Participant Promotes Emma Shapiro, Taps Sarah Sobel — Film News in Brief

Emma Shapiro Sarah Sobel Participant
Courtesy of Participant

Participant has bolstered its leadership team with new senior V.P. roles, promoting Emma Shapiro to senor V.P. of communications and naming Sarah Sobel as senior V.P. of business and legal affairs.

Shapiro continues to report to president of worldwide marketing Christina Kounelias, working on developing, strategizing and communicating the corporate, content-driven narrative and impact of the company. Sobel will report to Jeannine Tang, general counsel, and focus on activity for scripted television, docu-series and narrative feature films.

Kounelias said, “Emma has proven herself to be an outstanding and effective leader, and her positive impact has been felt throughout the company. She has put her impressive D.C. background, relationships, and relevant campaign experience to good use as we work together to show the power of art and activism on and off the screen.”

Tang added, “We are thrilled to have Sarah join us as we continue to develop innately original and thought-provoking content. Her deep knowledge of our business makes her an invaluable asset to the Participant family.

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Announces Disability Challenge Filmmakers Grants

NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) has awarded $2500 in grants to five 2021 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge Filmmakers. The awardees will also have their projects screened at NFMLA’s InFocus: Disability Film Festival on Aug. 7.

The filmmakers awarded with funding include Emily Pascal, Maria DiDomenico, Natalie Trevonne, Dani Bowman and Anna Pakman. The winning filmmakers will be able to have meetings with executives and creatives including FilmNation Director of Development Natalie Wegner, film agent Charlotte Lichtman at ICM Partners, Director of Comedy Programming Pia Chikiamco at HBO, Creative Executive Charnay Mather at Anonymous Content, Senior Manager of Documentary & Docuseries Development Tara Nadolny at VICE Media, Director of Comedy Development Gus Hoffman at Warner Bros. Television, TV Literary Agent Auri Maruri at Gersh and Director of Development Carly Kleinbart at Mandeville Films.

The fund is part of a year-round endowment established at NFMLA by the Rhulen family, in celebration of the life and career of the late film producer Anthony Rhulen. The grants aim to support, nurture and champion emerging independent, diverse voices and aid in the creation of new documentary and narrative projects.

“There is so much creative talent out there just waiting to be discovered. NFMLA is consistently curating powerful new voices worth hearing from and the Anthony Rhulen grants add another layer of support to these content creators with disabilities and contribute to filling an unacceptable void in our industry. We’re proud to be partnered with the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge on this initiative,” says NFMLA’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Larry Laboe. Go to NFMLA.org for more information.

‘Aware: Glimpses Of Consciousness’ Debuts New Trailer

“Aware: Glimpses Of Consciousness” will have its U.S. Theatrical Release Starting In Los Angeles On Friday, September 24 (Laemmle Theaters) And New York On Friday, October 8 (Cinema Village).

Directors Frauke Sandig and Eric Black follow scientists delving into the greatest of mysteries, having to confront the ‘Big Questions’. It presents some of the world’s most brilliant researchers approaching consciousness – each from radically different perspectives, including Roland Griffiths, the renowned Johns Hopkins University psychedelics researcher, plant biologist Monica Gagliano, Christof Koch, Chief Scientist of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and the famed Tibetan Buddhist monks, Matthieu Ricard and Mingyur Rinpoche.

The film opens  as a science film but emerges well beyond the explicable, ultimately leading one on a voyage upon the ocean of consciousness, a contemplative, sensual, cinematographic meditation. The networks of consciousness are reflected in ‘grand’ imagery revealing the vast interconnectedness of Nature – from the smallest organisms, to the world of plants and animals and on to the cosmos. It invites one to experience the awe and mystery of life as the researchers do, to dive in with them, returning to see the world anew, to review long-held beliefs and assumptions and initiate one’s own oceanic journey. Ultimately, to be aware one is aware.

Area23a is the distributor of the documentaries, “Fantastic Fungi” and “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.”



Hola México Film Festival Returns for 13th Annual Edition

Hola México Film Festival, presented by DISHLatino will return for its 13th annual audition from September 17-25, during Hispanic Heritage month.

The event will take place in person, with opening and closing night screenings taking place outdoors at LA Plaza de Cultura Y Artes. Other in-person screenings will be held at Regal Cinemas LA Live.

“Although Hola México Film Festival continued in 2020 in a virtual format, we deeply missed the irreplaceable communal experience of being with each other to showcase the strength and diversity of Mexican cinema. Through the enduring power of the cinematic arts community, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome back film lovers and finally be able to gather and embrace in-person during the 2021 Hola México Film Festival,” said founder and director Samuel Douek via press release. “We look forward to helping ensure that Mexican filmmaking continues to grow and prosper for years to come.”

Hola México is the largest Mexican film festival outside of Mexico. Jorge Michel Grau’s “Perdida” will open, followed by 20 other films throughout the week. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.holamexicoff.com.

Universal Production Music and FirstCom Music Announce Merger

Universal Publishing Production Music announced that two of its companies, Universal Production Music and FirstCom Music, are merging to create a production music powerhouse.

Operating as Universal Production Music, the company will provide clients with personalized services, taking advantage of its world-class production music library, innovative search technologies, support from top creative teams and streamlined licensing capabilities.

“The marriage of these two U.S.-based production music superstars highlights Universal Production Music’s place as the industry’s finest, truly global brand,” said Michael Sammis, president of Universal Production Music. “Our newly combined U.S. team will partner with colleagues around the world to pursue new talent, develop innovative services, and use trend insights to benefit our customers’ projects. Together, they will continue to drive innovation while delivering superior music and services to our client base.”

VMI Worldwide Launches Distribution Arm VMI Releasing

VMI Worldwide, a leading film finance, production and international sales company, has launched a new distribution arm, VMI Releasing, with Kendall Anlian serving as head of the new venture. VMI CEO Andre Relis made the announcement.

VMI Releasing’s first theatrical and digital release will be “Defining Moments” on Aug. 27. Written and directed by Stephen Wallis, the film stars Burt Reynolds, Sienna Guillory, Graham Greene, Shawn Roberts and Tammy Blanchard.

“I have known Andre for many years and have always been impressed with VMI’s level of content, both on the acquisition side as well as the production side,” Anlian said. “With the everchanging landscape of the digital and home entertainment space we are employing strategic release plans that will adapt and grow with the platforms. I look forward to a long, successful relationship with Andre and his talented team.”