EXCLUSIVE: NBCU Academy and NBC News’ documentary division, NBC News Studios, have put Damon Davis (chain of rocks), Stephanie Wang-Bréal (Florence of Ohio), Eric Juhola (The Queer Rhythm), Set Hernandez Rongkilyo (invisible)Brett Story and Stephen Maing (Untitled Labor Union Documentary), and Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler (Untitled Muscogee Nation Documentary) as participants in their second annual Original Voices Fellowship.
The program aims to support documentarians with projects at all stages of development, who identify as or – showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting – women, LGBTQ+, people of color or people disabilities. Each of the six selected filmmakers will receive a $60,000 grant, as well as a one-year artist development grant, designed to help them complete their films. Fellows will also have access to archival research and production resources, as well as executives and reporters from NBC News Studios and the NBCUniversal News Group. NBCU News Group will also offer grantees the opportunity to participate in impact training workshops, led by the non-profit organization Peace is Loud, and to attend the 65th Flaherty Film Seminar, Continents of Drifting Clouds, programmed by Almudena Escobar López and Sky Hopinka.
This year’s promotion was selected by a jury of critically acclaimed documentary filmmakers, including Julie Cohen, Yance Ford and Bing Liu. Director of Film Grants and Artist Development, Jeanelle Augustin, oversees the curation and design of the grant.
“We are honored to spotlight our second annual Original Voices Fellows,” said Yvette Miley, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for NBCUniversal News Group. “These powerful storytellers demonstrate directorial vision, integrity, and a commitment to fair filmmaking practices, and we are proud to support and elevate their work throughout their creative process.”
“We are thrilled to build on Original Voices’ successful first year with a new class of filmmakers whose projects exude joy, affirm our interconnectedness, and push the form forward,” added Augustin. “We are thrilled to support films that embrace hybridity, using animation and performance, as well as films that highlight the need for a free press and the primacy of journalists for a thriving free and open society.”
Two of the Fellows from the first Original Voices Fellowship debuted at Sundance 2022, namely Isabel Castro, with mijaand Reid Davenport, with I didn’t see you there. The latter won the director’s award from the American documentary section. Other 2021 scholarship recipients included Michael Premo, Sura Mallouh, Jessica Chermayeff, Ana Veselic, Zac Manuel, Estefania Contreras, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falco and Jillian Schlesinger.
NBCU Academy is a cross-platform journalism training and development program launched by NBCUniversal News Group in 2021, which provides four-year college and community students with scholarships, education, on-campus training, online programming , funding for accredited journalism programs and access to world-class journalists from NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo News.
NBC News Studios is a full-service production company specializing in high-end documentary storytelling for platforms inside and outside of NBCUniversal. Recent projects include: Diamond Hands: The Legend of Wall Street Bettingwhich premiered at SXSW; Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11, which premiered at TIFF; and Tthe way i see it, in partnership with Focus Features, which debuted as the highest-rated non-news program in MSNBC’s 25-year history and won the 2020 NY Film Critics Award for Best Documentary. Recently, NBC News Studios made its first foray into scripted series with NBC’s The thing about Pamin partnership with Blumhouse Television.
You can find more information about the 2022 Original Voices Fellows and their projects below.
chain of rocks real. Damon Davis – (In production) – A death row inmate confesses to a crime after 30 years of maintaining his innocence. Today, an activist who once fought for his innocence faces the moral dilemma of whether the fight was futile. CHAIN OF ROCKS is an animated documentary feature that explores the complexities of race and masculinity and how they distort our worldview and play a part in oppressive systems.
Florence of Ohio real. Stephanie Wang-Breal (Development) – Filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal sets out to cross the generational divide, confronting long-simmering tensions with her Chinese immigrant mother by literally becoming her. Dressed in her mother’s iconic St John Knit costumes and recreating her local 1980s TV cooking show, Stephanie becomes Beta-Florence, a radical reinterpretation of Asian-American identity.
The Queer Rhythm real. Eric Juhola (Producer) – The Queer Rhythm is a collaborative truth documentary featuring trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming journalists who reflect on their own identities while striving to tell the story of a pivotal moment in LGBTQ history. The film follows journalists Kate Sosin and Cristela Guerra as they investigate the still-unsolved 1998 murder of trans woman Rita Hester, whose death sparked the creation of the global “Transgender Day of Remembrance” movement. Two decades later, they discover new leads within a community still in mourning and try to answer the question “What happened?”
invisible real. Hernandez Rongkilyo Ensemble (Production) – invisible follows the story of Pedro, an aspiring social worker who hopes to provide mental health services to underserved communities. As a blind, undocumented immigrant, Pedro faces harsh political realities in the United States, but a network of supporters carry him through a decade-long struggle to realize his dream. What begins as a journey to foster the mental health of others eventually turns into Pedro’s journey to his own healing and self-discovery.
Untitled union documentary say. Brett Story and Stephen Maing (Production) – From the perspective of a single Amazon fulfillment center, this documentary is an intimate portrait of current and former Amazon employees going up against one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. world in the fight for unionization.
Untitled documentary on the Muscogee Nation say. Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler (post-production) – When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins to censor its free press, a rogue journalist fights to expose his government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country .