Awakening Georgie



Awakening Georgie is about a minor miracle after a major trauma. Second in a trilogy of films about my Mexican family, it’s inspired by George Lopez, my brother-in-law, who fell asleep at the wheel in the middle of a dark stretch of highway in the Arizona desert. He spent months in a coma. For 3 months after, he shuffled, grunted, and went unshaven with long, greasy hair, staples and a shunt in his skull. Then, one day, my sister, Rebecca, decided he was well enough to get a haircut. This story, now with a female protagonist, takes place on the day of that haircut and how in a few magical moments, Georgie begins the
slow climb back to normalcy.

In the 10-minute story, her light skinned wife and mother-in-law accompany Georgie to a Mexican barbershop where their personalities touch the patrons inside. As we see Georgie transform from the haircut, we hear and see a conversation and actions from two light-skinned Mexican women and three dark-skinned Mexican patrons. By the end of the transformational haircut, all Mexicans present are also transformed and united regardless of class, sexual orientation, and skin color.

Deeply influenced by the Day of the Dead and Frida Kahlo, I have peppered Awakening Georgie with moments of magical realism that define so much of Mexican culture today. Liberado, the barber, snips each strand of hair with delicate precision as the shop was filled with the tension of the task. We plan to highlight this tension with the real life feel of a handheld camera as we follow each snip and capture the distinct sound of the scissors over George’s heartbeat. In the background, Georgie’s mother-in-law, the charismatic Gloria, holds court with two illegal immigrants, describing not only Georgie’s accident, but the ascent of her own father from illegal immigrant to a man of many children who transcended the American Dream. What’s created is a multi-layered cinematic moment in film that weaves the narrative of the accident, the sounds of the blades, young immigrants, and the restoration of a woman and her soul. It’s Mexican magic on film.

Art saves and preserves culture. This film gives voice to the unique Mexican culture, recounts the harsh reality of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and uplifts the LGBTQ+ community. Voicing stories about Mexicans directly preserves a rich cultural heritage. Another strength of Awakening Georgie is its strong statement on the importance of family, community, and healing from TBI. Such a film will ensure and preserve the Mexican cultural heritage for the generations to come and impact the social atmosphere. This is a magical, diverse film about transformation. This uplifting script sends a compelling visual message that Mexicans, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ folks are at a momentous time in American history and are a part of the fabric of America.



Akiva Peñaloza
Executive Producer / Screenwriter
Akiva Peñaloza is a queer woman of color who creates content that exemplifies inclusive and diverse storytelling. She attended the American Film Institute (AFI), where, as a Screenwriting Fellow, she studied with Oscar Nominee Anna Thomas (Frida, El Norte.) She was chosen, by Oscar Winner Diane Keaton, to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Straight out of AFI, she wrote and directed her first film, La Chiva, winning $10,000 from Mercury Latino Lens. The Mexican-themed film won Best Short at the Long Island, Miami and Boston International Film Festivals. By popular vote and an esteemed judging panel, La Chiva earned a screening on Channel 13’s Reel 13 shorts program. She was then named a Fellow for the Urban Artist Initiative in New York City. Her script, Hannah Henri, was an official selection of the Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access program. It went on to win the Best Screenplay honors at Newfest Film Festival. Her scripts have been finalists in Cinestudy, Stage 32, Emerging Screenwriters, Filmmatic, WE Diverse Screenplay, ScriptShark and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Akiva has an extensive, multi-genre portfolio of shorts, series, and features. Passionate about screenwriting, she teaches at Reelworks Teen Filmmaking to mentor, inspire, and empower underserved NYC youth to share their stories through filmmaking. She is a member of NYWIFT and Greenlight Women. She lives in NYC with cats Hoodie, Little Frida, and Gentleman Jack.

Nancy Schreiber
Nancy Schreiber is an award-winning cinematographer based in both New York and Los Angeles. She was the fourth woman ever voted into membership in the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers.

Schreiber was honored with the Best Dramatic Cinematography Award at Sundance for the film November, directed by Greg Harrison starring Courteney Cox. She also shared the Best Cinematography Award at Sundance for My America…Or Honk If You Love Buddah and she garnered an Emmy nomination for Best Cinematography on the acclaimed Celluloid Closet for HBO. In addition, Schreiber was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Chain of Desire and was recognized by Variety magazine as one of 10 DPs To Watch.

Schreiber has photographed numerous films premiering at Sundance including: The Nines, for John August, with Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy, Hope Davis and Octavia Spencer; HBO’s Stranger Inside directed by Cheryl Dunye, Motherhood with Uma Thurman and Minnie Driver, and Loverboy directed by Kevin Bacon, with Kyra Sedgwick, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Marissa Tomei.

Additional independent films she photographed include: Serious Moonlight with Meg Ryan, Tim Hutton, Justin Long and Kristin Bell , Everyday, directed by Richard Levine, with Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber, Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Eddie Izzard , as well as Neil La Bute’s Your Friends and Neighbors, with Ben Stiller, Catherine Keener, Aaron Eckhart, Amy Brenneman, Jason Patric and Natasha Kinski.

Schreiber was director of photography on Starz’ P -Valley which maintained it’s perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 100. Her television work was also seen on Shondaland and ABC’s STATION 19, ABC’s The Family with Joan Allen and Alison Pill, as well as the FX show, Better Things, staring Pamela Adlon. Schreiber also was the Director of Photography on the HBO series, The Comeback, with Lisa Kudrow and set the look for pilots such as In Plain Sight, for USA Network and the recent young adult pilot , HOT PINK, for Amazon.

Schreiber still enjoys shooting the occasional documentary, including CNN Films’ critically-acclaimed Linda Ronstadt: Sound of My Voice and provided additional photography on Woody Allen for PBS’ American Masters, as well as HBO’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. Schreiber also has had a long career filming music videos including Pink Floyd, Billy Joel and early rap artists including Kool Moe Dee.

Schreiber taught advanced cinematography at the American Film Institute in 2010-2011 and has guest lectured at all the film schools in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She also served on the board of the ASC for seven years, was on the foundation board of Women In Film, is a huge supporter and member of Film Independent, IFP and IDA, and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Susannah D’Arcy
Line Producer
Susannah D’Arcy is a dynamic Producer/Line Producer of prestigious “live events” television series and films. An experienced executive capable of supervising the sale and distribution of independent films domestically and internationally. One will often run into Susannah at the most popular and respected film festivals, including Cannes and Toronto.

Susannah also loves to develop new television series and pilots and is a known executive within the industry capable of connecting them with appropriate distribution channels.

She has collaborated with directors David Fincher, Rupert Wainwright, Nigel Dick and Steven Spielberg on projects and productions ranging from independent films, television, advertising campaigns, brand strategies and professional sports events and activities. Susannah is well known among several Fortune 100 companies and has extended her talents to overseeing projects for several reputable charitable organizations.

Susannah also works closely with large corporate sponsors and has had success partnering them in the marketing
and advertising strategies of projects she produces. Susannah has an “on time/on budget” mentality and is accustomed to producing projects with modest budgets as well as those ranging from $10-30M. Every project delivered to date has been executed within budget, with no overages.

Ms. D’Arcy is a member the Producers Guild of America and recently was appointed by the guild as Chairman of Live Events, Mentor to the Diversity Writer Program and Woman International Network. She is also a member of W.I.S.E.

Arati Misro
Arati has dedicated most of her career to storytelling, through the medium of film and TV, and has worked in independent film sales, marketing and distribution in the U.S and abroad. She has produced award winning films, and hails from one of the top film schools in the world, American Film Institute with an MFA degree in Producing. She has worked for major studios like Fox and Sony in story development and production. Arati has attended all International film markets as a sales executive or a Producer.

Her professional experiences include: doing social work for battered women in Orissa, India, as well as a documentary film on the status of women is this region; being involved in educational programs in Europe and India; mentoring women from several parts of the world in film and media; co-chairing the Women and Film International (WIFI) committee for 15 years; being a board member of the Caucus Foundation — which promotes diversity in entertainment; mentoring 200+ students at the Cannes Film Festival (2015) — where two of her films were being showcased; addressing socially relevant issues in various arenas. Currently a juror, advisory and heading efforts with diverse women and storytelling for iHollywood Film festival.

Arati is currently packaging a slate of international projects for Network and cable TV. Arati is also a serial entrepreneur building two media start-ups and founded her own consulting company that advises creators with websites, branding, marketing, finance and wellness as well as holistic business practice.

Cynthia Preston
Cynthia Preston is an Actor and Producer, known for her roles in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Carrie, Showtime’s Total Recall 2070, and Whale Music, which was the opening film of the Toronto Film Festival and nominated for Best Picture in Canada. She has appeared in 41 films, played the lead in 19, and has been in more than 240 episodes of television. Among her many credits, Cynthia is the voice of Princess Zelda in The Legend of Zelda animated series.

Cynthia produced and starred in the award-winning short film Mute, based on a story by Stephen King. She is writing a feature film and a television series and has signed on to direct two short films. She and her writing partners at Dame 51 Productions are developing a horror feature. In 2022, Cynthia co-founded Cyndicate VR Productions. S.T.A.R.S. VR is their flagship project.

Andee Kinzy
Andee Kinzy is an award-winning writer/producer/director from Austin, TX. She has a BA in Drama from UT Austin and trained at AMDA in NYC. In New York, she was president of the nonprofit women’s film organization, CineWomen NY, which was absorbed into NYWIFT.

Andee has written, produced, and directed over twenty Shakespeare for Kids productions and has worked with hundreds of students in Texas, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Berlin, Bangalore, and Melbourne. Shakespeare’s Global Hamlet, which Andee wrote, produced, directed, and edited, is an episodic web series and feature film showcasing youth around the world. As Festival Director for the Girl Improved Film & Television Festival, now in its fifth year, Andee continues to inspire girls and nonbinary youth to challenge gender inequality in entertainment.

She’s currently in a festival run with her short, “Shame Full,” which she wrote, directed and produced. She served on the board of WIFT Austin from 2021-2022.

Linda Arroz
Co-Producer / Publicist / Social Media
Linda Arroz is an author, storyteller and lifestyle expert who has appeared on hundreds of TV shows including Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, CNN and Good Day LA, sharing fashion and lifestyle tips and trends, producing many of her own segments. She played herself in a cameo appearance on the soap opera Bold & Beautiful. Discovered by Spiegel catalog in the late 1980s, Arroz became the first plus-size spokesmodel to sign a contract with a major brand, where she honed her communication and style skills, learning the craft of public relations, and how to tell a story through words and clothing.

An early adopter, Arroz was in the vanguard in the world of connectivity as editor in chief of RealSize dot com, one of the first women’s lifestyle portals. She appeared on both HSN and Q2, a former shopping channel spin-off of QVC, giving fashion and style advice on behalf of Carole Little, a designer popular with the Bloomingdales’ crowd. As a Hollywood stylist, her body of work includes scores of TV makeovers and trend reports that range from Surgery Free Breast Makeovers, How to Look Slimmer, Best Bathing Suits for Your Body Type to What’s Your Purse’n’ality.

She was the stylist for 150 television commercials, bringing characters to life through their wardrobe, providing a platform for her fashion philosophy that If You Can Wear That, You Can Be That(TM). Arroz is the co-author of the savvy shoppers’ guide to vintage, Affordable Couture. In 1998, she co- founded Makeover Media, a boutique consulting and public relations firm in Los Angeles. Originally from Flint, Michigan, Arroz worked on the assembly line at General Motors while she transformed herself from spot welder to spokes-model.

Dara Wishingrad
Production Designer
Dara began her design career with the creation of massive, 360º sets in live events for private and corporate clients such as Superbowl, The Ryder Cup and PGA Golf Tournaments, Donna Karan and Lawrence Fishburne. She was the production designer for the Directors Guild of America Honors and the Tribeca Film Festival, designing the public and private events and screening venues, most notably the General Motors “Tribeca Drive-In.”

Film and theatre credits include design for directors, writers and producers John Leguizamo, Michael Urie, Franc Reyes, Michael Lembeck, Nia Vardalos, Frank Whaley, Stephanie Laing, Boaz Yakin, Paul Gordon, Tina Andrews, Stanley Bennett-Clay, Leslie Lee, Charles Strouse, Kent Nicholson, Wayne Cilento, Charles Busch, Negro Ensemble Company, cell theatre, Superbowl, The Ryder Cup and many others.