AsianAm, LGBTQ Films Win Big at NBC's Diverse Shorts Fest

AsianAm, LGBTQ Films Win Big at NBC's Diverse Shorts Fest

Last night, the 13th Annual NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL, which celebrates diverse stories while finding the next generation of storytellers, honored its six finalist films and filmmakers with a finale screening and awards ceremony at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood.

Comedian-actor Zainab Johnson ("Late Night with Seth Meyers," HBO's "All Def Comedy") kicked off the evening with screenings of the six finalist shorts, "B.U.T.S: Spanish Class," "Kyenvu," "Masks," "Monday," "Rani" and "We Know Where You Live," before an audience of industry professionals including network, cable and film executives as well as managers, producers and agents.

Presenters Melissa Barrera ("Vida"), Melissa Fumero ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine"), Akbar Gbajabiamila ("American Ninja Warrior"), Joseph Lee ("Searching"), Lyric Lewis ("A.P. Bio"), Trace Lysette ("Midnight, Texas," Transparent"), writer-producer Kay Oyegun ("This Is Us"), Tess Paras ("Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"), Claudia Puig (President, Los Angeles Film Critics Association), Bernardo Saracino ("Midnight, Texas"), Mary Sohn ("A.P. Bio"), Kellee Stewart("Midnight, Texas"), writer-director David E. Talbert ( "Almost Christmas") and Wilmer Valderrama ("NCIS," HARNESS co-founder) handed out awards in nine categories including Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Comedy, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Writer, Outstanding Actor, the Next Generation Filmmaker Award, the HARNESS Social Impact Award, Critics' Choice Award and the Audience Award.

"Last night's finale was a phenomenal showcase of the next generation of storytellers. The overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the audience reinforces that there are many undiscovered, talented voices whose stories already have an audience eager for fresh perspectives," said Karen Horne, SVP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. "I'm proud that over the past 13 years, our short film festival has not only celebrated those voices, but advocated for them BEYOND the festival to provide them with opportunities in the industry."

HARNESS Social Impact Award: "Kyenvu"

"Kyenvu" writer-director Kemiyondo Coutinho was awarded a $10,000 cash grant for her short film about a young Ugandan woman who struggles to find her footing in a patriarchal society that entitles men to women's bodies (trailer).

The award was presented by NBCUniversal's Social Responsibility division and HARNESS, an advocacy organization founded by America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams and Wilmer Valderrama, that connects artists, influencers and grassroots leaders to inspire action and change. This year marked the organization's second year partnering with the festival, and HARNESS co-founder Wilmer Valderrama presented the award to the Coutinho at the ceremony.

Outstanding Comedy: "B.U.T.S: Spanish Class"

"B.U.T.S: Spanish Class" co-creators Irene Lucio and Emma Ramos were presented with a $5,000 cash grant and a DJI OSMO+ Handheld Gimbal 4K camera with full accessory kit for an episode from their sketch comedy web series that parodies and satirizes the many 'afflictions' of the modern-day woman told through a Latina lens. In "Spanish Class," a couple gets way more than they bargained for when they set out to learn Spanish in a week. (trailer)

Outstanding Drama: "Masks"

"Masks" writer-director Mahaliyah Ayla O was presented with a $5,000 grant and a DJI OSMO+ Handheld Gimbal 4K camera with full accessory kit for her film about a closeted Persian woman's experience after surviving a mass shooting. (trailer)

Outstanding Writer: Hammad Rizvi, "Rani"

Writer-director Hammad Rizvi was awarded a $5,000 cash grant in addition to final round placement in NBC's Writers on the Verge program that prepares talented writers for staff writing positions on scripted series. He also received the newly released Final Draft 11 software on all platforms and a Fire TV Cube, the latest hands-free streaming media player with Alexa voice command.

Rizvi's short film "Rani" centers on a socially OUTCAST transgender Pakistani woman who sets out to take care of an abandoned child. The short stars trans activist Kami Sid as the titular character in her first acting role. (trailer)

Outstanding Actor: Kevin David Lin, "Monday"

Actor Kevin David Lin from the short film "Monday" was awarded a talent holding deal with NBC, a premiere headshot package with JeanPaul SanPedro, a fund for unlimited private audition coaching and advanced acting classes and a $1,000 wardrobe allowance. Lin starred as the central character in "Monday" about a conflicted young hustler who's forced to confront the immorality of his occupation. (trailer)

Outstanding Director: ­Dinh Thai, "Monday"

"Monday" writer-director Dinh Thai received a studio production services package courtesy of Universal Operations, including one day of shooting on the Universal Studios back lot and an $8,500 valued package including lighting, grip, props and costumes as well as one day of sound mixing. He was also awarded a $60,000 camera package from Panavision's New Filmmaker Program, a longtime festival sponsor, and final round placement in NBCUniversal's Emerging Directors Program that provides a pipeline for ethnically diverse directors to break into television by offering shadowing opportunities and an in-season commitment to direct an episode of an NBCUniversal scripted series.

Next Generation Filmmaker Award: Dinh Thai, "Monday"

Writer-director Dinh Thai won the festival's inaugural Next Generation Filmmaker Award for his short film "Monday" about a conflicted young hustler who's forced to confront the immorality of his occupation as he 'code-switches' through various cliques in his daily dealings throughout Los Angeles (trailer).

Presented by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group's Global Talent Development & Inclusion department along with the Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content group, the award recognizes a filmmaker who possesses a truly unique and innovative artistic vision and whose work delivers fresh content that has the power to connect, engage and inspire global audiences.

Thai receives a $8,000 grant to assist with his career momentum, one year of guidance from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content group executives and eligibility for the 2019 Universal Directors Initiative, a one-year program offering exposure to the studio production process as well as executives throughout NBCUniversal's film, TV and cable businesses.

Critics' Choice Award: "Masks"

"Masks" was chosen as the most impactful short by a jury of 25 film and television critics and entertainment writers. This year's jury included journalists from The Advocate, Brown Girl Magazine, Essence, CNN, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Her Campus, The Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post, Kore Asian Media, Latina, the Los Angeles Times, Moviemaker Magazine, NewNowNext, Screen International, Slate, The Teal Mango, TVGuide, USA Today, and Vanity Fair, among others.

Los Angeles Film Critics Association President Claudia Puig presented the award to "Masks" writer-director Mahaliyah Ayla O. She received a DJI Phantom 4Series Quadcopter Drone with 4K Digital Camera and corresponding accessories.

Audience Award: "Masks"

The audience at the finale screening voted "Masks" as its favorite film amongst the six finalists. Writer-director Mahaliyah Ayla O received a $1,000 cash grant and a 4 TB external hard drive for her next project.

The festival's finalists and semifinalists also received an array of prizes including a limited run on COMCAST'S XFINITY to 29 million viewers across the world starting December 1 as well as the opportunity to stream their film on the NBCU SHORT FILM FESTIVAL Hulu Channel and EVERYBODY DIGITAL, a mobile app exclusively for short film content created by actor-writer Allen Maldonado ("The Last O.G."). They also all received a copy of newly released Final Draft 11 on all platforms from the festival's returning sponsor.

The award winners were determined by a judging panel which includes NBC's Co-Presidents of Scripted Programming Lisa Katz and Tracey Pakosta, Universal Television President Pearlena Igbokwe, NBC's EVP of Casting Grace Wu, Vice President of Creative at Focus Features Rebecca Arzoian, and Universal Cable Entertainment VP Programming & Diversity Chika Chukudebelu, among others.

The NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is presented by NBCUniversal and NBC Entertainment with title partners: Universal Pictures, Panavision, Xfinity and the NBCUniversal Division for Social Responsibility. Additional 2018 festival partners include Focus Features, Oxygen, USA Network, Bravo, Syfy, Fandango, E! Entertainment, Telemundo and Hulu, as well as industry partners including Creative Artists Agency (CAA), SAG-AFTRA, HARNESS, Tandem Productions, Final Draft, Everybody Digital, Writers Guild of America - East, Writers Guild of America - West, DGA and PGA.

About the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Founded in 2006, the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is the first and only film festival created and run by an entertainment studio solely dedicated to celebrating the importance of diversity in entertainment and discovering the next generation of storytellers. The annual bicoastal program is a nationwide search for diverse talent, both in front of and behind the camera, including those from ethnically diverse backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ community and female content creators. Winners are awarded with prizes ranging from development meetings and holding deals with NBCUniversal to cash grants and industry standard software and camera packages. Festival alumni include Steven Caple Jr. ("Creed 2"), Hasan Minhaj ("The Daily Show"), Randall Park ("Fresh Off the Boat") and Simone Missick ("Luke Cage"). For more information, visit NBCUshortsFEST.com #NBCUshortsFEST

About the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS)

Since 2000, NBC has been dedicated to discovering and nurturing on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds through the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS). NBC TIPS are amongst the most extensive and robust diversity and inclusion programs in the television industry. They feature more than 20 programs including Writers on the Verge, the Diverse Staff Writer Initiative, Female Forward, Emerging Director Program, StandUp NBC nationwide search for stand-up comedians and the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL that celebrates diverse stories and the filmmakers who create them. Program alumni are celebrated producers, writers, directors and actors in the entertainment industry who have gone on to win Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards and include Alan Yang, Mindy Kaling, Deon Cole, Lil Rel Howery, Keto Shimizu, Natasha Rothwell, Danny Pudi and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel. For more information, visit NBCUniTIPS.com.

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