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NFMLA Celebrates Animation, Films Made in California and L.A., and the Youth Cinema Project


The border, basketball and bank robbery were among the subjects of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles’ annual InFocus: International Animation, a program of animated work from all around the world that also included a selection of California-made short films, including work from the Youth Cinema Project, and a collection of work made in the city of Los Angeles.

The day began with shorts program Made In California, a selection of films shot throughout the versatile state of California, from the wilderness to the city to the suburbs to the desert. The block opened with a sampling of films made through the Youth Cinema Project (YCP). YCP works in the classrooms of public schools, integrating filmmaking with 21st century learning skills.

YCP uses a hands-on approach that integrates social emotional learning and English Language Arts to provide an equitable and accessible learning experience for students. Across one full academic year, two filmmaking professionals implement a rigorous standards-based filmmaking curriculum within 4th-12th grade classrooms. The students complete short films from concept to screen in a 100% student-led environment.

The afternoon’s programming continued Made in Los Angeles, a closer look at the city of Los Angeles through a selection of short form storytelling that encapsulates everything from sheer joy to murder. The night concluded with InFocus: International Animation, a  slate of animated films and stories from Croatia, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Sweden, capturing a variety of animation styles and genres and including dynamic and soulful films whose festival runs have included Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, Clermont Ferrand, Palm Springs Shortfest and the Venice Biennale.

NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year, across both our general and InFocus programming. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects for consideration for upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the schedule for InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion and region by spotlighting  communities of filmmakers within our filmmaking community as part of our monthly program. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“A Song of The Land” directed by César Velasco

About César: César Velasco is a writer and director who graduated from Chapman University in 2021. He has worked in a multitude of short films as well as several independent projects (feature and television) often serving as 1st or 2nd assistant director. As a creative, his main goal is to elevate the stories and voices of those who are often cast aside in popular media. Born in Guanajuato, México, César has a particular interest in the Latinx community and hopes to be able to tell stories that connect with his heritage in order to showcase its beauty and richness to the rest of the world. 

About “A Song of The Land”: While attempting to cross the border from Mexico to the US, Enrique meets a mysterious figure who teaches him what it really means to be an immigrant.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Rafael Cobos Delgado, the lead actor in “A Song of The Land”:

“Jerome” directed by Gianfranco Fernández-Ruiz

About Gianfranco: Gianfranco Fernández-Ruiz is a Los Angeles-based writer/director, and recent graduate from the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Program. His work has been recognized and selected in the inaugural Flip the Script Short Film Fund for emerging BIPOC filmmakers for his short Jerome (2023) and the Future Money Grant for Anemoia (2024). Jerome has since been selected as a finalist for the prestigious ABFF x HBO’s Short Film Award.

About “Jerome”: Basketball connects Jerome to his long-absent father, though not in the ways he wishes. As he wrestles with his own concept of family, he must confront his father’s legacy on and off the court.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Gianfranco Fernández-Ruiz director of “Jerome”:

“Madhavi” directed by Jacintha Charles

About Jacintha: Growing up in Singapore and then living in the U.S., Jacintha has experienced and watched talents, stories and works of women and people of color like herself be limited or stereotyped — where their strengths and choices are sometimes downplayed or seen as flaws. She felt that she needed to change that narrative to bring their voices to a seat at the table because they deserve it . As a filmmaker, her journey is to constantly learn, be open and evolve thus re-discovering herself as a storyteller. Her goal is to inform and educate, include diversity in front of and behind the camera and champion and encourage others like herself to tell stories of their own. 

About “Madhavi”: An Indian divorcée, struggling to raise her daughter, is forced to confront her violent and painful past at a lunch gathering with old friends.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jacintha Charles director of “Madhavi”:

“Babe Beach” directed by Ida Lasic

About Ida: Ida Lasic is an experimental mix media animator. Their work focuses on taking patterns from everyday life and combining it with their 3D low poly style to create new uncanny but welcoming universes where there is a feverish connection between the unknown and the familiar.

About “Babe Beach”: Babe Beach is an experimental narrative that discusses the real issue of insider and outsider tourism. In a country with a long history of being conquered, our main character reflects on this modern-day dilemma through its pros and cons, historical analysis and at least a few visual trips of the neon kind. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with Ida Lasic director, writer and producer of “Babe Beach”:

“Savage Dawn” directed by Tamiah Bantum

About Tamiah: Originally from Australia, now based in L.A., Tamiah Bantum is a professional actor, director and filmmaker, best known for her roles in The Out-Fit, Feedback and Rogue Company. As an actor, she works primarily in film and motion capture, with skills in stunts, tactical weapons and swords. When she’s not in front of the camera, Tamiah directs films, music videos and commercials with her team at YoungOneStudio. In 2019, she was recognized for her work on the short films WAR and Connected with two awards at The LA Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge.

About “Savage Dawn”: Tom Havis’ life has been torn apart by a mysterious killer. Out for revenge, he stumbles upon a young woman whose secrets may just be the answers to his hunt.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jessica Rookeward writer and producer of “Savage Dawn”:

“Valerine” directed by Andrea Vonjako Giacomini

About Andrea Jako Giacomini: An award-winning Italian-American filmmaker and photographer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Ascoli Piceno, Italy, he pursued music while nurturing his passion for photography. Noted by a Los Angeles Times editor, he became a photojournalist at Cal State Los Angeles University. He expanded into filmmaking, directing music videos for renowned artists and creating commercials for notable brands. His multimedia work “More than Words” garnered accolades, and he recently collaborated with Porsche on the Amazon Prime series “The Soul Within,” earning a Telly Award. Additionally, he received Best Music Video honors for “Valerine.”

About “Valerine”: The video serves as a symbolic portrayal of the psychological journey of bearing pain, representing a hidden burden shared by all. It explores the quest to transcend one’s own identity and confront inner struggles. Ultimately, the prevailing forces of indecision and fear often dictate the ultimate resolution

Watch the NFMLA interview with Andrea Vonjako Giacomini director of “Valerine”:

“Bugtussle” directed by Derek Sitter

About Derek: Originally from McAlester, Oklahoma, Derek is an award-winning actor, writer, director of film and theater. He obtains an MFA in Acting from Louisiana State University and a Life Membership to The Actor’s Studio. Derek has been working professionally in theater, film, and TV for over 30 years. He founded his own theater and actor’s studio at Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend, Oregon after spending most of his career in Los Angeles appearing in TV, films, and theater. He owns Smoking Mirror Productions/ Born Into This Films where he focuses on writing, directing, teaching, and acting for film and stage.

About “Bugtussle”: After a bank robbery gone bad, a broken criminal and his unhinged partner hide out in a shack in the orange groves of Bakersfield to await their getaway car.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Derek Sitter director of “Bugtussle”:

“Cry” directed by Jacob Harding 

About Jacob: A passionate and talented filmmaker, Jacob Harding discovered his love for film at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped pursuing it since. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Jacob moved out to LA in 2020 to chase his dreams. He quickly began directing “narrative focused music videos” for many different LA artists and released three short films: Withdrawal, Scene 25R, and The Wailing Man. Jacobs’ work has tended to spotlight different looks at mental health. Whether it be addiction, self-worth, depression, loneliness, or anxiety Jacob has pushed to make his art as honest, real, and hopeful as he can.

About “Cry”: Trapped between heaven and earth, Sam Harding is faced with his first post-life dilemma.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jacob Harding director of “Cry”:

“The Future Is Worn” directed by Adrian Rojas Elliot

About Adrian: Adrian applies his broad range of skills to tell stories through integrated media. As a filmmaker, he has written, produced, directed, and edited narrative, commercial, and editorial work. As a photographer, he has shot lifestyle, fashion, and fine art photography. And as a creative director, he has crafted meaningful brands for businesses by expressing their visual and written voice across platforms.

About “The Future is Worn”: A forsaken voyager finds herself stranded in a strange and desolate land, as a spectral entity awakens from a deep sleep.

Watch the NFMLA interview with the writer Devon Stern and Brittany Bagwell producer of “The Future is Worn”:

“Eye for an i” directed by James A Grisom

About James: Award winning filmmaker James Grisom is an LA based storyteller from Lynwood, California. He is a USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA graduate and George Lucas Scholar recipient, one of USC’s prestigious awards. He wrote for Village Roadshow & USC’s feature script adaptation of New York Times best-selling author Don Yaeger’s “Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South ”. His award-winning short film, Eye for an i, is currently streaming on American Airlines Inflight Entertainment. His ballet short film, Bobby, has gotten into multiple festivals including NewFilmmaker LA and is streaming now on Aspire TV. 

About “Eye for an i”: After the tragic death of his little sister to violence, a young black pianist wrestles with guilt and the immediate pressure to retaliate. 

Watch the NFMLA interview with James Grisom director of “Eye for an i”:

“What Wilderness Permits” directed by Joel Marsh

About Joel: Since 2009 Joel Marsh has been creating content and providing filmmaking services like cinematography, directing, camera operating, steadicam, and equipment rental to the entertainment industry. Joel is a writer, director, and cinematographer from Boston, Massachusetts. A graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, his films have been featured in film festivals around the world, including Cannes in 2012. The rest of his family are scientists and doctors, though, so he’s a bit of an underachiever. 

About “What Wilderness Permits”: After losing his dream job as a Park Ranger to government funding cuts, Russ McCoy slips into madness when he meets a city slicking couple backpacking for the first time.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Joel Marsh director of “What Wilderness Permits”:

“The Worst She Can Say Is No…” directed by Alexander Gonzalez

About Alexander: Alexander Gonzalez got his start by creating stop-motion movies with his Godzilla toys when he was a kid, which, by the way, still totally holds up! Now, as a Latino filmmaker from the Bay Area, his mission is to offer belonging and joy to the people who desire inclusion through his whimsical and fantastical work. He is bent on helping the world feel a little less lonely, and what better way to do that than the magic of storytelling? You’ll catch him creating technically advanced shorts, skits, and animations as he continues to grow as a filmmaker. 

About “The Worst She Can Say Is No…”: A quirky dude runs through all the possible responses in his head as he asks a barista for her number!

Watch the NFMLA interview with Alexander Gonzalez director of  “The Worst She Can Say Is No…”:

“Out of This World” directed by Elia Petridis

About Elia: Elia Petridis is an accomplished Director, Screenwriter, and Creative Director with over a decade of experience in feature films, music videos, branded content, and immersive storytelling. He founded production company Filmatics in 2007 and agency Fever Content in 2017.

About “Out of This World”: An adventurous Teenage Alien and a Waitress with broken musical dreams are brought together for one unforgettable night on Earth.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Elia Petridis director of “Out of This World”:

“Ovaryacting” directed by Jordan Held

About Jordan: Jordan Held is an 18-year-old filmmaker in Southern California. She discovered storytelling from her father’s tales of growing up in the Civil Rights Era which kickstarted her interest in “telling the untold”. Held discovered acting after moving to California when she was six. Her favorite place in the world was the monitor room. She would spend most of her time there on set when she wasn’t on camera. Listening to the director and watching the process unfold before her on-screen was the catalyst for her filmmaking passion. Held attended Orange County School of the Arts studying filmmaking and will attend Chapman University’s Dodge College this Fall, majoring in Film Production with an emphasis on directing and exploring virtual production.

About “Ovaryacting”: A young man must face his fears to make a personal purchase.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Jordan Held director of “Ovaryacting”:

“Jaz” directed by Ajai Vishwanath

About Ajai: Ajai Vishwanath is a filmmaker and visual artist from Sydney, Australia, based in New York. Ajai’s documentary short, Jaz, was selected for the Academy Award-qualifying Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival and AmDocs Film Festival. In 2021, he produced the short film Exposed (Palm Springs International Shortfest), and his debut solo exhibition, Adoxography, opened at Google San Francisco in 2017.

About “Jaz”: A day in the life of painter Jaz Chambers, who has been living homeless and making art in the streets of San Francisco for over 17 years.

Watch the NFMLA interview with Ajai Vishwanath director of “Jaz”:

Main image: “The Worst She Can Say Is No…”



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