Two Brits join Sundance Ignite fellows

Akingbade and Crawford selected for mentorship programme

by Amber Wilkinson

Top, L-R: Amri Rigby, Andrea Porras-Madero,  Ayo Akingbade, Carol Nguyen, Crystal Kayiza.
 Middle, L-R: Gerardo Coello Escalante, Matthew Puccini, Matty Crawford, Mohamed Touahria, Paloma Lopez.
 Bottom, L-R: Sindha Agha, Sky Bruno, Sydney Butler, Terrance Daye, Varun Chopra.
Top, L-R: Amri Rigby, Andrea Porras-Madero, Ayo Akingbade, Carol Nguyen, Crystal Kayiza. Middle, L-R: Gerardo Coello Escalante, Matthew Puccini, Matty Crawford, Mohamed Touahria, Paloma Lopez. Bottom, L-R: Sindha Agha, Sky Bruno, Sydney Butler, Terrance Daye, Varun Chopra. Photo: Sundance Institute
British filmmakers Ayo Akingbade and Matty Crawford are among the 15 young filmmakers chosen to participate in this year's Sundance Ignite Fellowship. Ignite is a one-year fellowship for 18-to-24-year-old filmmakers, who spanning from television writing to documentary photography to narrative short films.

Crawford and Akingbade will join the other fellows on a trip to the festival in January and be paired with a Sundance Institute alumni professional for a full year of guidance and development, in a bid to gain industry exposure and meaningful mentorship. This year’s mentors include Effie Brown (Dear White People), Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral) and Jason Berman (Burning Sands). In addition to a personalised festival experience and mentorship track, Sundance Ignite fellows gain unique access to workshops, internships, and work opportunities at Sundance Institute’s Labs.

Director of Sundance Ignite Meredith Lavitt said: “These 15 remarkable emerging artists are truly on the forefront of what’s next in our culture, and we are thrilled to help them reach the next level with their fresh voices and unique perspectives.

“Sundance Ignite fellows aren’t tomorrow’s filmmakers -- they are today’s filmmakers, and we look forward to connecting them to a wealth of opportunities for growth during their year with us.”

The 2018 Sundance Ignite Fellows are as follows (descriptions courtesy of the Sundance Institute):

Amri Rigby is a filmmaker born and raised in Decatur, Georgia. He is currently majoring in Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation at the University of Southern California’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. Once he discovered his passion for storytelling after taking an animation class, he decided to pursue filmmaking. Amri aims to create films that engage audiences by inspiring, uplifting and empowering.

Andrea Porras-Madero was born and raised in Mexico. She moved to California at age 14, where she began making films. She is currently a double major in Film Production and Latin American Studies at the University of Southern California.

Artist, filmmaker Ayo Akingbade was born and raised in Hackney, East London. She experiments with a range of media, including combining analogue techniques with digital processes. In 2017, her project Tower XYZ received a Special Mention Award at International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, she obtained a film degree from London College of Communication and participated in Jihlava’s Academy in the Czech Republic.

Carol Nguyen is a 19-year-old filmmaker based in Toronto. Her work explores culture, identity and family, topics that heavily define her understanding of the world. Through her career, Carol aims to tackle gender equality and diversity in film. Today, Carol is continuing her passion for filmmaking at Concordia University in Montreal.

Crystal Kayiza grew-up in Oklahoma and is now a Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker and Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellow at the Jacob Burns Film Center. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Documentary Studies and Production, Crystal spent two years at the ACLU working on criminalisation of poverty issues. Her documentary work and writing has been featured in The Nation, Scalawag Magazine and OkayAfrica. She received a Heartland Emmy Award in 2017 for her film All That Remains, which profiles Boley, Oklahoma, one of the nation's last all-Black towns.

Gerardo Coello Escalante is a Mexican filmmaker. He was born and raised in Mexico City where he attended various filmmaking and theatre workshops and programs. In 2013, he moved to New York and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in December 2016. Gerardo currently works on independent films and documentaries while writing and directing his own work in between projects.

Matthew Puccini is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. His first film, Solo, won the King Award for Screenwriting at NYU’s First Run Film Festival. His second short, The Mess He Made, premiered at SXSW and was a finalist for this year’s Iris Prize. Matthew is a member of the 2017 New York Film Festival Artist Academy, a recipient of the 2017 Richie Jackson Artist Fellowship and an Artist in Residence at The Spruceton Inn.

Matty Crawford is a writer/director and recent graduate from the UK. His short films have screened at BAFTA-recognised festivals, collecting a number of awards such as Best Director Award at the Kodak/Nahemi Competition and the New Talent Award at this year’s BFI Future Film Festival. He has recently finished production on a new short film funded by the Arts Council England, as his next short film Love Hotel will premiere at London Short Film Festival in 2018.

Mohamed Touahria is an Algerian filmmaker studying English at Djelfa University in Algeria. He has made three short films and participated in short film festivals across north Africa.

Paloma Lopez is a filmmaker from Caracas, Venezuela. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2017, with her senior thesis film Singer. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, where she is an assistant to an independent film director. Her passion lies in the visual storytelling aspect of documentary photography, which sparked her love for film.

Sindha Agha is a Pakistani-American independent filmmaker who grew-up in a small town in Illinois and is now based in Los Angeles. Sindha experiments with documentary & narrative genres to create candid, intimate films that illustrate how social forces shape deeply personal experiences. She is dedicated to helping people understand one another better, keen on dialetheism, married to sincerity and has it out for shame.

Sky Bruno is a filmmaker based in Kāneʻohe, Hawaii. He is currently studying Digital Cinema at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Academy for Creative Media. His latest short-doc SHAPE was an official selection at the 2017 Honolulu Surf Film Festival and the 2017 ʻOhina Short Film Showcase. With his passion for filmmaking, Sky hopes to create opportunities in Hawaii and help develop original voices in the future generations of storytellers.

Sydney Butler is an aspiring screenwriter from Houston, Texas. Her television pilot, Stella With The World On Her Shoulders, was one of two pilots produced by NYU’s highly selective Advanced Television Course, and was fully funded by the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation. Her writing has been published in Interview, The Light Leaks and on Medium. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she is the writer’s PA for the Untitled Grey’s Anatomy spin-off.

Terrance Daye is an award-winning poet and filmmaker from Long Island, New York. Terrance’s creative work reimagines traditional representations of black male identity and invests strongly in destigmatising mental illness within the black community. Terrance received his Bachelor’s from Morehouse College and is pursuing his MFA in filmmaking from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Terrance’s most recent film project, The Colored Hospital: A Visual Poem was shortlisted for the 44th Student Academy Awards.

Born and raised in New Delhi, Varun Chopra graduated from Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television where he focused on stories of common people with aspects of social justice. He was the recipient of the SFTV Dean’s Scholarship. His short films have screened at various International film festivals. He was featured in the Los Angeles Times among a team of diverse filmmakers on a discussion on diversity in Hollywood. Varun works in Los Angeles as a freelance director and is currently editing a television show currently streaming on Netflix. He is one of the ten fellows of Visual Communication's Armed with a Camera fellowship for 2017-2018.

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