundance Sloan-prize winner “Son of Monarchs,” which will stream on HBO Max this fall.

“The great thing about working with OneFifty is that they’re actually acquiring content, they’re actually funding artists, they’re helping to get them out to other units of WarnerMedia,” Laboe said. “We also share a lot of the same philosophies. … It’s not necessarily like working with other companies in that Axel’s leading a team of people who really wear a creative eye every day and that translates into the types of projects and artists that they’re looking to nurture.”

With the NFMLA Monthly Film Festival, InFocus Series, awards, and a slate of other events, NFMLA aims to showcase and support the work of emerging filmmakers and connect them with industry members in LA.

Here are more details about NewNarratives:

NFMLA will accept submissions until August 27. Applicants must be or become members of the organization; membership starts at $50.

The amount of the grant will be determined based on need. OneFifty’s past grants range from $10,000 to $100,000.

Applicants must have written, directed, or produced at least one short that has been accepted into a festival.

Submitted projects must be in the development stage and written by the applicant in English.

More information is available on the application portal.

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