Sundance Institute announced the eight participating filmmakers selected for the fifth annual Momentum Fellowship, a program “designed to support and provided coaching to midcareer artists with a focus on career development during a pivotal moment in their creative practice.”
The program was designed to support storytellers from historically marginalized communities and filmmakers that have “recently achieved a noteworthy accomplishment” (like a TV show or movie). The Momentum Fellowship provides each artist with a ”full-year program of deep, customized support around the goals they have identified for themselves to level up in their craft and career.” The Momentum Fellowship is a program of Women at Sundance with support from Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.
Among the Momentum Fellows are “Aftersun” director Charlotte Wells and “Nanny” filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu.
“The most ingenious part of Momentum is its timing at this precarious point in our careers as we all consider our futures beyond the first film. The grant itself, in addition to the community and accountability through the coaching program have already been steadying forces and I’m eternally grateful to and in awe of the Sundance Institute’s commitment to artists’ (and to my) development,” Wells said.
“Over the years, the fellows selected for Momentum have all experienced success with their recently completed projects. This has often been a critical moment for artists to receive creative and tactical support as they focus on a meaningful path forward.” said Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs, said in an official statement. “This is where Momentum is both aptly named and unique in the industry–the fellowship is customized to the needs of individual filmmakers as they move forward with their next steps, making choices that’ll ensure they can sustain a career that gives them exciting and timely creative opportunities.”
The 2023 Momentum Fellows are:
Francisca Alegria is an award-winning filmmaker who’s short film “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye” received the award for Best International Fiction Short at Sundance Film Festival. Her debut feature “The Cow Who Sang A Song Into the Future” premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2022 and was supported by the 2017 Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab along with the Catalyst Forum.
Rita Baghdadi is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker known for the intimacy of her bold, character-driven films. Her latest feature, “Sirens,” premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest. Rita’s work has been supported by Sundance, Tribeca, Netflix, HBO, IDA and Film Independent.
Michelle Garza is a director and screenwriter who graduated from CCC in Mexico City and Goldsmiths in London. Her debut feature “Huesera” premiered at Tribeca 2022 where it won the Best New Narrative Director and the Nora Ephron awards. Michelle also won the Citizen Kane award for the best new director at Sitges 2022.
Nikyatu Jusu is a writer and director and her first feature film, “Nanny,” was developed at the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Labs and debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. Her follow up original feature film screenplay was acquired by Universal Studios and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. She works as an Assistant Professor of Directing and Screenwriting, Film and Video Studies, at the College of Visual & Performing Arts at George Mason University.
Bing Liu is a China-born, Midwest-raised filmmaker. His directorial credits include “Minding the Gap,” “America To Me” and “All these Sons.” Bing was supported by the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Lab on his first fiction feature which is currently in development.
Kate Tsang is an artist/filmmaker creating imaginative, offbeat stories with heart. Her debut feature “Marvelous and the Black Hole” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. She wrote on the Emmy-nominated shows “Adventure Time: Distant Lands” (HBO MAX) and “Steven Universe Future” (Cartoon Network).
Charlotte Wells is a BAFTA winning Scottish filmmaker whose debut feature, the award-winning “Aftersun” premiered in Critics’ Week at Cannes. Prior to “Aftersun,” Wells wrote and directed three short films, “Tuesday,” “Laps,” and “Blue Christmas.” She is a graduate of the MBA/MFA program at NYU where she was supported by BAFTA NY and LA. Charlotte, with her project “Aftersun,” was supported by the Sundance Institute’s 2020 Directors and Screenwriters Labs.
Violet du Feng is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. She has directed, produced or executive produced 13 films including the most recent Tribeca-premiered and Sundance Documentary Film Program supported “Hidden Letters.” Her main producing credits include “Dear Mother,” “I Meant to Write About Death,” “Singing in the Wilderness,” “Confucian Dream,” “Maineland” and “Please Remember Me.”
The Momentum Fellowship includes an unrestricted artist grant; professional coaching offered by Renee Freedman & Company, supported by The Harnisch Foundation; connection to ELEVATE, Sundance’s professional development initiative, and bespoke year-round support from Sundance Institute staff. Additionally, as part of an ongoing partnership with Universal’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion team (GTDI), the Studio will provide additional support for up to four (4) Momentum fellows working on fiction projects. GTDI is providing select participants access to the Studio’s creative executives and producers to build career momentum and exposure to potential directing opportunities across the Company’s portfolio.
The Momentum Fellowship was launched in 2018 as a highly successful model for sustaining and leveling up artists in their careers that merited expansion for impact across a broader cohort of underrepresented communities. Those eligible for this intersectional program include artists identifying as women, non-binary and/or transgender, Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, and artists with disabilities.