Tara’s film WANDER DARKLY competed in the dramatic competition at Sundance this year. She wrote and directed the film starring Diego Luna and Sienna Miller for 51 Entertainment. On the TV side, she directed the planted spinoff episode of ARROW “GREEN ARROW & THE CANARIES” for WBTV, Berlanti and CW that aired the same week as WANDER DARKLY premiered. She was in the CBS directing program and Ryan Murphy Half Program and has directed episodes of HAWAII 5-0 and ARROW. Tara came to our attention after she conceived, financed, directed and produced the MEET A MUSLIM short that went viral in 2016.
At 43, Rees has already had the type of success that will outlast her. In 2011, she released her first feature film, PARIAH, a lush coming-of-age drama about a young black woman named Alike grappling with both her sexuality and the world’s response to it. The movie won more than a dozen awards, including, most notably, the N.A.A.C.P. Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. Last year, the movie was included on IndieWire’s list of best films of the past decade, along with “Moonlight,” “Carol,” and “Call Me by Your Name” — movies that also feature queer narratives, though it’s worth noting that “Pariah” came out years before them. In 2017, she released her next feature film, MUDBOUND, a drama about the lives of a black family and a white family working the same plot of land in Mississippi in the 1940s. It garnered four Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay, making her the first black woman to be nominated in the category. Her latest project, THE LAST THING HE WANTED is her most Hollywood yet: Starring Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe and Ben Affleck. THE LAST THING HE WANTED is an adaptation of the 1996 Joan Didion novel about an American journalist investigating illicit arms sales to Central America during the Reagan administration. It is Rees’s attempt to demonstrate her range across scale, genre and star power.
Watch the trailer for THE LAST THING HE WANTED here!
Genevieve has parlayed her early success as an actress on Nigerian soap operas and commercials into a burgeoning film career, and has become a household name and prominent figure in Nollywood. Nnaji is a true multi-hyphenate: she starred in, co-wrote, produced, and made her directorial debut on the film LIONHEART, which follows a whip-smart businesswoman Adaeze (Nnaji) desperately trying to salvage her ailing father’s transportation company while mitigating her fraught relationship with her uncle. The film made history when it became Netflix’s first Nigerian original film as well as Nigeria’s first ever Oscar entry for Best International Feature Film. However, the film was disqualified for being mostly in English and only partially in Igbo—a creative decision Nnaji justifies as being an authentic portrayal of her homeland. The uproar and controversy around LIONHEART’s Oscar nomination has overshadowed the film’s message and significance: by eschewing derivative African cinema tropes, Nnaji illuminates the complexities of professional, autonomous Nigerian women in LIONHEART—a groundbreaking portrayal in Nollywood.
Watch the trailer for LIONHEART here!
Born in Haiti and raised in small town USA, Numa Perrier is an actress, writer, filmmaker, and visual artist. She produces and develops TV and film projects under her production banner House of Numa. In 2008, Perrier co-founded Black&Sexy TV, a network of several shows created for Black American audiences. Their first production was a film called A GOOD DAY TO BE BLACK AND SEXY, which premiered at Sundance and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures. Beginning in 2011 they used YouTube to post their content. Notable shows include The Couple, The Number, Hello Cupid and RoomieLoverFriends.
Perrier directed her first feature film JEZEBEL, starring Tiffany Tenille, in Las Vegas in 2017. The film is semi-autobiographical and draws on her experience as an online sex worker; Perrier also plays a supporting role in the film. JEZEBEL premiered at SXSW in March 2019. THR selected Jezebel as one of its "Best of SXSW 2019" picks.
Watch the trailer for JEZEBEL here!
Kasi is an award-winning director, writer, actress and professor who has been a staple in Hollywood for nearly three decades. Her acclaimed 1997 feature directorial debut, Eve’s Bayou, was recently inducted into the National Film Registry, and is considered among the first to showcase the beauty of African American Southern culture. The film received the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, and the National Board of Review bestowed her with a special first-time director award.
Lemmons’ sophomore feature, The Caveman's Valentine, opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, while her third film, Talk to Me, earned the 2008 NAACP Image Award for outstanding directing. She also adapted Langston Hughes’ musical Black Nativity for the big screen in 2013. As an actress, Lemmons appeared in such notable films as Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, John Woo’s Hard Target and Spike Lee’s School Daze. Along with Academy Award®-nominated composer Terrence Blanchard, Lemmons recently added librettist to her formidable body of work, creating the stage adaptation of Charles Blow’s New York Times bestselling memoir Fire Shut up in My Bones, for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis. She is currently in pre-production for the Madam CJ Walker limited series on Netflix.
Watch the HARRIET trailer here!
Mati Diop is an actor and director, born in Paris into a prominent Senegalese family, the daughter of noted musician Wasis Diop, and niece of well known filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty. As a director, she has several short films under her belt, including Atlantiques in 2009. Her short films Big in Vietnam and A Thousand Suns screened at TIFF in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Atlantics is Diop's first feature, which she directed as well as co-writing the screenplay with Olivier Demangel. ATLANTICS is Mati's debut feature and she is one of the only filmmakers to have her debut film accepted in competition at Cannes. She also became the first woman of color ever to have her film screened in competition at the festival. ATLANTICS awed critics and eventually won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The film was recently named Senegal's official entry to the Oscars.
Watch the ATLANTICS trailer here!
Alice is comprised of studio execs & producers who want to see more female directors at the helm of our films.
The Alice Initiative was launched in 2016 by a group of female film executives and producers to highlight promising up and coming female directors who are ready to helm their first studio film. The Alice Initiative is named after French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blache, who is widely considered the first female director. She was a pioneer in the field and helmed more than 1,000 films during her career in the early 1900s.
In addition to the women highlighted on the Alice Initiative List, they also provide a curated list of women currently working in TV and Film they would consider working with. This list is constantly evolving. Names are added as the women of the initiative discover new talent. The Alice Initiative tries to not only shine a spotlight on new (or new to them) talent, but on the female directors we think should be working more.
Congrats to those who made the list!
Chinonye Chukwu is a Nigerian-born, Alaskan-raised screenwriter, producer and director. A recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award, Chinonye's short, "The Dance Lesson" premiered at the Ritz Theater of Philadelphia and was later acquired by MindTV for regional network distribution. Her debut feature film, ALASKALAND, the story of an estranged Nigerian-American brother and sister who reunite in their Alaskan hometown, has screened globally and was released on several digital and VOD platforms.
CLEMENCY was written and directed by Chukwu, and stars Alfre Woodard as a prison warden who oversees the death row inmates. Her inspiration for the film came from the case of Troy Davis, a prisoner executed in 2011. The film screened at Sundance in 2019, and Chukwu won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize - the first black woman to do so.
Watch the trailer for CLEMENCY here!
Gerwig is an actress, writer and director known for her work on acclaimed films like FRANCES HA, LADY BIRD and LITTLE WOMEN. Gerwig initially became known for acting in independent films before landing parts in more mainstream fare. She co-wrote and starred in the well-received FRANCES HA (2013) and MISTRESS AMERICA (2015). Gerwig made her solo directorial debut with the critically acclaimed comedy-drama film LADY BIRD in 2017. The film went on to earn a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, before garnering five Academy Award nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Gerwig's follow-up writing-directing project, an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 19th century masterpiece Little Women, also wowed critics upon its arrival in December 2019. The film earned praise for its faithfulness to the complex family dynamics that infuses the novel, as well as its director's command of the narrative through chronological reshuffling.
LITTLE WOMEN is in theaters now and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes!
Watch the LITTLE WOMEN trailer here!
Kris Swanberg began her film career at Southern Illinois University, where she studied documentary film production. Using naturalistic techniques and often working with non-actors, Swanberg went on to focus her career in narrative film. Her first feature, IT WAS GREAT, BUT I WAS READY TO COME HOME played in competition at the SXSW Film Festival in 2009, followed by her next feature, EMPIRE BUILDER (2012) and short film BABY MARY (2014). UNEXPECTED, starring Cobie Smulders and Anders Holm, premiered in competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was Swanberg’s third feature. Her next film, I USED TO GO HERE, will star Gillian Jacobs and Jemaine Clement. Swanberg lives and works in Chicago.
Watch the trailer for UNEXPECTED here!
Zandieh is an Iranian-American filmmaker based in LA who holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of Arts and is a recipient of the Fulbright Grant for Filmmaking. Sara’s debut feature SIMPLE WEDDING, starring newcomer Tara Grammy, Oscar nominated and Emmy winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, and veteran actress Rita Wilson, premiered at Film Independent’s 2018 LA Film Festival to rave reviews and was just acquired for distribution by Blue Fox. Her first short film, THE POOL PARTY, won a Jury Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and Best Short Film at Cinequest, and played at festivals worldwide. Her next short, Reza Hassani Goes to the Mall, starred Maz Jobrani and premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. It won both the Focus Features Best Film Award at the Columbia University Film Festival and Best Short at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Watch a clip here!
Emily is a New York City-based filmmaker. She’s had a web series featured in the NYTimes and her first short film was funded by the Tribeca Film Institute and won Best Drama at the 2012 All American High School Film Festival. CRSHD, her first feature film, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. Emily was highlighted in a NYTimes feature Tribeca Film Festival: 9 Filmmakers Who Should Be on Your Radar.
CRSHD has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes! Q&A with Emily Cohn below!
Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
EC: I've been filming myself and my friends since I was in 5th grade, digitizing tapes and then teaching myself how to edit on Movie Maker and iMovie. But I only realized filmmaking could be my profession when I was accepted into the Tribeca Film Fellows program as a high school senior in 2012. It was a real vote of confidence early on. They took us to private screenings with director Q&A's (with filmmakers like Benh Zeitlan and Terence Nance), gave us business cards to hand out at networking events (where we were at least 15 years younger than everyone else) and taught us everything from budgeting to pitching to post. It was a true bootcamp and totally got me hooked on every aspect of the film world and the people I met who populate it.
What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
EC: I always go back to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. It's the perfect combination of heart and humor. Other favorites would be FINDING NEMO and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. I'm always most concerned with storytelling and the push-pull of human relationships. HONEY BOY is a new favorite.
How'd you get your start?
EC: My first film-related job was working at the clothing company Opening Ceremony in their OCTV department, pitching and editing content. I was 15 and totally terrified by everything, but my bosses there were so sweet and took me seriously, which means a lot now when I look back on it.
What do you hope to do next?
EC: SO MUCH! For now focusing on a second feature script, a TV series and an animated project. Overall I want to keep telling stories that express some of the anxieties surrounding identity and the digital age with strong female leads. In my dreams I also want to direct a Harry Styles music video
Award-winning writer and director Alice Rohrwacher grew up in Italy. She graduated with a degree in Classic Literature from Torino University, and wrote for theater and worked as a musician before approaching filmmaking, initially as a documentary editor. Her first feature, CORPO CELESTE, premiered in Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, and was then selected for Sundance, New York, London, Rio, and Tokyo film festivals before being released in the U.S., UK, and France. Rohrwacher’s second feature, THE WONDERS, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival along with the Best Film Prize at Filmfest München, and the Black Pearl Award at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival. In 2015 she directed 'The Djess,' a short film commissioned by Prada as part of Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales film series that premiered during New York Fashion Week, and was also presented at Venice Film Festival. Most recently Alice wrote and directed HAPPY AS LAZZARO which was nominated for a Golden Palm and won the Best Screenplay award, as well as winning Best Feature at the Jerusalem and Chicago film festivals.
Watch the trailer for HAPPY AS LAZZARO here!
Fran Rubel Kuzui
Fran is an American film director and producer. She received her master's degree from New York University and was a script supervisor for a decade, prior to her first film, 1988's TOKYO POP, which she co-wrote and directed. The movie was shown at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim for its depiction of an American woman trying to make sense of the Japanese youth culture. However, she's best known as the director of the 1992 film BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, whose original screenplay was the basis for the television series of the same name. Fran and her Japanese husband, Kaz Kuzui, pioneered the distribution of independent films in Japan and they now divide their time between the US and Japan.
Watch the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER trailer here!
Anna’s 35mm cult feature VIVA and her 16mm art-film shorts have screened at major film festivals and art spaces around the world, and her work has been written about in academic journals. She is known for her use of classic and outdated film genres to talk about female roles within culture, coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure. She creates all of her own costumes and set designs, making many or the props and paintings as well as composing and scoring for her films. She has a BA in art from UCLA, and an MFA in art and film from CalArts. She continues to work on film because of her interest in emulating the look and feel of classic cinema, and her latest film, THE LOVE WITCH, was made using only traditional film processes. THE LOVE WITCH centers on a modern-day witch who uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, in a tribute to 1960s Technicolor thrillers. This movie is 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Watch THE LOVE WITCH trailer here!
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