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Frieze Los Angeles 2023

Three Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award Fellows Share Their Stories

As the Award marks its third year, Diante Singley, Jane Chow and Timothy Offor share how the Fellowship helped their artistic and professional development

BY Allison Noelle Conner in Collaborations , Frieze Los Angeles , Frieze Week Magazine | 10 FEB 23

It was during the summer of 2020 that film writer and director Jane Chow was scrolling through the resources at Free the Work, film director Alma Har’el’s talent discovery platform. After a year spent directing commercials and music videos, Chow was eager for opportunities that would allow her to reprioritize her own narrative projects, and her attention was caught by a call for entries for the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award. While Chow had never applied for this kind of program before, she was drawn to the Fellowship’s emphasis on professional mentorship and creative support alongside the development of a 3–4 minute short film. ‘Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better first program,’ says Chow.

Jane Chow, Sorry for the Inconvenience, 2021
Jane Chow, Sorry for the Inconvenience, 2021, film still. Courtesy: Jane Chow

Launched in 2019 to coincide with the inaugural Frieze Los Angeles and driven by a commitment to inclusivity, the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award brings together ten shortlisted Fellows to participate in a four-month intensive filmmaking course led by the award-winning, nonprofit Ghetto Film School (GFS), with support from the production company FIFTH SEASON (formerly Endeavor Content). Guided by a thematic prompt, the Fellows develop their projects while learning about the ins and outs of film production from guest speakers representing all facets of the industry, whether cinematographers, writers, producers or executives. The Fellowship ends with a ceremony for the Fellows and their films during Frieze Week, and the announcement of the US$10,000 prizewinner, picked by a jury of esteemed artists and cultural workers. In the past, jurors have included internationally renowned curators Christine Y. Kim and Hamza Walker, acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley and producer Alana Mayo, a long-time collaborator with Michael B. Jordan and now head of Orion Pictures, which oversaw Billy Porter’s directorial debut.

Brooklyn-born Timothy Offor participated in the first iteration of the Fellowship, applying on a whim following the recommendation of a friend. Like Chow, he viewed it as an opportunity for a change of pace from the freelance grind, where he took on editing and directing gigs, amongst other things. In addition to the sessions at art institutions like the Hammer Museum and the Underground Museum, Offor says he appreciated the investment in their professional development, noting the program’s practice of taking headshots of the Fellows and setting up interviews about their art. He also points to his cohort’s collaborative nature: ‘Yeah it’s a competition, but a lot of us ended up helping each other and advising (on each other’s projects).’ ​ ​

Still from Timothy Offor, Sweet Dreams, 2020. Courtesy: Timothy Offor
Timothy Offor, Sweet Dreams, 2020, film still. Courtesy: Timothy Offor

Offor’s own generous spirit caught the attention of GFS, and after he left the program, he was asked to join the company as a consultant, with a particular focus on running the Fellowship. He joined in the second year, which coincided with the award’s new partnership with Endeavor Content (now FIFTH SEASON). With their support, alongside GFS, Offor made the curriculum more filmmaker-centric, tapping into Endeavor’s wide network. ‘We wanted the sessions to reflect the filmmaking process,’ he explains. ‘By the time those four weeks are over, you’re ready to shoot your project.’ The Fellowship also aims to prepare the participants for the future, with presentations by agents and representatives. Chow cites a talk with writer and director Rashaad Ernesto Green as a highlight. ‘I remember that conversation being so affirming. He’s a multi-hyphenate too, a writer and director who works in both film and TV,’ she says. ‘When you’re able to hear about other people’s career trajectories, you start to see the possibilities for yourself as well.’ After running other GFS programs with brands like Neutrogena and Netflix, Offor is taking time to focus on his own projects. ‘It has been great helping filmmakers. But ultimately I need to make movies. That’s what my goal is.’ Diante Singley, a Fellow from the third year of the program, came across the award through a friend who had participated in the second year. Working as a creative executive by day, he says the Fellowship allowed him the space to ‘get back to basics.’ It also afforded him the chance to build new connections with his peers and colleagues. ‘You meet these phenomenal people who you aspire to be, and you see what got them to where they are.’

Still from Diante Singley, Greyhound, 2022. Courtesy: Diante Singley
Diante Singley, Greyhound, 2022, film still. Courtesy: Diante Singley

Although Singley went into it with modest expectations, his impressionistic film Greyhound (2022), which follows a young Black man’s encounters with his community and loved ones before leaving for college, ended up winning the coveted prize. ‘It felt very beautiful to be in a room and have people look at you like a filmmaker.’ Since winning, it’s been heartening to have people reach out to him as a creative, rather than an executive, Singley says.

Chow’s life has also shifted since the Fellowship. Her film, Sorry for the Inconvenience (2021), a stirring ode to Chinatown, centers on a teen helping her parents run their seafood restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic. After it won the inaugural Audience Award, which is voted for by general viewers alongside the jury-decided Award, Chow decided to keep up the momentum, releasing the short film on platforms like Omeleto and NoBudge. That led to the piece being chosen for NBCUniversal’s ‘Scene in Color Film Series’, sponsored by Target. She is now at work on an original pilot script for NBCUniversal. ‘Even though the Fellowship was in 2020 and early 2021, opportunities keep coming from this short film. It’s been a really exciting process.’

Watch all the films by the Fellows of the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award and discover the winners here

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, February 2023 under the headline 'Being Seen: Winning Recognition for Young Filmmakers'

Main image: Jane Chow, Sorry for the Inconvenience, 2021, film still. Courtesy: Jane Chow

Allison Noelle Conner is a writer. She lives in Los Angeles, USA.