Financing Intensive

2020 Financing Intensive

For the last seven years, Sundance Institute and Women In Film have been working together to address the most challenging obstacles facing women filmmakers at structural and project-based levels. Accessing capital remains elusive for even seasoned creators, and our research has shown that women continue to deal with particular gendered biases that make it harder to secure financing.

Held April 27–28, 2020, Women In Film Financing Intensive is designed to help approximately 12 filmmaking teams (6 narrative and 6 documentary) advance a front-burner project to the next stage of financing success. Over two days, filmmaking teams will participate in the following events: small group workshops focused on both pitching and financing strategy, an evening panel with financing experts, and one-on-one meetings with potential financiers and partners.

The goal of this Intensive is for filmmakers who are actively seeking financing to walk away with stronger presentations as well as actionable, strategic steps to advance their projects to the next stage, and a chance to meet with potential partners.

To be eligible to apply, each filmmaking team must have:

  1. A strong feature-length documentary or narrative project actively seeking financing.
  2. The ability and willingness to discuss that project in small groups comprised of fellow filmmakers and high level advisors.
  3. Producer-director teams are welcome, as are producers or directors on their own. If a producer attends on their own, there must be a director attached to the project. If a director attends on their own, they should be a director-producer hyphenate or be intricately involved in financing the project. This is a producing-intensive clinic, and that skill set will be required.
  4. This clinic will not be appropriate for highly seasoned filmmakers. First time filmmakers with strong projects are appropriate as are mid-career artists who would benefit from pitching, financing, and strategy counsel.
  5. One participant with active Women In Film membership.
  6. Los Angeles residence or means to attend. Travel is not provided.

Applications are now closed.

2019 Documentary Fellows


AIN’T I A WOMAN is the untold story of conflict and camaraderie between black and white feminists as they fight for equal protection under the law.

Sabaah Folayan  |  Director
Folayan is an award-winning storyteller who uses written and visual media to bring a fresh perspective to the urgent questions of our time. A Los Angeles native, she has thrived in vastly different environments, from South Central L.A. to the Upper West Side. Her outlook on social change is both inclusive and unapologetic. She attended Columbia University as a pre-medical student and graduated with a degree in biology. Outside-the-box thinking and passion for social good then drew her to community organizing. She honed strategic planning skills in the nonprofit and grassroots sectors before becoming a filmmaker. Folayan made her directorial debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with WHOSE STREETS?, which chronicles the experiences of activists living in Ferguson, Missouri when Michael Brown Jr. was killed. The film, distributed theatrically by Magnolia Pictures, was funded by the Sundance Documentary Film Program, Tribeca Film Institute, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and many others. When not writing/directing narrative and documentary content, Folayan visits cities across the U.S. and abroad, using WHOSE STREETS? to stimulate communal discussions about art, healing, and truth in the age of fake news.

Sarah Adina Smith  |  Producer
Smith is a writer, director, and producer. Her film BUSTER’S MAL HEART stars Rami Malek and premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. The Village Voice raves that BUSTER’S MAL HEART is, “science fiction that’s complex, thoughtful, and funny, like 12 MONKEYS or PRIMER run through a FARGO filter.” Her first feature, THE MIDNIGHT SWIM, won six top prizes on the festival circuit, including the breakthrough audience award from AFI Fest. She directed two episodes of the hit new show “Room 104” for HBO and an episode of “Legion” for FX. Most recently, she helmed “Hanna” for Amazon, which premiered this spring and was renewed for a second season. Next up, she’s directing the pilot episode of “Looking for Alaska” for Hulu, based on the beloved novel by John Green. Smith is currently developing an original TV series for FX with Protozoa and Fox Searchlight TV producing.


Arriving to the U.S. border after an arduous 2,600-mile journey where they faced dehydration, hunger, extreme weather, abysmal conditions, intimidation, and even abduction, four Central American immigrants traveling with one of the largest caravans in recent history face the last, but most decisive, battle of their exodus: trying to get U.S. asylum. EXODUS STORIES is a 90-minute vérité documentary told from the perspectives of different migrants who made the treacherous and grueling journey inspired by the dreams of freedom and a new life…but will they find it?

Ilse Fernandez  |  Director/Producer
llse Fernandez has produced and directed over 200 hours of nonfiction docuseries and reality shows for networks including ABC, NBC, VICE, MTV, Netflix, Univision, Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic, History Channel, and TLC. She worked as a Director and Field Producer on five seasons of the A&E series “Intervention,” including the 2009 “Outstanding Reality Program” Emmy® Award-winning season. In 2010, the “Rachel” episode she directed about a homeless NYC street junkie whose boyfriend is unexpectedly imprisoned was nominated for Emmy and Producers Guild awards. Fernandez works as an Executive Producer and Director overseeing documentary series that have her signature visual style fused with the highest journalistic integrity and storytelling. She was the showrunner on Viceland’s cutting-edge 8-part documentary series “Cyberwar” that investigates the geopolitical digital landscape, from NSA whistleblowers to hackers like Anonymous. Most recently, she both directed and executive produced “Music Happens Here,” Spotify’s first documentary series about pivotal locations in music history, which won three Clio Awards.


HOSSAIN is a coming-of-age story set among the Rohingya refugee crisis. Filmed over the course of a year, this feature documentary follows six-year-old Hossain Johar as he fills his days with grand adventure while living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. But soon, deadly monsoons and a controversial repatriation back to Myanmar force him to grapple with the complexities of an unfair world for the first time in his young life.

Taimi Arvidson  |  Director
Taimi Arvidson is a director with a decade of experience creating critically-acclaimed documentaries, television series, and commercials. She recently directed the National Geographic Channel series “Mars” which was executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. The series was nominated for an International Documentary Award for “Best Episodic Series” and called “visually gorgeous” by The New Yorker. Called “unexpectedly relatable” and “pure magic,” her first short documentary, MAKE THEM BELIEVE, about Moscow’s underground wrestling ring premiered with Filmsupply Originals as a Vimeo Staff Pick and was selected to appear in the Oscar®-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival and 15+ other festivals around the world. Other recent work includes producing Oprah Winfrey’s “Belief,” about human spirituality around the world, and National Geographic’s Emmy®-nominated series “Hard Time,” about the lives of inmates. Her work has been featured by clients such as Nike, CNN, Ulta Beauty, Apple, Esquire, Discovery Channel, and more. She is currently directing for “Home,” the first docuseries from AppleTV+.

Brette Ragland  |  Producer
Brette Ragland is an international travel producer who has produced for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and National Geographic Channel. Currently, Ragland is working with Davis Guggenheim on a new documentary series for Netflix. Most notably, she served as the field producer for the Travel Channel’s number-one show “Expedition Unknown” and its spinoff “Legendary Locations.” Previously she has worked with directors Cat Gund at Aubin Pictures, and Liz Garbus on the Oscar®-nominated film WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? Before jumping into documentary, Ragland spent a year living in Bangladesh as a fellow with the Asian University for Women.


A nun journeys alongside L.A.’s prisoners and ex-lifers to guide them as they seek redemption, internal transformation, and the hope of physical freedom. Sister Mary Sean has made it her life’s mission to help prisoners prepare to be granted parole. Believing that some damage is irreparable, she also believes that everybody is redeemable. Through her Partnership for Re-Entry Program (PREP), she facilitates mock parole hearings and courses in 32 of California’s prisons, and her office in South L.A. is staffed by ex-lifers who coordinate the program for inmates. Filmed with vérité intimacy, HOW TO ESCAPE FROM PRISON follows the lives of three former lifers, one nun, and a death row inmate as they each journey toward greater self-realization.

Elizabeth Mirzaei  |  Director/Producer
Before Elizabeth Mirzaei began to make films, she was a teacher at a school for the blind, editor of the only English-language newspaper on a Russian island, and manager of a clandestine bar in Kabul. During the eight years she lived in Afghanistan, Elizabeth directed films for Al Jazeera, the BBC, Discovery Channel, and others. Her first feature documentary, LAILA AT THE BRIDGE, received awards and nominations at numerous festivals including CPH:DOX, Santa Barbara, Bergen, Hot Docs, and Sheffield Doc/Fest. LAILA AT THE BRIDGE had a theatrical release in London through the Bertha DocHouse, and is still on the festival circuit. Mirzaei is writing her first narrative short, and is being mentored by Shana Feste and Jennifer Levine in the Women In Film Directing Circle. Elizabeth is fluent in Persian and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Gulistan and their three-year-old daughter Maryam Rose.


THE GREEN DREAM takes an in-depth look at the racial inequity within the billion-dollar cannabis industry, the continued War on Weed, and higher incarceration rates of people of color in illegal states in the USA today.

Parisa Dunn  |  Director/Producer
Parisa Dunn is an Anglo-Iranian filmmaker who has worked in TV, film, and journalism for over 15 years. She co-produced the award-winning human rights narrative feature film DESERT DANCER, starring Freida Pinto. The film was released in North America in 2015 following its opening at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In 2016 it was released in the UK and 15 more territories. Accolades include: nominated for the “Audience Award” at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015, nominated for “Best Cinematography” at Camerimage 2014, and winner of the 2015 Fred & Adele Astaire Award for “Best Choreographer.” In the UK, Parisa worked as a producer and Head of Production on numerous TV primetime documentary series for Channel 4, Discovery, and Sky One. In her early career she worked as a radio journalist/newsreader and video journalist across BBC and local radio, TV news, and the Press Association. Parisa graduated in Producing from the London Film School and has a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism.


How did the willful daughter of an Indian forest guard become Monsanto’s worst nightmare? THE SEEDS OF VANDANA SHIVA tells the remarkable life story of the controversial eco-activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, how she stood up to the corporate goliaths of industrial agriculture, rose to prominence in the sustainable food movement, and inspired an international crusade for change.

Camilla Beckett  |  Director
Camilla grew up in apartheid South Africa and was an activist in the anti-apartheid movement. She began her professional career in writing, editing, and outreach, working for independent publishers who originated books by anti-apartheid intellectuals and artists such as Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Nadine Gordimer, and J. M. Coetzee. She edited a book review column for a South African newspaper and co-established the Cape Town Book Fair (now the South African Book Fair). In the United States, she continued to work as an editor, reviewer, and publicist for both small and major lists. Camilla’s first foray into filmmaking was an award-winning film about intractable childhood epilepsy that she made in response to her young child’s diagnosis. Since then she has directed and co-produced several Becket Films projects, including videos for Dr. Shiva’s Bija Vidyapeeth University.

Maureen Tunney  |  Producer
Maureen Tunney is an independent film producer whose projects have ranged from commercials and public service announcements to such innovative app content as the “Be My Eyes” campaign, which creates instant communication between blind and sighted partners. She developed her professional skills in an atmosphere of service, beginning with her long association with Luethi-Peterson Camps International, which each summer brings together children from numerous world cultures in several European and North American locations. She has also been a mentor to numerous young people seeking film and media careers, including her own sons. Her involvement with THE SEEDS OF VANDANA SHIVA is a continuation of her strong interest in advocacy for underrepresented communities around the world.

2019 Fiction Fellows


When Riz, an employee of the KORA agency (a “TaskRabbit for wellness” app), gets accidentally reassigned from low-level care work to becoming a cuddler-for-hire, he seizes the opportunity to try on this new elevated status and explore the luxurious environments and wide-ranging needs of his female clientele.

Stephanie Wang-Breal  |  Director
Stephanie Wang-Breal is an award-winning filmmaker, commercial director, and co-founder of the independent production company Once in a Blue Films. BLOWIN’ UP, her third feature-length film, had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2018 and was awarded the “Best Documentary Feature” award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Film International des Femmes in Paris, France. BLOWIN’ UP will have its theatrical run in New York, Los Angeles, and select cities in the Spring of 2019. The film is represented internationally by Cinetic Media. Her first film, WO AI NI MOMMY (I LOVE YOU MOMMY), played in over 50 film festivals around the world and was the recipient of three Grand Jury “Best Documentary” Awards at the AFI/Discovery Silverdocs Film Festival, the Asian American International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, as well as a 2011 CINE special Jury Award. Stephanie’s second film, TOUGH LOVE, premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2014 and screened in film festivals across the country. Wang-Breal has also directed commercials and branded content for Planned Parenthood, Minwax, ESPN, Water Wipes, Vocativ, Verifone, Tiffany & Co., Apple, Nickelodeon, Goldman Sachs, UNICEF, CNN, A&E Television, and MTV Networks. Stephanie is represented commercially by the good guys at Good Company. Stephanie currently sits on the Board of the New York Women’s Foundation and resides in Brooklyn, New York, with her son and daughter.

Carrie Weprin  |  Producer
Weprin is a film, television, and digital video producer. As an independent producer, she has created content for A&E Television Network, MTV Networks, EPIX, YouTube, The New York Times, Facebook, and PBS. Most recently, Carrie worked for The New York Times video department, where she helped bring the award-winning travel column “36 Hours” to television on the Travel Channel. She also oversaw the production of several digital video series including: “The Trials of Spring” and “Our Man in Tehran.” In 2014, Carrie produced the feature-length documentary film, TOUGH LOVE. TOUGH LOVE premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2014 and premiered on PBS POV in July 2015. The film is the recipient of the 2016 American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award. Weprin produced the feature-length documentary BLOWIN’ UP, which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and daughter.


A teenage girl, whose only chance of making it out of the hood is through college, considers extreme measures to make cash after her tuition is stolen.

Kameishia Wooten  |  Director
Originally from Goldsboro, N.C., Wooten discovered her passion for filmmaking after making a short film that was well-received on campus. Realizing her desire to be a storyteller, she went on to pursue a M.F.A. in Film Writing and Directing from Columbia College Chicago. Her film SOUTHERN CROSS won several finalist awards and has screened in film festivals around the world, including the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and the Cannes Emerging Filmmaker Showcase. Wooten was also selected as a finalist for the HBO/Chase Film Challenge for her short script BIRTHDAY She recently completed production on her sixth short, DESTINY’S ROAD an adaptation of a feature screenplay that received high marks on the Black List. She’s worked for entertainment companies such as Universal, Disney, Paramount Pictures, and currently Netflix, where she oversees document delivery for the Original Studio Film group. Wooten’s mission is to create films that foster diversity, culture, and community.

Traci Carter Holsey  |  Producer
Traci Carter Holsey recently produced two family-friendly shorts, one of which, THE BOOTS, is on the film festival circuit, recipient of the “Kids Favorite” Audience Choice Award at the Tally Shorts Festival in Tallahassee, and is an official selection for the 12th Annual Cinema on the Bayou festival, the Toronto Black Film Festival, and the14th Annual Hollywood Black Film Festival. As one the newest members of the court team at Entertainment Studios, Carter Holsey  produces 21 shows a week. Her passion is curating intellectual properties: specifically, inspirational dramas based on true stories. Carter Holsey recently wrapped as Associate Producer on the OWN hit show “Iyanla Fix My Life,” traveling the nation with the production team. She also has producer credits with Bunim/Murray on shows for Oxygen Network, TLC, and Shed Media as Story Producer, Story Editor, and Field Producer for “Best Ink.” In 2009 she Holsey joined as a non-exclusive producing partner with Niecy Nash’s production company Chocolate Chick, Inc. Carter Holsey holds a certificate in Producing from the Professional Producers Program at UCLA and a certificate from UCLA Extension Screenwriters Program. Currently, she is producing a pilot for Telepictures (a division of Warner Bros. Television), based on The New York Times best seller, It’s Hard To Fight Naked, a memoir by Niecy Nash.


In a small town in Ecuador, teenager Diana escapes from an institution for troubled girls with her toddler. The goal: to pick up her younger sister from their abusive childhood home and start a new life.

Maria Abraham  |  Director
Maria Abraham (writer/director) is from Las Vegas, Nevada. She has an M.F.A. in Film and Video Writing and Directing from Columbia College Chicago and a B.A. in European Studies from UCLA. Abraham received a Fulbright grant to live in Ecuador and complete research for her feature script GIRL WITH CHILD, about a teenage girl searching for a new home with her toddler. Her short film of the same name won “Best Short Short” at Aspen Shortsfest and the Chicago Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. Abraham was a 2018 Tribeca TFI Network fellow with GIRL WITH CHILD, as well as a 2018 Film Independent Directing Lab fellow and 2016 Film Independent Screenwriting Lab fellow with the project. She has worked as a director and producer on documentaries, commercials, music and fashion videos, artist development labs at Sundance, and the Webby-winning NBC/Snapchat digital series “Face Forward.”

Luz Agudelo Gipson  |  Producer
Luz Agudelo Gipson, a Colombia native, attended Columbia College Chicago where she received a B.A. in Film and Video. Her work includes several award-winning short films and countless cross-platform commercials for a multitude of brands, most notably the “Obama for America” 2008 presidential campaign, which received the Titanium and Integrated Lions Grand Prix award at Cannes. Agudelo Gipson was the Executive Producer at the nationally-acclaimed music and audio house, Comma. She led the establishment of its Hispanic division and spearheaded the rebranding of its music catalog. Currently, she is a Producer at the U.S.’ leading DRTV agency, Eicoff, a division of Ogilvy & Mather. Agudelo Gipson was a 2016 Film Independent Producing Lab fellow with GIRL WITH CHILD and recently participated in Tribeca’s TFI Network with the project.


When a group of friends heads out for a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods, they quickly find themselves unable to avoid hidden obstacles while trying to escape a psychotic carpenter.

Sherrie Quannea  |  Director
While completing her Master’s Degree in Political Science, Sherrie Quannea co-founded IKED Entertainment, a boutique production company specializing in new media and original content for branding and marketing purposes. Operating purely on instinct, in 2006 she produced her first theatrical piece. Her first film as a producer was the horror short THE SHAPE. She subsequently produced and directed another short, HABIBA. Her first two films instilled in her the importance of having a good producer who is flexible, patient, able to multi-task, and good with people of varying personalities and temperaments. In 2013 she produced and directed her first television commercial for Crazy Woman Water. She went on to produce and direct several other projects including an online lifestyle show, “WestLA2Day,” “The Dating Advice for Guys” show, live events, and music videos. Most notably she produced and directed a powerful short film about the impact of police violence against people of color, #WEMATTER. The film screened to rave reviews and collected awards throughout the U.S. and Canada. Overall, Quannea participated in the making of at least six films, numerous marketing/branding videos, and countless event sizzle reels, and is still going strong.

Isaac Díaz  |  Producer
Isaac Díaz has been professionally producing since 2008, but has always had a passion for creating content. Whether it was bootleg mix tapes he would sell to his friends in high school or putting together a film project, Díaz has always been drawn to content creation. Projects he has produced have won multiple awards and have screened at more than a dozen film festivals, both domestically and internationally. Having produced hundreds of short-form projects, from award winning web series, to commercials, to event videos, Díaz is focusing his efforts on more narrative content. He is dedicated to producing content that not only entertains but elicits some sort of reaction from the audience, and hopefully starts important conversations. He earned a B.A. in Cinema-Television Arts from Cal State Northridge and completed the Professional Program in Producing at UCLA.


ODIUM is a feature-length thriller about a young couple coming to terms with the death of their son, the potentially linked disappearance of a neighbor girl, and the mental illness that has enveloped their lives.

Annika Pampel  |  Director
Pampel was born and raised in former East Germany. As a teen she started working at a radio station and had her own daily show by the age of 13. During high school at a music conservatory, she worked for a local TV station as a reporter focusing on music. She always wanted to tell stories, and got her B.F.A. in Theater History and Directing at Bayreuth University. Then, Pampel received a Fulbright scholarship for Indiana University and completed her education with a Masters in Film Directing at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in 2011. Pampel has written and directed several short films, music videos, and documentary segments for German and Australian television. In 2016 she shot the short CROSSING FENCES, which underwent a successful festival run and garnered several award wins and worldwide distribution. In 2018, she wrote the feature ODIUM which won the ISA “Table Read My Screenplay” feature prize at the Hollywood Pitch Festival. The International Screenwriters Association named her one of 25 writers to watch in 2019.

Sabrina Stoll  |  Producer
Sabrina Stoll is an award-winning creative producer based in Los Angeles. She most recently received the Women In Film Producing Fellowship for the short drama/thriller JUST A DRILL. She also wrote and produced the short horror/comedy MONDAYS for Fox Digital that premiered at the Cannes International Series Festival in 2018. Stoll was an associate producer on the indie art-house feature LOVERS (2019), directed and written by award-winning director Rebecca Panian. Having an extensive producing background in live, branded, and VR content, Stoll not only won the Google VR 180 Fellowship (2018), but also a Clio Award for Music (2016) and an Emmy® Award for Interactivity (2017). Passionate about the voices that usually aren’t heard or seen onscreen, Stoll developed and produced a Women Empowerment Campaign for more women behind and in front of the camera called “She’s Got Drive” with the Geena Davis Institute, Google, and Ford Motor Company, that won a Purpose Award for Social Good (2017). Born and raised in Southern Germany, she moved to the United States by herself after high school and graduated magna cum laude from USC.


Inspired by true events: when four women from different backgrounds and beliefs are trapped and hiding during the Rwandan genocide, their 81-day fight for survival forges an unbreakable sisterhood.

Alanna Brown  |  Director
Alanna Brown is a writer/director devoted to the inclusion of marginalized voices in film and TV. TREES OF PEACE, her debut feature script, was a finalist of the Tracking Board Launch Pad Features Competition. In 2018, she was named to the Black List and the Hit List with her second feature script THE 29TH ACCIDENT, which Berlanti Productions is attached to produce. She was also named to the 2018 Young & Hungry List for her body of work. Her previous writing/directing includes 1426 CHELSEA STREET, a festival-award-winning short film which she also produced, and a proof-of-concept trailer for TREES OF PEACE. Alanna is repped by Charles Ferraro and Anna Berthold at UTA, and Hannah Ozer and Aaron Kaplan at Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment.

Vicky Petela  |  Producer
Vicky Petela is originally from the U.K. but is now based in Los Angeles. She studied producing at the National Film and Television School before working on projects for Universal, The Walt Disney Company, ITV Studios, and Endemol. She ran the LA Short Film Festival in 2015, before producing PERFECT ROAST POTATOES for Dirty Robber, starring Catherine Tate, Tituss Burgess, and Jessica Walter. In addition to producing TREES OF PEACE, Petela is currently developing and producing several feature projects for Timur Bekmambetov at Bazelevs and assisting with development for Character Seven and The Ink Factory.