Netflix has launched a new pipeline program aimed at launching the “next wave of marquee filmmakers” working in high-concept genres.

The Emerging Filmmaker Initiative (EFI) gives three filmmakers the opportunity to develop, fund, produce and distribute their short films on Netflix, with a focus on stories in the sci-fi, action, horror and thriller genres.

The initiative is inspired by the trajectory of rising star Stefon Bristol, who Spike Lee first introduced to the streamer to produce his short-turned-feature “See You Yesterday.” The high-impact time-travel tale went on to earn an Independent Spirit Award for best first screenplay and Bristol has set his second project with Netflix, “Gordon Hemingway & The Realm of Cthulhu.” Like “See You Yesterday,” Bristol will direct the upcoming film, also produced by Lee, who recently inked a multi-year creative partnership with Netflix where the streamer will invest in the filmmaker’s ongoing mission to develop new talent.

“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,” Ian Bricke, VP of independent film at Netflix, wrote in a blog post describing the program.

Through the initiative, Bricke explains, the chosen 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. The filmmakers will also be paired with experienced director mentors; Ron Howard and Barry Sonnenfeld offered their guidance to this year’s filmmakers.

EFI’s first class of filmmakers are Hebru Brantley (“Erax”), Ashley Eakin (“Forgive Us Our Trespasses”) and Marielle Woods (“Heart Shot”), whose short films launch globally on Netflix Feb. 17.

Brantley’s short film “Erax” is set during a sleepover, as 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.

Though the multi-disciplinary visual artist is originally from the south side of Chicago, Brantley currently resides in Los Angeles. He has exhibited his art around the world, been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Forbes” and on CNN, and has collaborated with brands like Nike, Hublot and Adidas. Brantley is expanding into content creation by adapting 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.

Eakin is a writer-director with a physical disability, whose short “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” is set in 1939 Germany, a disabled farm boy is pursued by Nazi soldiers after Hitler enacts Aktion T4, a program to euthanize people with disabilities.

Eakin is currently developing a half-hour TV show with 20th Century for FX, inspired by her SXSW Special Jury Recognition award-winning short film “Single” (developed as part of AFI Directing Workshop for Women and which has played over 40 festivals). In 2021, Eakin also directed episodes of television for Apple and Disney plus, is co-writing a feature for Wayfarer Studios with her husband Shawn Lovering and will partner on the development of a Netflix thriller.

Woods is the award-winning, queer filmmaker behind “Heart Shot,” which centers on high school seniors, Nikki and Samantha, who are in love and planning their future — until Nikki’s violent past comes back to threaten everything she holds dear. Woods is described as a filmmaker who “thrives in the high-stakes world of action storytelling.” Woods is a HBOAccess fellow and 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 “Cobra Kai” from Netflix and Sony Pictures Television.

(pictured: Ashley Eakin, Hebru Brantley and Marielle Woods)

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