In Collaboration with Deutsche Bank
In Collaboration with Deutsche Bank

Meet the Ten Fellows Shortlisted for the First Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award

Meet the ten young filmmakers selected for the first Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award

M
BY Matthew McLean in Collaborations , Frieze Week Magazine | 14 FEB 20

Launching at Frieze Los Angeles 2020, the first Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award is a major new platform for emerging, LA-based filmmakers. Selected from an open call, ten finalists or ‘Fellows’ took part in an intensive course, led by the non-profit Ghetto Film School. Provided with expert mentorship, practical support and creative stimulation, through the course, each of the fellows has realized a short film about the culture of Los Angeles. ‘It’s a natural step in our ever-developing partnership with Frieze’, says Deutsche Bank Global Head of Art, Culture and Sport Thorsten Strauss ‘to launch this award and support emerging LA storytellers.’ Indeed, the worlds of art and film seem never more intertwined: with art institutions playing host to directors like Wes Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu and David Lynch, and visual artists Steve McQueen, Julian Schnabel and Sam Taylor- Johnson finding new opportunities on the big screen. Taylor-Johnson is one of the Award jurors, along with artist Doug Aitken, Sundance’s Shari Frilot, veteran director Jeremy Kagan and LAXART’s Hamza Walker. The jury will select one winner among the ten fellows’ short films to receive $10,000 in a ceremony at the Paramount Theatre during Frieze. The films will also stream online. Together, they offer a portrait of LA, as dynamic and multifaceted as the group of fellows themselves. 

Still from Danielle Boyd, Platinum Dreams (2019)
Still from Danielle Boyd, Platinum Dreams (2019)

Danielle Boyd
24, from Los Angeles, CA
I’m driven by the desire to help others discover their truth. The concept for the film I’m making for the award actually started at the first session of the Fellowship, at Shirin Neshat’s exhibit at The Broad. I was inspired by the way she conveyed her feelings about being exiled from her home. After I went to Africa for the first time, I began feeling a sudden vacancy about my African-American identity, and saw how this absence can affect us. Shirin’s art is fearless. I believe that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Still from Mya Dodson, Closer (2019)
Still from Mya Dodson, Closer (2019)

Mya Dodson
23, from Fayetteville, NC
I aim to explore the nuanced emotional, spiritual intersections of the Black human experience. Tales of inward dissonance, the friction of perception and reality. I’ve experienced the magic of this town: puffing on a rooftop, chin stretched high to the moon, feeling at peace — all the while, barely a visible star in the sky amongst pollution and financial instability pressing on each side of the present moment. I’m a GFS alum, and can say GFS has empowered me with the knowledge, access, and opportunity to declare with assurance: I am a filmmaker.

Still from Michelle Jihyon Kim, TrashPrius (2017)
Still from Michelle Jihyon Kim, TrashPrius (2017)

Michelle Jihyon Kim
20, from Los Angeles, CA
All my work is informed by my upbringing in Koreatown, a small section of LA marked by rapid transitions, from riots to gentrification. I often find myself trying to tie together loose ends of his- tory, especially through the lens of my own diasporic identity and experience. My short emerged from this mental process of recognizing what moved me about LA and what felt significant. I reverted back to the places of my childhood: the car wash near my dad’s work, the liquor store in the strip mall. These sites are as sacred to me as they are banal to others. In my film, I want to sanctify these places, visually.

Still from Nabeer Khan, Focus (2019)
Still from Nabeer Khan, Focus (2019)

Nabeer Khan
26, from Paradise Valley, AZ
I studied Psychology and Neuroscience in college and am fascinated by the brain, stories about grief, rage and abnormal psychology. Right around when the award fellowship started, my mother called me to ask if I was okay after hearing the news of one of the recent Los Angeles fires, and friends living
in other states texted me. I knew then that I had to make my film about these fires. Born in Manhattan, I moved around the country with my immigrant family for years. My transplant mentality leads me to be especially dialled-in to my surroundings and the atmosphere. I don’t presume to hypothesize what people may interpret from my films. The ensuing discussion is as artful as the piece itself.

Still from Silvia Lara, Villanueva (2018)
Still from Silvia Lara, Villanueva (2018)

Silvia Lara
26, from Whittier, CA
I began as a writer and photographer, but I always hoped to one day see my ideas on screen. Eventually, I discovered I’ve always been a storyteller: it’s my language. The appreciation that I’m doing what I love for a living drives me. I’m an immigrant and I want to ensure my parents’ sacrifices were worth it, for all of us. In my film, I want to see my city, Whittier, portrayed the way I feel it deserves to be seen. I didn’t realize just how special it was until I moved to New York and then returned. The contrast made me appreciate aspects of this suburb on the edge of LA much differently. It’s not as quiet as it seems.

Still from Alima Lee, Garden (2017)
Still from Alima Lee, Garden (2017)

Alima Lee
26, from New York City, NY
Being an artist was never a choice for me. It’s always been my means to survival. Being a black queer femme in a white male dominated industry does not come without its hardships and setbacks, but this is what I need to do to express myself. My mother is a writer and filmmaker and always encouraged me to express how I felt. I was born in Queens, but growing up in LA helped me to find myself. I’ve been able to connect and grow within a vast and beautiful community here, and come into myself as a creative. Doing this for all the people like me is what drives me to never give up.

Still from Timothy Offor, Cal & V (2018)
Still from Timothy Offor, Cal & V (2018)

Timothy Offor
33, from New York City, NY
Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991) was my first-time seeing characters that I knew on screen. Not physically, but in character. I’ve dreamt of sharing my stories with the world ever since. Growing
up, my mom transported me all around, and I would talk her ear off about my plans until she handed me a pen and pad. Since then I’ve always been a writer. Brooklyn birthed me, but LA is where I grew up. There’s a kinship amongst artists with skin like mine liv- ing in this city. The concept for my film originated during a debate with a friend about fear. We were discussing whether people are afraid of failure — or success. My own biggest fear? Reaching my goals without my biggest supporter, my mom, being there to see it.

Still from Toryn Seabrooks, Dana (2015)
Still from Toryn Seabrooks, Dana (2015)

Toryn Seabrooks
25, from Los Angeles, CA
I say I’ve been a director since I was seven years old. Back then I didn’t really know what ‘being a director’ meant, but my parents worked in the industry and I saw my dad navigate Hollywood as a kid. I felt like directing was something that I was just supposed to do. It was hard to admit that I was simply following footsteps. Now, directing has become something personal to me. I realize the only shoes I have to fill are my own. I dream of my work being a vessel for others to explore radical self-acceptance. When you’re trying to impress a person, you do things that you would never think you’d actually do. In my film, I want to explore this comedically, but draw out darker truth about idolatry within Hollywood and what we’re willing to do to be accepted.

Still from Noah Sellman, Further Down the River (2017)
Still from Noah Sellman, Further Down the River (2017)

Noah Sellman
24, from Alamosa, CO
I grew up in the rural Southwest, in a town known for potato farming and UFO sightings. The stories of my youth were the myths, legends and strange happenings of a secluded farm town. I turned to film to bring this storytelling to a wider audience. Moving to LA, I was immediately struck by the branding that covers the city. There is barely a blank surface anywhere. In my film, I’m exploring a dreamscape completely made from branding; I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, so I like to think about the limits of the possible. My actual dreams vary between either super mundane and super high stakes, like fighting to save the world from super villains. My dream in the real world is to go on as many adventures as possible. And to make a living with my films.

Still from Nicole L. Thompson, Blackbird (2019)
Still from Nicole L. Thompson, Blackbird (2019)

Nicole L. Thompson
27, from Newark, NJ
The protagonist of the film I’m making is a kid from New Jersey who is forced to stay with his grandparents for the summer in LA. As someone who relocated from New Jersey to here, I know how hard it is to transition, but I wanted to show also the beauty of learning about LA from an outsider’s perspective. As a storyteller, I believe we can change the course of the times if we share our knowledge and learn from one another with open minds. In urban communities like LA, the youth aren’t told they can be anything they put their minds to it. In my films, I want to and dare people to chase their dreams.

This article appeared in Frieze Week, Los Angeles 2020

Matthew McLean is Creative Lead, Frieze Studios, based in London, UK.

SHARE THIS