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Introducing the Emerging Filmmaker Initiative to Support New Voices in Genre Storytelling

Introducing the Emerging Filmmaker Initiative to Support New Voices in Genre Storytelling

In 2017, Spike Lee introduced us to director Stefon Bristol and his standout short film, See You Yesterday — an exciting genre-bending proof of concept that we ultimately developed into a Netflix feature film. The film went on to win an Independent Spirit Award and now he is in development on a second, larger genre film with us.

Stefon’s short opened a lot of doors, but for many up-and-coming filmmakers, it takes years just to get that first shot. We want to change that. 

Today, I’m excited to announce the Emerging Filmmaker Initiative (EFI) and our debut three filmmakers. EFI is an annual program created to cultivate and accelerate the careers of the next wave of marquee filmmakers working in high-demand genres like sci-fi, action, horror and thriller. 

Every year, EFI will work with three breakout filmmakers to develop, fund, produce and distribute ambitious genre short films. Through the initiative, these filmmakers will gain priceless access to the film studio ecosystem early in their careers and receive hands-on experience in development, casting, production, scoring, editing and more. We’ll also pair each filmmaker with an experienced director mentor. Directors Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code, Apollo 13) and Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Addams Family) offered invaluable guidance to this year’s filmmakers. 

Over the years, we’ve had great success discovering, nurturing and partnering with new voices like Leigh Janiak (Fear Street Trilogy), Hernán Jiménez (Love Hard), Jeymes Samuel (The Harder They Fall) and Stefon so we’ve started EFI as a development pipeline for the Netflix film team to give more filmmakers the opportunity to hone their craft and take the next leap in their careers.

EFI’s first three films will be released globally on Netflix on February 17. You can find out more about the films and the filmmakers behind them below:

Hebru Brantley (Erax)

During a sleepover, Auntie Opal and her niece Nina accidentally release the mythical and dangerous Erax creatures that must be returned to the storybook from which they escaped. 

Hebru Brantley is a multi-disciplinary visual artist from the South Side of Chicago whose work explores a contemporary and distinct narrative that challenges the traditional view of the hero or protagonist. Brantley has exhibited around the world and been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Forbes and CNN. Brantley has collaborated with brands such as Nike, Hublot and Adidas, among many others, and collectors of his work include top athletes, celebrities, and filmmakers. Brantley currently resides in Los Angeles where he is expanding into content creation with the adaptation of his flagship character FLYBOY through his media company, Angry Hero. He is also developing several original projects including Hype with Peter Chernin at Netflix, Kankakee with Seth Rogen at Lionsgate and several TV projects set up at HBO and HBO Max.

Ashley Eakin (Forgive Us Our Trespasses)

In 1939 Germany, a disabled farm boy is pursued by Nazi soldiers after Hitler enacts Aktion T4; a program to euthanize people with disabilities.

Ashley Eakin is a writer/director with a physical disability. She is currently developing a half-hour TV show with 20th Century for FX, inspired by her AFI Directing Workshop for Women short film Single that won the SXSW Special Jury Recognition award and has played over 40 festivals. In 2021, Eakin directed two episodes of television for Apple and one episode for Disney+. In addition, Eakin and her husband Shawn Lovering are currently co-writing a feature for Wayfarer Studios and will partner on the development of a Netflix thriller. 

Marielle Woods (Heart Shot)

High school seniors Nikki and Samantha are in love and planning their future — until Nikki's violent past comes back to threaten everything she holds dear.

Marielle Woods is an award-winning, queer filmmaker who thrives in the high-stakes world of action storytelling. She loves to push emotional buttons and visual boundaries, telling stories that make audiences think — with a few explosions and car chases along the way. In addition to the HBOAccess Fellowship, Woods has been recognized as a member of the Universal Director's Initiative and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. She has directed episodes for Seasons 4 and 5 of Netflix's Cobra Kai from Sony Pictures Television.  

Lindy Lika

Netflix Communications