CLASS OF 2019
Parisa Barani is an Iranian-Canadian-American film director who was born and raised in Tehran, then immigrated to Vancouver, and eventually settled in Los Angeles. Barani is a recent recipient of the 2016 Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Grant and was shortlisted for the January 2017 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. After earning her MBA from California State University, Long Beach, Barani found employment in film and TV distribution, working at numerous companies as a Director of International Sales.
Barani began her creative career at the John Anson Ford Theatres and the Arts Club Theatre Company. She was mentored by Anne Bogart at SITI's Theatre Intensive Training, learning Viewpoints and Suzuki Method techniques. Barani's award-winning short film ABLUTION (WUZU) screened at festivals worldwide, including the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase. She has spoken on numerous panels, most recently at SXSW 2017, where she curated the panel "Authentic Muslim Voices Tell Their Stories" to advocate for diversity and radically authentic storytelling. She is fluent in English and Farsi and has several projects in various stages of development.
Zoë Bell is a world-class stuntwoman turned Hollywood actor, then producer and now director — a long way from the island of Waiheke, New Zealand, on which she was born and raised. Bell was a avid gymnast and a martial artist. However, upon graduating from high school, her path seemed unclear. Until, a chance encounter between her father (a doctor) and an injured stunt man opened her eyes to the world of stunts. At 17, she became the lead double on XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. A few years later, she received a life-changing call, from Quentin Tarantino, with an offer to double Uma Thurman for KILL BILL: VOL. 1 and VOL. 2. In. 2006, Tarantino seismically shifted the direction of Bell's career once again when he cast her as a lead in his grindhouse film, DEATH PROOF — hailed as having one of the "best car chase sequences of all time" — and she has been acting ever since. With 20 years of film experience under her belt, she has since made the natural progression to producing indie features, two of which she also starred in: the cult classic RAZE and, by the same director, CAMINO. In early 2017, Bell sat in the director's chair for the first time, helming a big commercial campaign for New Zealand's Arnott's — APOCALYPSE STEVE HANSEN. The campaign consisted for four commercials and a short film. The experience fueled a passion and the beginning of a new chapter.
Jessica Kaye was born in South Africa and raised in Minneapolis. After studying Literature and Performance Studies at Harvard, she earned her MFA in Acting at Columbia. While in New York, she starred in plays and feature films, produced and performed in ribald performance-art parties, and played a soap opera villain on television's ONE LIFE TO LIVE. In 2008, she produced and starred in GARGOYLE, a SAFTA-nominated short film shot in Johannesburg. In 2013, she received an MFA in Film Production from USC. Her short films ANGEL and FABIAN DEBORA, A LIFE FOR ART, screened at numerous festivals. Her short film SHORTAGE was executive-produced by James Franco. Kaye is the co-writer/director and lead actor of the feature film INHERITANCE, shot on location in Belize. INHERITANCE premiered at SXSW in 2017 and released theatrically and on VOD. Currently, she is mining her experiences as a competitive figure skater to write a supernatural, coming-of-age, figure-skating feature about a teenager who is possessed by the spirit of her skating idol.
Hailing from North Carolina, Shilpi Roy comes from a traditional Indian family and grew up watching only the song-and-dance numbers from Bollywood movies. After college, Roy began working for Warren Littlefield, executive producer on TV's FARGO and THE HANDMAID'S TALE and former head of NBC Television. Roy then attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts and received an MFA in Film Production.
She wrote and directed the award-winning web series HIPSTERHOOD, which won multiple awards across two seasons. She then produced and directed the magician-comedy series DISILLUSIONED, which garnered a Best Comedy Web Series Award from the HollyWeb Festival. She has also directed episodes of the Emmy®-winning web series EMMA APPROVED. Her digital content success lead her to a Development Consultant position at ABC Digital.
Roy sold her first television show, BROWN GIRLS, to Freeform TV. Working with Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment (AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, LIFE IN PIECES), Nastaran Dibai (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, ACCORDING TO JIM), and Mark Cendrowski (THE BIG BANG THEORY), Roy co-wrote and co-executive-produced the pilot. Roy was also the showrunner on a CMT pilot for SoulPancake (a division of Participant Media).
Roy was selected to participate in Sony's Diverse Directors Program for TV directing in 2014, and was also a 2009 Film Independent Project Involve Fellow. She directs industrial and educational videos for Google and YouTube.
Amber Sealey is an award-winning director, writer, and actor who has made three features. She is a dual U.S. and UK citizen who spent her early years living on communes and traveling the southwest in a VW van.
Her most recent film, NO LIGHT & NO LAND ANYWHERE, won a Special Jury Award at LAFF and the IndieVision Breakthrough Award at TCFF. IndieWire said the film could "further cement Sealey's reputation as one of the most promising directors of female-driven stories working the U.S. today." The film is being released by Factory 25 in 2018.
Sealey was selected for Film Independent's Directing Lab and Fast Track. She has directed content for AOL, Yahoo and Oath. Her first and second features, A PLUS D and HOW TO CHEAT, both received distribution.
As an actor, she has worked with Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer. She has been directed by Oscar® winner Andrea Arnold, and BAFTA winner and Emmy® nominee Susanna White. She is an acting and directing coach and has worked with Camera d'Or-winner Miranda July, Oscar® nominee Mike Mills and Josephine Decker.
Sealey attended RADA and The Central School of Speech and Drama, both in London. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts and Modern Dance from UCSC.
She is in development on the coming-of-age feature film NEW MEXICAN RAIN, the comedy pilot SISTERED, the limited-series drama IDA: IN THE BLOOD, all of which she wrote; and the feature thriller HOLLOW POINT.
Siyou Tan is a writer and director based in LA. Born and raised in Singapore, she grew up in her mother's bookstore, where she developed a love for fiction and storytelling. She is a printmaker and graduate of the film studies program at Wesleyan University. Before settling in LA, she tended bar to travel across Southeast Asia, photographed the Silk Road and documented her family's search for their ancestral village in Southern China. She is fluent in English, Mandarin and Singlish.
For the past five years, she has been an art director at Wondros, working on international productions and a range of film content including music videos, documentaries, experimental short films, branded content, virtual-reality pieces and campaigns for cause-based organizations. Some of her commercial clients include Chanel, Mercedes, Nike, Taschen and Vanity Fair. Currently she is finishing up her most recent short film, 2200 VOLTS, and developing feature film projects.
Carly Usdin is an award-winning director, writer, producer and editor. She began her career in New York at Viacom Media Networks, where she won a One Show Award and several Promax BDA Awards for her RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE promo campaigns.
Primarily crafting short-form content, her freelance clients include Funny or Die, CollegeHumor, Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, World of Wonder, CBS, Fullscreen, Astronauts Wanted, New Form, TruTV, Viacom and YouTube. In 2016, Usdin's first feature, the no-budget indie SUICIDE KALE, won the Audience Award for Best First Feature at Outfest and is now available on iTunes, Vimeo, Seed&Spark and Amazon Prime.
2017 saw the release of Usdin's first comic book series, "Heavy Vinyl," from Boom! Studios. She also served as showrunner and director of the digital anthology series THREADS, now streaming on Verizon's go90 platform. Currently she is developing several projects through her production company, Scheme Machine Studios, which she owns with her wife, photographer Robin Roemer. Usdin is based in Los Angeles and is a proud member of the Academy of Magical Arts.
Talia Zucker is a filmmaker and actor originally from Melbourne, Australia. Her sci-fi screenplay "In Vitro" was selected for the 2016 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and is also being developed with Screen Australia. Zucker studied film at Monash University and UC Berkeley, and studied theatre at the Moscow Art Theatre School. In Australia, her acting credits include: MISS FISHER'S MURDER MYSTERIES, NEIGHBOURS, KILLING TIME, CITY HOMICIDE and DIRT GAME. She also starred in the feature film LAKE MUNGO, which screened at SXSW and the Busan International Film Festival.
Zucker is currently writing a screenplay for Arclight Films and recently completed her short film AFTERWARDS, which she wrote and directed. She has twice been nominated for the Heath Ledger Scholarship.
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