NYWIFT Blog

Meet the New NYWIFT Member: China L. Colston

Welcome to NYWIFT, China L. Colston! China is a SAG-AFTRA actress and award-winning filmmaker. As an actress, she has embodied emotional women, from the guilt-ridden mother in Strings Attached to the dealer in Sweet Thang. China’s unwavering dedication as the star, writer, director, and producer of Dark Seed led the film to acclaim from the Validate Yourself Film Festival, African American Arts Alliance of Chicago, and the Dramatist’s Guild Success In The Arts Award aka SITA. She is the recipient of a 2021 NYFA grant for her script To Cook or Not to Cook, which follows a chef in Harlem repairing his relationship with his family through food. She is the recipient of a 2021 NYFA grant for her script To Cook or Not to Cook, which follows a chef in Harlem repairing his relationship with his family through food. China brings us through her incredible journey as a creator here!

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Amy Nicholson

Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Emily Sheskin

NYWIFT Member Emily Sheskin’s return to DOC NYC 2023 is particularly meaningful. In 2017, she attended the festival with her short film Girl Boxer, about a 10-year-old champion female boxer and her adoring father. Six years later, Sheskin returns with a feature-length film following the same family, now facing an entirely new set of challenges. In Jesszilla, New Jersey’s own Jesselyn Silva, a three-time national boxing champion, is on her way to superstardom, dominating the junior ranks at the age of 15. With her every step of the way is her father, Pedro, a single parent who helps her navigate coaches, training schedules, and the angst of teenage life. When a devastating diagnosis threatens the father-daughter tandem, the pair turn to each other to fight their greatest opponent yet: cancer. Director and Executive Producer Emily Sheskin spoke to us about her unique journey following this family.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Ilja Willems

NYWIFT member Ilja Willems heads to the 2023 DOC NYC Festival with not one but two exciting new short films. Friendly Fridges shows how the new heart of the community is popping up in every neighborhood—in the shape of refrigerators. And When the grass must go follows a landscaper from Nevada who is removing grass lawns under a first-of-a-kind state law that will save water during an ongoing drought. Willems spoke to us about how these two disparate films align with her creative sensibilities, the joy of screening in NYC, and more!

READ MORE

Behind the Screams: Navigating the Horror Community with LaKisa Renee and Tammy Reese

The horror community is a vibrant and passionate group of individuals who share a love for the genre. Within this unique community, NYWIFT members LaKisa Renee and Tammy Reese have established themselves as inspirational figures through their killer interviews with horror legends and icons. Together, the horror media professionals and enthusiasts celebrate their shared passion for all things terrifying.

READ MORE

Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Ifeyinwa Arinze

Please join us in welcoming Ifeyinwa Arinze to NYWIFT! Ifeyinwa is a neuroscientist-turned-filmmaker from Nigeria and is currently based in New York City. Her work draws inspiration from human behavior and prioritizes intimate portrayals of Black women and girls that are grounded in generosity and care. Her short film, Two or More, premiered at the 2022 New York African Film Festival and has screened at the 2022 Palm Springs International ShortFest, 2022 Bushwick Film Festival and 2022 TIDE Film Festival, where she received the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator Award. Ifeyinwa spoke to us about why the TIDE Film Festival is special to her, her transition from STEM to the arts, and the inspirations behind her work.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Nitasha Bhambree

The wildly inventive 2023 Sundance Film Festival feature film Landscape with Invisible Hand follows Adam, a teenage artist coming of age in the aftermath of an alien takeover. Based on the novel by M.T. Anderson, the genre-bending sci-fi dramatic comedy with a YA twist directed by Cory Finley will come out as a limited release August 18, 2023. NYWIFT member Nitasha Bhambree helped bring the fantastical story to life as the Stunt Coordinator for the film. Since graduating New York University with a focus in dramatic performance and film studies, Nitasha has been employed in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. She regularly stunt doubles lead actresses in various TV shows and films, and has performed stunts in big budget features such as Joker, The Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man and A Wrinkle in Time, and has stunt coordinated features and TV series for Netflix, Disney, MGM, A24, NBCU, Hulu, HBO Max and Starz/Lionsgate, and Marvel. Nitasha spoke to us about working in the sci-fi genre, her favorite scenes, and her upcoming projects. 

READ MORE

Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Kayla Sun

Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to Kayla Sun! Kayla is a LA-based trilingual Asian filmmaker. She earned her B.A. degree for Studio Art and Economics at Vanderbilt University and subsequently worked in the art world before diving into the film world. She earned her M.F.A. for Film and Television Production at University of Southern California, as a Jeffrey Jones Scholar in writing, and is a recipient of the 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Production Grant for her film The Code of Family (2022). The film also received a NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Short Narrative Directing at last year’s UrbanWorld Film Festival. Kayla spoke to us about her inspirations, love of learning, and why people of all ages should be encouraged to embrace technology.

READ MORE

My First Ever Sundance Experience!

"My first time covering the Sundance Film Festival in-person was everything I expected it to be. Fun, intense, inspirational, exhausting, and such an honor. Overall, the experience lived up to indeed be the experience of a lifetime. A journalist’s dream, especially mine." Tammy Reese shares her favorite star-studded moments from her trip to Park City for Sundance 2023!

READ MORE

NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Jess Jacobs

In director Tracy Droz Tragos feature documentary Plan C, a hidden grassroots organization doggedly fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States, keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. With abortion restrictions and bans going into effect, Francine Coeytaux and her team of providers established Plan C — a grassroots organization dedicated to expanding access to medication abortion. NYWIFT member Jess Jacobs, the film’s executive producer, has a career-long history of activism – including work with the Plan C organization before the movie was even made! She spoke to us about Plan C’s Sundance premiere, her passion for reproductive justice, and the power of community.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Valda Witt

Many children – and more than a few adults – dream of long-distance space exploration. But what about the real human toll of that kind of journey? The new documentary The Longest Goodbye, which debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, takes a poignant look at the fundamentals of day-to-day reality in space: the isolation, confinement, and lack of privacy and social contact. Executive producer Valda Witt spoke to us about the project, her childhood dreams of space travel, favorite moments making the film, and getting to know scientists and astronauts in a deeply personal way.

READ MORE

Women Write Now: 2nd Year at Sundance Celebrating Women Writers

Developed in partnership with Sundance Institute and Founded by Hartbeat CEO Thai Randolph and Head of Film Candice Wilson Cherry, WOMEN WRITE NOW is a comedic writing fellowship designed to champion the next generation of Black women in comedy through mentorship, advocacy, production, and exhibition. Now in its second year, this year’s fellowship brought in three emerging writers, Mayanna Berrin, Kianna Butler Jabangwe, and Danielle Solomon to develop and produce their comedic short scripts under the guidance of some of the most influential Black women in comedy. The resulting projects were then brought into production by Hartbeat studios. Cherry and the writers spoke to us about their experience.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at Sundance: In Conversation with Annetta Marion

NYWIFT Advisory Board Member Annetta Marion produced Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie that is premiering at Sundance this month. The film incorporates documentary, archival and scripted elements to recount Fox’s story of personal and professional triumphs and travails in his own words. Annetta and Kathryn O'Kane spoke about the film that explores what happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Producer Cheryl Staurulakis

NYWIFT member Cheryl Staurulakis recognizes the power of documentary film to change hearts, minds, and even governmental policies – and it’s what drives her as a producer. Her latest film, Phyllis Ellis’s feature documentary Category: Woman, is a perfect example of Staurulakis’s commitment to social impact filmmaking. The film takes a hard look into the racist and sexist policies in global sports and the devastating personal consequences they have inflicted on women athletes around the world. Staurulakis spoke to us about her 2022 DOC NYC screening, racial and gender discrimination in sports, and how she hopes to save the world one documentary at a time.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker and Journalist Amelia Deschamps

NYWIFT member Amelia Deschamps is a journalist, documentary filmmaker and TV/Radio producer from the Dominican Republic with more than 20 years of experience. Her short film In Search of the Blue Heart made its world premiere at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. The film follows Daniel Quezada who, after 32 years of working in the larimar mines of the Dominican Republic, seeks to make this his last extraction to retire and dedicate his life to the stone trade. Deschamps spoke to us about filming in the depths of the larimar mines, her world premiere, and her transition into documentary filmmaking.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Dawn Porter

NYWIFT Member Dawn Porter’s Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net offers a never-before-seen look behind the curtain of the world-famous circus extravaganza, with an approach that is equally intimate and epic in scale. When Cirque du Soleil moves to reboot its flagship production, "O," more than a year after an abrupt global shutdown, both performers and crew members face uncertainty as they work to return to their world-class standards in time for the (re)opening night curtain in Las Vegas. The film had its world premiere as a Centerpiece film at the 2022 DOC NYC Festival. Porter sat down with us to discuss her unique approach to this story, and how these high-flying artists can offer unique insight into our post-pandemic world.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Filmmaker Sascha Just

NYWIFT member Sascha Just directed and produced Ellis, the first feature-length documentary about the late legendary New Orleans pianist and educator, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Marsalis composed and performed major works of modern jazz infused with a uniquely New Orleans touch. Just spoke to us about all the ways in which jazz has influenced her work, getting to know a creative legend, and her DOC NYC premiere.

READ MORE

NYWIFT at DOC NYC: In Conversation with Editor Jill Woodward

NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Woodward spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.

READ MORE