NYWIFT Presents Seven Scholarships to Filmmaking Students in 2023

NYWIFT Presents Seven Scholarships to Filmmaking Students in 2023

Cash awards and association memberships will nurture emerging voices in media.

New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) is pleased to announce the presentation of seven scholarships to film, television, and media production students at New York area schools in 2023 as part of the organization’s ongoing commitment to nurturing the next generation of women in media.

The scholarships were presented to women studying at Brooklyn College, City College, Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Hunter College, New York University, and Stony Brook University, and one student received the NYWIFT Sabrina Wright-Gilliar Award at the Academy for Careers in Television & Film (TvF).

Awards were presented to Brooklyn College Film Production undergraduate student Mahalia Jackson; City College MFA candidate in Film/Cinema/Video Studies Sisa Quispe; Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema MFA Directing candidate Sarah Rhye; Hunter College MFA candidate in Integrated Media Arts Yehui Zhao; New York University MFA Directing candidate Claire Barnett; and Stony Brook University MFA candidate in Directing and Screenwriting Liza Renzulli.

This year’s NYWIFT Sabrina Wright-Gilliar Award was awarded to Academy for Careers in Television & Film (TvF) student Alexandra Nelson. The scholarship honors the memory of the legendary prop master Wright-Gilliar (The Good Wife) and supports a high school senior committed to a career in production. 

In addition to receiving cash scholarships, all were also welcomed into the organization’s Next Wave membership program for emerging professionals.  

“We are thrilled to recognize and welcome this talented group of young content producers and filmmaking professionals to the NYWIFT community,” said NYWIFT CEO Cynthia Lopez. “NYWIFT’s mission is to build a more inclusive, welcoming, and sustainable working environment, and we accomplish that in no small part by cultivating new opportunities for networking and raising up the next generation of women industry leaders.”   


Meet the 2023 NYWIFT Scholarship Recipients:


Claire Barnett (New York University) is a writer-director from Little Rock, Arkansas. Her stories focus on the complicated inner world of women and girls from the American South. Claire’s films have been exhibited in several film festivals nationwide, and her most recent film, Susan and Leslie, screened at Slamdance Film Festival (2023) and New Orleans Film Festival (2022). Claire received her BFA in Film from the University of Central Arkansas in 2021. She is now a narrative shorts programmer for Slamdance Film Festival and an MFA candidate at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Kanbar Institute of Film & Television Graduate Film.


Mahalia Y. Jackson (Brooklyn College) represents a lot. Through her father she is Ghanaian and a first generation American. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, and a large portion of her life was spent in South Carolina, where her late mother was from. Like her mother, Mahalia is a Southern woman, more specifically a Carolina gal. She used to hang out a lot in the Village when she was a teenager and always wanted to live in NYC. In 2018, she moved to NY and has been living in and loving the Bronx. Mahalia has a diverse career background that ranges from emergency medical service to commercial truck driving throughout the US and into Canada. She had some decisions to make when the pandemic forced her from the road. She decided to follow a deferred dream and went back to school to learn about filmmaking. In the winter of 2022, Mahalia graduated with an associate degree in Video Arts and Technology from Borough of Manhattan Community College. She immediately transferred to Brooklyn College to further her education. In the Spring of 2023, Mahalia graduated from Brooklyn College with a BA in Film Production. She is currently working on post-production on her thesis film, a comedy called Rose.


Alexandra Nelson (Academy for Careers in Television & Film (TvF)) is the most recent Sabrina Wright-Gilliar award winner. Growing up in Queens, New York, she has always been fascinated by the culture and art that surrounds New York City as a whole, whether it was through her camera lens or on a train exploring all parts of her city. Attending a film school has opened countless doors of creativity and opportunities that have shaped her into who she is today. Learning and being around women in the industry showed her that women do belong in film and have just as much of an impact. This past June, she graduated from The Academy for Careers in Television and Film and will be attending Howard University this Fall where she will continue her passion for film and media. 



Sisa Quispe (City College) is a Quechua Aymara writer, director, producer, and host based in New York City. As an Indigenous woman, her work largely seeks to inspire the preservation of native ways while sharing a decolonizing message. Urpi: Her Last Wish, which Quispe wrote, produced, and directed, explores the complexity of the Indigenous identity. It was filmed in the Sacred Valley of the Incas with the collaboration of Indigenous Quechua communities in front and behind the camera. Her popular TEDx talk, “Re-thinking Who We Are Through a Decolonizing Lense,” shares her own decolonization journey. As host of the Instagram series “Native Voices,” Quispe interviewed Indigenous people from throughout Abya Yala/Turtle Island. She also produced Vive el Quechua (Living Quechua), an episodic YouTube series preserving and sharing her Indigenous language and culture. Sisa hopes to bring more representation of Indigenous perspectives to the screen and hopes to continue cultivating a path for indigenous youth to also develop their own voices.


Liza Renzulli (Stony Brook University) is a New York-based filmmaker who makes dark comedies that explore the complexities of womanhood, modern digital life, ambivalence, female friendships, bodies, and frustration. Currently pursuing her MFA in Directing and Screenwriting at SUNY Stony Brook/Killer Films, Liza’s passion for storytelling has been a throughline of her career. Her first-year MFA film, A Lot of You Are Asking, is in the midst of a festival run, and has played at Lighthouse International Film Festival and the Coney Island Film Festival. Liza has written, directed, and edited multiple comedic shorts which have garnered millions of views and received praise from notable platforms including Buzzfeed, MTV, Marie Claire, and HuffPost. With her company, CHIX Productions, Liza has directed and produced branded content for companies such as T Brand Studio at the New York Times, Brides Magazine, Airbnbmag, and AOL. Her expertise as an editor spans across various genres, with a particular emphasis on comedy. She has worked on various digital, streaming, commercial, and broadcast projects for networks including MTV, Comedy Central, and Animal Planet, including Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson.


Sarah Rhye (Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema) is a filmmaker, writer, and photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. A sustained focus on the natural world in tension with human-generated systems of justice, commerce, and gender – particularly relating to women’s experiences – is central to her practice. Rhye earned her BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, concentrating in Aesthetic History and Design. After graduating, she worked in the field of experiential event production and creative brand strategy. She is as passionate about beautiful storytelling as she is about healthy work environments and building equitable, collaborative models of leadership.  Rhye is currently pursuing her MFA in Directing for Film from Brooklyn College and is honored to receive this award from New York Women in Film and TV.


Yehui Zhao (Hunter College) is a multi-media artist, whose work explores women’s history, folklore, decolonization, and regeneration. Yehui’s films have been shown at DOC NYC, Prismatic Ground, Asian American International Film Festival, Festival of Animated Objects, Timeless Awards, and other programs. Yehui is the Art Director of 128 Lit, an award-winning international art and literary magazine. She is currently working on her first feature documentary, Xi Jiao Gou