Emerging Voices

The Emerging Voices Mentorship program, an initiative of the New Orleans Film Society, was created in 2014 and founded on the principle that to create a more diverse storytelling landscape, filmmakers of color in Louisiana need greater access to gatekeepers.

In its inaugural year, the program sought to fill the lack of opportunities for local African-American and Black Diaspora directors to meaningfully connect with industry leaders, expand career opportunities, and to help strengthen the local film community. In 2015, Emerging Voices expanded to include all filmmakers of color based in Louisiana, adding an even more vast and diverse perspective to the program and reflecting the depth and breadth of the state.

Applicants include filmmakers with narrative or documentary projects (shorts, features or web-based), experimental films and music videos in the development/pre-production stage. Once selected, during the annual New Orleans Film Festival, selected filmmakers are paired with a Film Industry leader who acts as a mentor through one-on-one meetings. Mentees also participate in short intensive meetings with other industry professionals during the NOFF Industry Exchange to pitch their projects and build further connections.

The program works to empower the local community as well as to promote the unique perspectives and cultures created in Louisiana to the rest of the country, and the world.

Applications for the 2017 program are now open. CLICK HERE TO APPLY.
The final application deadline is July 14.

Emerging Voices is supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Sienna Pinderhughes

Sienna Pinderhughes is a visual expressionist from New York City now approaching her fourth year in New Orleans. She works as a camera assistant and is in pre- and post-production on several projects of her own.

PROJECT: “Rising Phoenix” (Experimental Short)
An aging spirit embarks upon on an ancient ritual of reincarnation.

MENTOR: Kahlil Joseph
Kahlil Joseph is an award winning LA based filmmaker. His evocative short film “Until The Quiet Comes” for Flying Lotus received widespread critical acclaim and won the ‘Grand Jury Prize’ for Short Films at Sundance in 2012. He has worked with artists including Kendrick Lamar and FKA Twigs.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones, a native of Baton Rouge, is a recent graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he was named the 2016 outstanding graduate in Moving Image Arts. He is currently producing films and music videos.

PROJECT: “Seven of Diamonds” (Narrative Short)
After being released from prison, two criminals break into a suburban home to claim what’s rightfully theirs, and will stop at nothing to get it.

MENTOR: Angel Kristi Williams
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Angel received her B.A. in Visual Art from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A recent Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, she now works in Artist Development for the same program. Her short film “Charlotte” screened at NOFF 2015 and won awards at Atlanta and Sarasota Film Festivals. She was recently named one of ten black directors to watch by Paste Magazine.

Benjamin Simmons

Benjamin Simmons is a filmmaker raised in the high crimes and good times 90s of New Orleans. After a decade in Los Angeles, Benjamin returned to New Orleans in 2010 to pursue filming the stories of his city.

PROJECT: Animals (Documentary Feature)
Focusing on a local phenomenon involving a specific brand of Bally sneakers, Animals investigates how luxury brands respond to street style appropriation, while painting a portrait of NOLA hip hop culture in its nascent form.

MENTOR: Sonya Childress
Sonya Childress is the Director of Partnerships and Engagement for Firelight Media. She previously held positions with California Newsreel, Active Voice, Kartemquin Films, Working Films, and the Independent Television Service. She led the impact campaigns for The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, and Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.

Zac Manuel

Zac Manuel is a director and cinematographer from New Orleans, and co-founder of The Greenhouse Collective. His films have played at festivals including SXSW, New Orleans, and Rotterdam. His work has also been featured on multiple platforms.

PROJECT: Bloodthicker (Documentary Feature)
A coming of age tale, Bloodthicker follows three young rappers in New Orleans as they navigate the territory between boyhood and manhood in the shadows and influence of their famous fathers.

Mentor: Loira Limbal
Loira Limbal currently serves as the Vice President + Documentary Lab Director for Firelight Media. Limbal is also a Latina filmmaker and activist who directed and produced Estilo Hip Hop, a documentary about hip hop activists from Brasil, Chile, and Cuba and was an official selection of the Tribeca All Access Institute; it aired nationally on PBS in June 2009.

Daniela Capistrano

Daniela Capistrano is a Strategist at New Orleans agency RAPJAB. She has been the founder/creative director of POC Zine Project since 2010. She is a proud Queer Poly Chicana and loves Tracey Brown.

PROJECT: “Luz” (Narrative Feature)
Luz, a young undocumented dominatrix and tech prodigy in New York City, navigates a world of blackmail, murder, family secrets, and betrayal after rescuing an undocumented Mexican boy.

MENTOR: Lisa Kjerulff
Lisa Kjerulff is a 2016 Sundance Institute Creative Producer Fellow. She produced and co wrote Anna Rose Holmer’s feature narrative The Fits (Sundance, Venice, New Directors/New Films). Her first documentary feature, Northern Light, was released in 2014 to a Critic’s Pick in The Village Voice and The New York Times.

Najma Nuriddin

Najma Nuriddin is an award winning founder of Nsoroma Films. She holds a BA in Speech & Communication from San Francisco State University and an MFA in Film Production from Howard University.

PROJECT: Mystic She (Documentary Feature)
Through a Bush Doctor in Cape Town, a Maroon seamstress in Suriname, an Aboriginal painter in Australia, and a Baby Doll performer in New Orleans, Mystic She presents women with the common hope of maintaining their culture while influencing the future.

MENTOR: Sonia Kennebeck
Sonia Kennebeck is an independent documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist who has worked for CNN and Panorama, German public television’s highest rated current affairs program. Her films (including newly-released National Bird) primarily deal with international politics and human rights issues.

2015 Mentees
Ahmed Siddiqui

Ahmed Siddiqui is a writer and director from New Orleans, LA and currently resides in Lafayette, LA. He is a first generation American minority and founder of bckstry, a film mentoring program for youth.

PROJECT: “Bixby” (Narrative Short)
Bixby, an abused teen on the last leg of his parole, becomes an enforcer and vigilante in order to protect his mother.

Stephanie Allain began her career at Columbia Pictures, where she shepherded John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood. Her producer credits include Dear White People, French Dirty and Hustle & Flow. Allain is director of the LA Film Fest.


Allendra Freeman moved to California after Katrina. Upon completing film school in Hollywood, she started the production company Cinemadona Studios LLC in New Orleans.

PROJECT: “Black Water” (Narrative Short)
A year after Hurricane Katrina, shell-shocked Roquan struggles with dreams of swimming, as he searches for self-understanding and love.

MENTOR: Opeyemi Olukemi
Opeyemi Olukemi is senior director of interactive for the Tribeca Film Institute. Opeyemi is also assistant professor of integrated media at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.


Eritria Pitts is a former Al Jazeera producer. She writes, directs, edits and stars in her own web series, “She is Alex,” and is currently developing her first one-woman show.

PROJECT: “Sorry.Stop” (Narrative Short)
Synopsis: A successful 30-something journalist comes to the brink of an identity crisis when she must choose between career advancement or love.

Moira Griffin is the manager of diversity initiatives at the Sundance Institute. Previously, she worked as an independent producer and festival consultant in Los Angeles and also worked as VP of development with Pipedream Productions.


Born in Jamaica, Jason grew up primarily in the South. In 2011, he co-founded FosterBear Films and has directed 20+ short films, documentaries and music videos.

PROJECT: The Free Southern Theater (Documentary Feature)
Founded in 1963 in Jackson, Miss., the Free Southern Theater was an integrated theater company that toured the South during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, settling in New Orleans in 1965.

MENTOR: Loira Limbal
Loira Limbal is vice president and producers’ lab director at Firelight Media, which received the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. She is also an independent filmmaker. Her first feature documentary, Estilo Hip Hop, aired nationally on PBS.

Kenna J. Moore

Kenna J. Moore won the NOFF 2013 Emerging Vision Award and the NOFF 2014 Best Louisiana Short Film. She is the founder of Ghost of Elysian Films.

PROJECT: Bayou Orange (Narrative Feature)
Synopsis: 40-something Dr. Olive Barnes, a recent Noble Prize winner, finds her life crumbling as she takes a job closer to her husband in Sunnyvale, California.

MENTOR: Laurens Grant
Laurens Grant is a 3-time Emmy® and Peabody award-winning filmmaker. The latest documentary Grant Produced, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, premiered at Sundance and is an NOFF selection. Previously, Grant directed the documentary Jesse Owens and produced the documentary Freedom Riders.

Zandashé Brown

Zandashé Brown is a Baton Rouge-based filmmaker and political organizer, studying Film and Media Arts and African/African-American studies at Louisiana State University.

PROJECT: Black Women Are (Documentary Feature)
Synopsis: Black Women Are explores the often silenced and complex narratives of a new generation of politically progressive Black women.

MENTOR: Yvonne Welbon
Yvonne Welbon is interim creative director at Chicken & Egg Pictures. She has produced and distributed over 20 films including Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100, Sisters in Cinema and The New Black. Her films have screened on PBS, IFC and HBO and in more than 100 film festivals around the world.

2014 Mentees

Big Chief Brian Harrison Nelson is the youngest known Big Chief in the history of the Mardi Gras Indian Nation. In 2011, Brian graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts with his M.F.A.

PROJECT: Keeper of The Flame (Narrative/Hybrid)
Set in the secret society of Mardi Gras Indians, a young talented loner and an older ex-con must join forces to protect the integrity of their organization against dirty cops, gangsters, politicians, and internal destruction.

Mentor: Angela Tucker
Angela Tucker’s directorial work includes Asexual, a feature length documentary about people who experience no sexual attraction available on Netflix, Hulu and iTunes and Black Folk Don’t, a documentary web series in its fourth season featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life.” She is a Co-Producer on The New Black, a feature-length documentary about the complicated histories of the African American and LGBT civil rights movements and is Series Producer for the PBS documentary series, AfroPop.


Writer and performer CJ Hunt is a co-founder of The New Movement (improv theaters in New Orleans and Austin). His videos have appeared on the front page of FunnyOrDie.com, Atom.com, and Studio8.net. CJ is also one half of Cookie Pig Productions, the maker

PROJECT: Enjoy Your Stay (Web Series)
A web comedy about the world of Airbnb and the strangers whose sheets you’re sleeping on.

MENTOR: Tamir Muhammad
Tamir Muhammad oversees Content & Artist Development for Time Warner Inc. for a new digital initiative that supports artists and engagement with Time Warner’s divisions (Warner Bros., HBO and Turner Broadcasting). Prior, he was the VP, Content Development for Tribeca Ent. as well as the VP of Film, TV, and Online Programming at Tribeca Film Institute. Over the years, Tamir has also gained significant production experience and he has served in an advisory capacity to several organizations.


Jonathan Isaac Jackson is the creative director and a filmmaker at The American New Wave Media Group. As a filmmaker, Jonathan has shot over 100+ music videos for artist that range from Moby to C. Perkins from Season 4 of “The Voice."

PROJECT: Illumination of Invisible Men (Documentary Feature)
The hopes of many are carried on the shoulders of a few young men.

MENTOR: Dawn Porter
Dawn Porter’s first feature documentary Gideon’s Army premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Best Editing Award.


Writer-director Kiel Adrian Scott’s films have aired on HBO, PBS, CineMAX, Shorts TV, Creative Control, Centric and BET. Kiel’s film "Shallow Waters" was a Regional Finalist at the Student Academy Awards.

PROJECT: Epilogue (Narrative Feature)
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one woman, with the help of an unlikely stranger, struggles to find the most important thing she lost in the storm—herself.

MENTOR: Effie T. Brown
Effie T. Brown in an award-winning producer of films like In the Cut and Dear White People.


Born in Honduras and raised in New Orleans, Lizzie Ford-Madrid is a photographer with filmmaker tendencies. She has written and directed three short films.

PROJECT: Token Empire (Web Series)
A dysfunctional group of musicians living in New Orleans, must scramble to finish their album after their single gets put into an iTunes commercial.

MENTOR: Moira Griffin
Moira Griffin is the Director of Diversity Initiatives at the Sundance Institute.