Netflix, Ghetto Film School Launch Winning Films From Program for Emerging Black Directors (EXCLUSIVE)

In honor of Juneteenth, Netflix and Ghetto Film School have launched the winning films from the inaugural class of their new content creation program focused on emerging Black filmmakers.

The three films — “Silence of Friends” by Nia Stanford, “Divinity Streak” by Jess Waters and “Day Into Knight” by Sarah Jean Williams — are now live on Netflix Film Club’s YouTube channel.

“New voices are vital to the entertainment industry,” Netflix Studio Film manager Emily Wolfe, Netflix Independent Film manager Alexander Zahn and Ghetto Film School executive director Derrick Cameron said in a blog post announcing the debut. “They can introduce audiences to new subject matters, new styles of filmmaking and, most importantly, new perspectives completely different from our own.”

“Given the themes of these three films — stories about identity, resilience and freedom — we found it only fitting to release them ahead of Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.,” the post reads. “Our hope is that these films can add to the ongoing conversations surrounding this important holiday and even inspire new ideas and viewpoints.”

The new initiative began last fall, when Netflix partnered with Ghetto Film School to fund short films from aspiring college-level filmmakers and GFS alumni. The alliance comes as part of Netflix’s announced $5 million commitment to support the next generation of Black storytellers.

For the program, emerging filmmakers were invited to submit 5-10 minute original short-form fiction or nonfiction projects that explored topics of Black identity and lived experiences. Ten of those concepts made the shortlist, and after those applicants submitted formal pitches, the selection committee chose the three finalists, who were each awarded a $25,000 production budget for their short films.

The filmmakers were also mentored during the process by Netflix and Ghetto Film School representatives.

For more information on the films and each filmmaker, go to Netflix.com. (Pictured above: Nia Stanford, Jess Waters and Sarah Jean Williams)

“Silence of Friends” by Nia Stanford
When COVID-19 sends her back to her hometown for good, a Black woman is confronted by her lifelong conditioning in a white society and begins the journey to challenge it. 

Stanford is a second-year student at The New School, as well as an alumnus of the Ghetto Film School’s 30-month film fellowship program.

“Divinity Streak” by Jess Waters
After a summer of hard-fought progress in the wake of a nationwide racial awakening, three activists plan to hijack a space shuttle and go to Mars to create a better world.

Waters is an award-winning queer Black non-binary screenwriter, who describes their narrative focus as revolving around the re-imagining of history “to create both grounded and fantastical explorations of Black and LGBTQ+ identity through a unique lens.”

“Day into Knight” by Sarah Jean Williams
A Black female high school graduate confronts her childhood dealings with racism — and her mom’s important advice — as she delivers her valedictorian speech. 

Williams is a writer, actor, director and current student at NYU Tisch, who won the special grand jury prize for her film “Never Grow Up,” as a member of the Ghetto Film School program.

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