UFO Announces Four Filmmakers Selected for Inaugural Short Film Lab
UFO (Untitled Film Organization) today announced the four filmmakers selected for its inaugural Short Film Lab. Bren Wyona, Kevin Xian Ming Yu, Brydie O’Connor and Tahiel Jimenez Medina will participate in an 18-month program “designed to help early-career directors advance and refine their voice and craft, while receiving project financial support, mentorship, professional development, and industry connections as part of a collaborative community.” In-person workshops will take place at Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the four will receive support and feedback from UFO co-directors, guest mentors and each other. The program supports these filmmakers through every stage of the process of making a short, from development and writing through directing and editing. Additionally, each filmmaker will receive $10,000 in unrestricted funding for their UFO short film projects. Partners will also “provide access to a rich array of practical resources and opportunities to aid in the filmmaking process.” For example, Peace is Loud will integrate its impact training curriculum, Collective Lens, into the Short Film Lab experience.
Guest mentors scheduled to provide feedback within the first weeks of the inaugural Short Film Lab include writer-director Sonte’nish Myers, who also teaches in the Graduate Film program at NYU Tisch, and award-winning nonfiction filmmaker Sierra Pettengill (Riotsville, U.S.A.).
“UFO received hundreds of applications for only four opportunities in this lab,” said UFO co-directors Martha Gregory, Arno Mokros and Sean Weiner, in a press release. “From this deeply talented pool of filmmakers, our team invited a collective of filmmakers whose creative work overlaps in both form and content. Within their stories, these filmmakers engage and excavate experiences of immigration, family and generational trauma, identity, and belonging. Most importantly, each filmmaker demonstrates a kindness and generosity of spirit that will bond this group together and help UFO build the collaborative culture of our new organization — a culture that will continue to welcome and support filmmakers into the future.”
UFO recently appeared in Anthony Kaufman’s Filmmaker Industry Beat column on the current state of non-profit development labs, in which he cited the organization’s model of reducing overhead by partnering with existing organizations, such as this program’s Brooklyn Academy of Music.
UFO’s second open call for applications will occur in spring 2024. Four additional filmmakers will be selected to participate alongside the inaugural cohort. The organization plans to offer new open calls every nine months, continuing this pattern.
From the press release, below is the list of the selected filmmakers below, including bios, project loglines and social media, and information about the organization.
TAHIEL JIMENEZ MEDINA (he/they)
Tahiel Jimenez Medina is a Queer Colombian immigrant writer-director. In dedication to his mother and immigrant mamas who escape generational violence, he creates through a lens that celebrates emotional and ancestral journeys, memories, identities, and dreams of the immigrant diaspora. His projects become culture catalysts that decolonize, remember and heal ancestral cycles.
Medina’s visions reached national and international audiences through film festivals including Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, Reykjavik International Film Festival, and Provincetown International Film Festival. He screens films on public local parking lots for his intimate community to gather and dream together.
Notable recognitions include The Jerome Fellowship, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Playlab, and The McKnight Fellowship among others. His projects are available on PBS Digital. Medina directed the immigrant show No Borders, Just Flavors for United We Dream, the biggest immigrant-youth led network in the country. It went to be featured on NPR, NBC Latino, and Remezcla.
Project: Lengua is a short narrative film about an immigrant teenager who, insecure about his accent, attempts to get out of doing an English class presentation.
BRYDIE O’CONNOR (she/her)
Brydie O’Connor is a Kansas-bred, New York based filmmaker. Her award-winning work focuses on women-driven and queer stories. Brydie’s most recent film Love, Barbara (2022) won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Documentary at Outfest and was nominated for an IDA award. Brydie’s work has been supported by The Future of Film Is Female, Dok.Leipzig, Ji.hlava IDFF, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council, DocsBarcelona, and ArtsKC, and has screened at places such as The Museum of Modern Art, BFI, & DOC NYC. Most recently, she was selected as the recipient of the Hulu/Kartemquin Accelerator with her debut feature documentary, and is developing two new archival-based films in the UFO Short Film Lab. Brydie works professionally as an archival producer, and is a graduate of The George Washington University.
Project: The Fault Line (working title) is a hybrid documentary exploring the fracture between a queer daughter and her religious mother, featuring the filmmaker’s own personal archive.
BREN WYONA (any pronouns)
Bren Wyona was born in New Mexico and raised in San Diego, California. Her work explores shifting class landscapes and identity loss conveyed through hybrid-documentary and experimental narrative media.
She is a 2021 Flaherty fellow and Oolite Arts grant recipient. Her first short film Lucha Agua Santa screened in London, Mainz, Athens, Chicago, and Chiapas where it won Best Short Film at the 2022 Festival Internacional de las Artes Cinematograficas.
Her sophomore short film All of Us Magdalenian was shot in Miami, Florida and recently wrapped post-production. It centers around spaces of labor, digital exhaustion, and dopamine distraction from a loved one’s inevitable death.
Project: That with which ringing is done, held above, in place is a hybrid-documentary that investigates the 1970’s American indigenous landscape in a kaleidoscopic collision of Western cinema, surreal animation, and archival footage. Experimental narrative scenes and intimate testimony form a panoramic look at Cowboys and Indians in cultural and hidden bodies.
KEVIN XIAN MING YU (they/them)
Kevin Xian Ming Yu is a director and cinematographer from Queens, NY. They are committed to telling the stories of underrepresented communities, specifically representing the Asian-American communities and diaspora in New York. As a cinematographer, Kevin has worked on various short form projects and two narrative feature films. Their work as a filmmaker and a cinematographer has screened at festivals such as the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, NFMLA and has been featured on Directors Notes and The A.V. Club.
Project: Fish Bones is a narrative film about a nonbinary Asian-American from Queens, who tries to connect with their estranged father and help him deal with a poisonous fish bite.
UFO (Untitled Filmmaker Org) makes space for truly independent filmmakers to work, connect, and thrive. Led by a commitment to community and collaboration, UFO provides direct support to filmmakers at critical and under-resourced career stages, and works in coalition with partner organizations to cultivate a more robust filmmaker support ecosystem. Through programs that emphasize in-person, inclusive community-building, UFO creates opportunities for filmmakers from wide-ranging, intersectional backgrounds to develop and produce uncompromising, boundary-pushing films.
UFO is a filmmaker support nonprofit made possible through the generous support of government, corporate, foundation, and individual giving. More information is available at untitledfilmmaker.org.