NOFS Announces 2024 Emerging Voices Directors Lab Fellows

NEW ORLEANS (press release) – The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) announced six Louisiana-based filmmakers to participate in the 2024 Emerging Voices Directors Lab. The Emerging Voices (EV) Directors Lab was created in 2014 as an opportunity for underrepresented filmmakers—geographically, racially, and ethnically—to broaden their networks nationally and gain invaluable feedback on their own projects in development. The EV Directors Lab is one example of how the organization is making deep, longitudinal investments in the artistic vibrance, community, and professional sustainability of diverse Southern voices. Read more about the program here:

This year’s EV Directors Lab will offer a series of creative workshops for scripts in development to hone the fellows’ artistic voices and directing skills, as well as opportunities to develop and advance nonfiction practices. The 2024 EV Directors Lab fellows are Ann Nguyen (Baton Rouge,LA), Elroy “EJ” Johnson IV (New Orleans,LA), Jami’L Carter (Hammond,LA), Kenneth White Jr. (Baton Rouge,LA), Maaliyah Symoné Papillion (Lake Charles/Lafayette, LA), Ricardo Betancourt (New Orleans,LA). This newly-announced cohort is smaller in size than previous years, to provide a more personal and in-depth experience for the fellows.

NOFS will award the 2024 EV Directors Lab fellows $2,000 each toward their projects and the opportunity to convene at the New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF) in October and one additional regional festival. At both festivals, the EV Directors Lab fellows will have the opportunity to connect with each other and industry professionals in one-on-one meetings and curated small group sessions.

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Maren Scott, coordinator of NOFS Filmmaker Labs and Alumni Services said: “As we reimagine our lab structure and impact, we are thrilled to have this year’s sessions curated and facilitated by Zandashé Brown (EV’15) and Angela Tucker (NOFF 2018 South Pitch). Two powerhouse filmmakers and program alumni who have achieved great success in the region. We hope to continue to welcome back alumni as mentors and collaborators in our efforts to further develop a more robust Southern film ecosystem.”

The Emerging Voices Director’s Lab is made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the Ford Foundation; Perspective Fund; the MacArthur Foundation; and the New Orleans Recreation and Cultural Fund.


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Emerging Voices Directors Lab 2024 Fellows and Projects

Ann Nguyen with Moving On (Narrative Feature) Ann Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American writer, director, and producer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Film and Television Production as a Jon M. Chu APAA Cinematic Arts Scholar. Ann has produced and directed various short films, including the 2022 recipient of the CreateLouisiana $25,000 grant, “Tambou,” the first-ever film made in Louisiana Creole about a grandfather’s quest to share his culture and heritage with his grandson and coming-of-age drama “The Unreachable Star,” featuring Tamlyn Tomita, about a child’s perspective living in a Japanese internment camp. She is committed to advocating for greater representation in the entertainment industry through lifting up fellow underrepresented voices and telling AAPI and LGBTQ+ stories in particular. Aside from film and entertainment, she enjoys painting, cooking, singing slightly off-key, and watching LSU and Saints football.

Project Logline: When her grandfather passes, Rose finds herself in the world between life and death, which she must traverse to speak to him one last time before he’s moved on forever.

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Elroy “EJ” Johnson IV with Bras Coupe: The Story of how we got here (Documentary Feature) EJ, is a former history teacher, Black history social media influencer, and published photojournalist, he pursued graduate studies in journalism and media at the University of Alabama. EJ transitioned into documentary filmmaking, where his work reflects a commitment to examining the social issues confronting Black communities in the South. With a diverse skill set encompassing narrative construction and visual communication, EJ brings a multifaceted perspective to his storytelling. Through his lens, EJ explores often-overlooked narratives, weaving historical contexts into the fabric of contemporary challenges. He is dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices, EJ’s work aims to foster understanding and catalyze positive change. Whether in the classroom, on social media platforms, or through the lens of their camera, EJ believes in the transformative power of storytelling to shape perspectives and ignite conversations that contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society.

Project Logline: The legend and history of Bras Coupe, an enslaved man’s escape in 19th-century New Orleans, leads to contemporary societal issues in Black representation in media and how Black communities have been governed and policed in New Orleans and abroad. Bras Coupe is a story of Black resistance and its enduring impact.

Jami’L Carter with Untitled (Narrative Short)
Jami’L Carter is a writer, director, editor, and poet. She is an MFA Film graduate from The University of New Orleans. She loves filmmaking and indulging in all forms of creativity. Her art implores thought and brings awareness to societal issues. Such examples of her work are festival selected films: “Tender Curiosity” and “To Get By”, and published poems: “Void: Generational Wounds” and “Alligatoridae”. Her writing can be found in Passengers Journal, Decolonial Passage, and Free Spirit. She believes that her art is the vessel of her voice. A self-described flaneur, she thrives to impact the world the best way she knows how, with her writing.

Project Logline: For an assignment, a college student interviews a pastor, player, dancer, and mother to answer the question: why?

Kenneth White, JR with Forget Me Not (Narrative Short)
Kenneth White, Jr is a filmmaker from Baton Rouge, LA, specializing in music videos, commercial projects, and narrative work. He has collaborated with brands such as Can-Am, SET The Show, and Hanes. Additionally, Kenneth is actively involved in workforce development at NOVAC, where he contributes to community-based film industry workforce training and placement programs in partnership with Louisiana Economic Development (LED), Warner Bros Discovery, NBCUniversal, and Disney. Kenneth’s narrative style centers around the African-American experience in the American South and empathetic dramas, playing a key role in redefining African-American representation in film. Kenneth is also the 2023 NOFF recipient of the John-Carlo Monti Memorial Award. Additionally, he serves as a camera operator, utility expert, and film loader.

Project Logline: In a race against time, a son fights to salvage his family’s farm from foreclosure, all while grappling with his father’s Alzheimer’s.

Maaliyah Symoné Papillion with Išhak (Documentary Short)
Maaliyah Symoné is a Creole and Indigenous actress, singer, model, and third-generation healer from a long line of Indigenous leaders. She infuses her unique experience into her art expression with the goal of unifying others who can relate to her life. Maaliyah’s work focuses on advocating for the rights of Afro-Indigenous community members, like those who make up her tribe, the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana. Her upcoming short documentary, Išhak, explores themes of cultural erasure, belonging, and what it means to be a Black Indian in the South.

Project Logline: Išhak is a tribute to what it means to be a Black Indian in the South. The film explores themes of cultural erasure and belonging in a society determined to whitewash history.

Ricardo Betancourt with SUDAKAS (Narrative Short)
Venezuelan-born Producer and Director, Ricardo made his way to New Orleans producer at the very young age of 5. In a drastic life-changing event, Ricardo and his family decided to move back to Caracas, Venezuela. During that time, Ricardo endured the toughest era of the Venezuelan crisis and decided to move back to New Orleans. After 5 years of college, Ricardo was exposed to the world of Filmmaking. Since then, Ricardo has produced music videos, commercials, and short films for the past 5 years. Ricardo’s clients and artists include Big Freedia, Ambre, Tank And The Bangas, Pell, Arcade Fire, Drake Malgornick, Portrayal of Guilt, Warren Hue, Isoxo & Knock2. As well as commercials for Honda, Edifier, Stanley Brand, Can Am, Gulf Coast Bank, STARZ, BMF. Short films such as REDO (Dir by JP SUMMERS), CRUSH (Dir by Christian Schultz), A different perception (dir. By Josh Williams III), WILD CHILD (Dir. By Abraham Felix) SUDAKAS (Dir. by Ricardo Betancourt). Ricardo is currently developing 2 untitled and projects that are close to his heart and life experiences.

Project Logline: A highly educated and skilled civil servant escaped the Venezuelan dictatorship to find herself working lower-wage job in New Orleans, the place she was once in diplomatic status.




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