Welcome to NYWIFT Talks, a weekly series to bring updated news and vital information about the impact of COVID-19 and current events on the media and entertainment industry. Industry professionals will be in conversation discussing what you need to know about theatrical releases, digital advances, virtual tools, festival opportunities, production updates and more.
NYWIFT Talks are free for all to attend.
On this week’s NYWIFT Talks, we’re headed to the 2022 Sundance Film Festival…virtually! This week, we will be covering some highlights and updating you on new releases coming your way. And we’re speaking with some of our NYWIFT members with films at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, including Dawn Porter, Madeleine Olnek, Lois Vossen, Paula Eiselt, Elaine Del Valle and Tonya Lewis Lee. Moderated by NYWIFT Executive Director, Cynthia Lopez.
Date: Wednesday, January 26th, 2022
Time: 4:00PM EST / 1:00PM PT / 3:00PM CT
Cost: Free Q&A
Dawn Porter is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared on HBO, PBS, Discovery, and Netflix among others. Porter, who is the founder of Trilogy Films, also directed and produced the acclaimed four-hour Netflix original series Bobby Kennedy for President, which was released in 2018 and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. A two-time Sundance festival Director, her film Trapped which explored laws regulating abortion clinics in the South won the special jury social-impact prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, in addition to a Peabody and numerous other awards. Her 2013 documentary Gideon’s Army premiered on HBO and won best editing at Sundance. Gideon’s Army was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy, and is part of the U.S. Department of State’s American Film Showcase. Her other films include Spies of Mississippi, a critically-acclaimed historical documentary that was part of the Independent Lens series on PBS, and in 2015, Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper, a film for The Discovery Channel chronicling President Obama’s program to help young men of color succeed.
Originally a playwright who belonged to the Emerging Playwrights Lab at New York’s Public Theater; Madeleine Olnek wrote and directed over 24 of her original plays in downtown New York City venues. She also directed the short “Countertransference” (Sundance 2009); and the feature films “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same” (Sundance 2011) and “The Foxy Merkins” (Sundance 2014). Molly Shannon starred in Madeleine’s Guggenheim award-winning film, “Wild Nights With Emily” (SXSW 2018); the first ever on-screen portrayal of a queer Emily Dickinson. She is a co-author of “A Practical Handbook For The Actor,” a widely used acting text in colleges, recorded as an audiobook by the actor Rose Byrne, and currently the #1 New Release in “Stagecraft” on Amazon. She directed the short film “Hold Up”- which was screened two consecutive years at The Palm Springs International Shortfest; and now has screened twice at Sundance (2006 & 2022), as part of “anniversary shorts.”
Lois Vossen is the founding executive producer of Independent Lens on PBS, which each season coproduces 20+ original documentaries, documentary shorts for PBS Voices YT Channel, journalism shorts, and docuseries including Philly D.A., A Lion in the House, and Have You Heard From Johannesburg (both Primetime Emmy Award winners). Independent Lens has received 25 Emmy Awards, 23 Peabody Awards, 7 duPont Awards, 10 Academy Award nominations, and was honored with the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 International Documentary Association (IDA) Best Series Award. Previously, Lois was Associate Managing Director of the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Labs. She serves on the Television Academy Board of Governors Executive Committee and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). She’s been a juror for DOC New Zealand, Toronto International Film Festival, Shanghai International Festival, SXSW, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and New Orleans Film Festival.
Paula Eiselt is an independent filmmaker and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a double major in Film Production and Cinema Studies. Her work has been supported by the Independent Television Service (ITVS); the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program with support from Open Society Foundations and Just Films | Ford Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA); Fork Films; the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, with support from the Oath Foundation; the International Documentary Association Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund; Picture Motion; the Hartley Film Foundation; the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP); and Women Make Movies (WMM). Eiselt’s feature directorial debut 93QUEEN won the top inaugural first look Pitch Fund prize at the 2017 Hot Docs Forum and had its World Premiere at Hot Docs in 2018, followed by a theatrical release and POV broadcast with support by the NYC Mayor’s office Made in NY program. In 2017, Eiselt was selected as a Creative Producing Fellow for the Sundance Creative Producing Summit and was also a 2016 IFP Documentary Lab fellow. She was invited to join the prestigious POV/Wyncote Filmmaker Fellows cohort at the PBS Annual Meeting in 2018. In addition to her feature docs, Eiselt is developing a New York Times Op-Doc on Jewish identity in collaboration with the team behind the “In Conversation on Race” series. Previously, Eiselt served as Director of Programming at The Edit Center, where she launched and designed their Documentary Filmmaking program. Additional credits include researcher for The Undocumented (Independent Lens) and AP for Bronx Princess (POV). Additional directing credits include short films Priscilla, My Mom the Dead Head, and The Fitting Room.
Tonya Lewis Lee is a producer, writer, and advocate for gender and race equality. In 2004, Lee produced a documentary called I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. The film won Beacon and Parents’ Choice awards. Lee is also the producer behind the movie The Watsons Go to Birmingham, which she wrote, and That’s What I’m Talking About, a talk show hosted by Wayne Brady. She also produced the TV mini-series Miracle’s Boys and had an acting role in Winning Girls Through Psychic Mind Control, and was featured in the 30 for 30 episode, “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks.” Lee is a mentor and judge on the show Queen Bee, which follows female entrepreneurs as they pitch, develop, manufacture and market their products in an attempt to create America’s next big consumer brand. She is also the founder of the blog Healthy You Now, which helps African-American women stay on top of their health. She started the blog after she was asked to serve as the spokeswoman for the A Healthy Baby Begins With You initiative, which brings attention to the infant mortality rate in the United States. Lee attended the University of Virginia School of Law after completing her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College. After college, she worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C., focusing on corporate and First Amendment issues. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, director Spike Lee, and their two children, Satchel and Jackson.
Elaine Del Valle is a Brownsville, Brooklyn bred Puerto Rican multi-hyphenate filmmaker. Del Valle’s second short film, Me 3.769, was licensed by the HBO network. Her subsequent film, Princess Cut, was featured by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Director’s showcase and won the HBO Latinx short film award. Princess Cut is currently airing on the HBOmax platform. Del Valle’s work has received positive reviews from the New York Times, New York Post, NBC News, Journal News, and New York Daily News. She was a Finalist for the Lynn Shelton Award. NW Film Forum and Miami New Times named her a “Filmmaker to Watch” and Ad Age called her short documentary, Tagged, “compelling.” While Del Valle loves expressing emotion through her camera, she’s most proud of being referred to as an “actor’s director.” Her many years of acting training under the tutelage of Wynn Handman at New York City’s Carnegie Hall brought her off-Broadway with her autobiographical one-woman show, Brownsville Bred. Del Valle is a WarnerMedia 150 artist, and Sundance Institute supported director. She is currently directing her screenplay adaptation of Brownsville Bred (her true coming-of-age story). In 2020, Del Valle’s original drama pilot, The System, landed a development deal with CBS and Sutton Street Productions (Jane The Virgin). Written by Del Valle, in The System, a compassionate yet jaded social worker navigates the same broken New York City system she grew up in as she advocates to resolve issues for every family she encounters while struggling to fix her own. Del Valle devotes much of her spare time to young filmmaker programs in underserved communities. Her hope is to that every young person in underserved communities, and especially those identifying as female, know that their perspectives matter. Elaine owns and operates Del Valle Productions and Casting. Through her company, she has produced over 50 titles, and it’s CSA casting division has cast for hundreds of works (including for film, tv, commercials and animation) in both English and Spanish.
NYWIFT Executive Director Cynthia López (Moderator) is an award-winning media strategist, and former Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, where she implemented strategies to support film and TV production throughout the five boroughs. López is the recipient of many coveted industry awards including: 11 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, a Special Emmy Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, three Peabody Awards, and two duPont-Columbia Awards. In addition, she received the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Award for Commitment to Corporate Diversity. Prior to working as Commissioner, López was Executive Vice President and co-Executive Producer of the award-winning PBS documentary series American Documentary | POV, and was involved in the organization’s strategic growth and creative development for 14 years. Her ability to forge strategic partnerships among corporate and public interest media has been a signature of her work. Notable partnerships include: New York Times, Reuters, Al-Jazeera Network, Discovery Communications, The Moth, Story Corps, Harpo Studios and ABC News, NIGHTLINE with Ted Koppel. López is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), and is proud to have spent her career collaborating with independent filmmakers across all portions of the film and television industry. She served on the Board of Trustees for the Paley Center, NYC & Company, Museum of the Moving Image and the Tribeca Film Institute Latin America Fund Advisory Board. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Latino Public Broadcasting, Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Hunter College IMA Program.
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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.