Sundance Institute Launches Initiative to Advance Trans Storytellers of Color

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The Sundance Institute launched today the inaugural Trans Possibilities Intensive, a three-day virtual program focused on advancing transgender storytellers of color and their projects. Six artists have been selected for the intensive, where participants will work on their projects, sharpen their craft, develop community, and challenge the obstacles that often exclude transgender artists of color.

The intensive is designed and led by Moi Santos, Sundance Institute Outreach & Inclusion and Indigenous Programs Coordinator, and includes guidance from experienced creative advisors including Sam Feder, Yance Ford, Tourmaline, and Ro Haber.

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The selected fellows include Ava Davis, StormMiguel Florez, River Gallo, Carol Grant, Mitchell (MiSha) Owens, and Savannah Ward. They were nominated by the Institute’s allied organizations, including organizations working with emerging transgender artists of color, and peers within the Sundance Artist Programs.

During the Intensive, fellows will participate in a robust schedule including group exercises and workshops, as well as collaborations with creative artist advisors. The program begins with a free public event on October 18 at 10 a.m. PT on Sundance Collab, Beyond the Tipping Point where filmmakers Tourmaline (“Happy Birthday,” “Marsha!”) and Sam Feder (“Disclosure”) discuss their filmmaking processes, the state of transgender representation, and the power of storytelling as an agent of cultural change.

“This Intensive is the result of ongoing and evolving priorities through Sundance’s Outreach and Inclusion work and a year of thoughtful and intentional planning, heartfelt commitment, and a belief in supporting transgender storytellers of color and their stories,” said Santos. “We are honored that the Fellows have chosen to share their artistic journeys with us and look forward to continuing our relationship and building community together for years to come.”

In advance of the intensive, Santos and GLAAD created a transgender awareness training designed to further knowledge and understanding about transgender and non-binary people so the Sundance Institute can continue advancing inclusion for transgender artists, employees, volunteers, and audiences in both physical and online spaces.

The 2021 Trans Possibilities Intensive Fellows and projects (with bios courtesy of the artists) are:

Ava Davis

Ava Davis, also known as the Duchess of Grant Park, is a trans actress, producer/filmmaker, and writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also an advocate for increasing trans and queer representation, especially that of black and other minorities.

Project: “The Waltz” — Career-driven Claire has fully transitioned into a woman, and finds an unlikely partner who can help her realize her lifelong dream of learning to waltz, but both find themselves unsure of the others’ feelings.

StormMiguel Florez

StormMiguel Florez is a trans, queer Xicane filmmaker, actor, and lifelong musician, whose film work includes documentaries The Whistle (Producer/Director) and MAJOR! (Co-Producer/Editor). He’s originally from Albuquerque, NM and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years. He lives with his partner and their 3 chihuahuas.

Project: “Welcome To Roswell” — A middle-aged trans filmmaker returns to his father’s birthplace, Roswell, New Mexico to document coming out to his family. His partner’s obsession with the 1947 UFO crash takes him and his film crew in a very different direction.

River Gallo

River Gallo is a GLAAD award-winning Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, writer, model and intersex activist. They are the creator and star of the short film Ponyboi (Tribeca 2019) which was the first narrative film created by and starring an out intersex person in cinema history. River is currently developing Ponyboi into a feature film, produced by Ezra Miller. They are represented by CAA and Management 360.

Project: “Ponyboi” — When a high-profile john expires coitus interruptus, intersex sex worker Ponyboi suddenly finds himself in a fever dream on the run from the New Jersey mob on Valentine’s Day.

Carol Grant

Carol Grant is a screenwriter and Nicholl Quarterfinalist from the San Fernando Valley. Between writing screenplays about queer identities and bodies, she writes for publications like Vice, Indiewire, and Little White Lies. Carol’s stories come from both a trans and a neurodivergent perspective, discovering the thin boundaries between flesh and mind.

Project: “Eurydice V” — In a decaying Earth, a troubled mercenary must smuggle a young, illegal clone that’s escaped from her creator through a dystopian Mexico to a sanctuary on a colonized moon.

Mitchell (MiSha) Owens

Born and raised just outside of the Navajo Nation I’ve always wanted to tell stories that would resonate with audiences. Whether it be raw, and gritty, or light-hearted and comical, I want my stories to remain authentically real by staying true to who I am as a TransFeminine individual.

Project: “The Boy from Across Town” — After a late night hook-up, a small town Drag Performer gets caught up in an old classmate’s involvement with the local drug cartel.

Savannah Ward

Savannah Ward is a Black trans/non-binary writer who’s currently an Executive Story Editor on Cruel Summer, the thriller drama series produced by Jessica Biel for Freeform. In their spare time, Savannah writes Horror features because, “what is more horrific than being a Black, queer, trans person in America?”

Project: “Meta” — Insecure about his masculinity, Black transgender teen Jake, aims to be a star athlete and transfers schools to run on the Boys Cross Country team. But when he discovers that most of his teammates are a pack of bloodthirsty, toxically masculine Werewolves, Jake must define what it means to be a man for himself.

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