America Ferrera, Mariska Hargitay, Chrissy Metz and Lena Waithe Named Inaugural Ambassadors of the 12th Annual NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Debra Martin Chase, Sakina Jaffrey, Allen Maldonado, Victor Turpin and Masi Oka Also Join as Judges

Festival Celebrating Diverse Stories Unveils Its Nine Finalist Shorts That Explore Themes of Race, Identity and Love

Finale Screening and Awards Ceremony Set for Wed, October 18 in Los Angeles

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – September 14, 2017 – The 12th Annual NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL, which celebrates diverse stories while finding the next generation of storytellers, unveiled America Ferrera (“Superstore”), Mariska Hargitay (“Law & Order: SVU”), Chrissy Metz (2017 Emmy® Award nominee for “This Is Us”) and Lena Waithe (2017 Emmy® Award nominee for “Master of None”) as its first-ever ambassadors. The ambassadors will serve as advocates for the festival and join the judging panel of talent and NBC executives who will determine the festival’s award winners for Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Comedy and Outstanding Director, among others. Included in this year’s diverse group of producers, writers, actors and executives on the judging panel are NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, Universal Television President Pearlena Igbokwe, Debra Martin Chase (The Princess Diaries, Just Wright), Sakina Jaffrey (“Timeless,” “The Mindy Project”), Allen Maldonado (“Black-ish,” “Survivor’s Remorse”), Victor Turpin (“Shades of Blue”) and Masi Oka (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Heroes”).

The festival also named its nine finalist shorts: Akashi, Audible Static, Couples: Movie Night, Cul-De-Sac, Emergency, Groundhog Day for a Black Man, Lost Dogs, Misery Loves Company: Pussy and Pop Rox. The finalist shorts set a new festival record for female and Asian-American representation; six of the nine finalist shorts were either written or directed by women and six of the films feature Asian-American stories or writer-directors. The finalist shorts were selected from among 16 semi-finalists shorts that were showcased at public screenings in New York last month.

“We are incredibly honored to have such high caliber talent as our inaugural festival ambassadors. America, Mariska, Chrissy and Lena along with our amazing judging panel embody the spirit of our Short Film Festival. Their commitment to and advocacy of underrepresented storytellers complement our festival’s mission to shine a spotlight on diverse filmmakers and inclusive stories that best represent the world in which we live,” said Karen Horne, SVP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. “We are also thrilled with our nine finalist shorts. These compelling stories present unique viewpoints on the universal themes of identity, love and acceptance. We are excited to celebrate them and the filmmakers behind them at the finale event.”

The films and filmmakers will be recognized at the finale screening and awards ceremony on October 18, 2017 at the Director’s Guild of America in Hollywood. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved at the festival website.

Synopses of the finalist films are:

AKASHI Writer & Director: Mayumi Yoshida

Kana, a young Japanese woman, receives news that her grandmother has passed away. During her trip to attend the funeral, she recalls intimate conversations with her grandmother that lead her to examine her own life.

AUDIBLE STATIC Writer & Director: Sai Selvarajan

Thaddeus, a clever teenager with a speech impediment, creates a new way to communicate his feelings to his crush. (trailer)

COUPLES: Movie Night Director: Ryan Sulak | Writer: Chris Sturgeon
A quiet night-in for couple, Sara and Adam, turns into an epic thrill-ride to find the perfect movie in a race against time before Sara falls asleep. (

CUL-DE-SAC Director: Damon Russell | Writer: Shawn Christensen

Parents living at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac discover a listening device inside their son's teddy bear. The film stars Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals, The Vampire Diaries). (trailer)

EMERGENCY Director: Carey Williams | Writer: K.D Davila

A group of Black and Latino college students carefully weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an emergency situation. (trailer)

GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN Writer & Director: Cynthia Kao

A Black man continually relives the same day until he can survive an encounter with the police.

LOST DOGS Director: Cullan Bruce |Writers: Cullan Bruce and Chris Lee

A woman ridiculed by her family longs to escape. Striking a deal with her brother to clear his illegal debt, she delves deeper into darkness. (trailer)

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: PUSSY Director: Gloria Calderon Kellett,

Writers: Sara Amini and Emily Chang

Two friends navigate being women of color in a post-election world, while trying (and failing) at a #blessedlife in LA. In this episode, Sara and Emily deal with cat-callers on the street. (trailer)

POP ROX Director: Nate Trinrud | Writer: Alyssa Lerner

Jesse, an Iranian-American teenage girl, decides to tell her best friend, Roxanne, that she's in love with her. (trailer)

The NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is presented by NBCUniversal and NBC Entertainment with title partners: Universal Pictures, Panavision, Xfinity and the NBCUniversal Division for Social Responsibility. Additional 2017 festival partners include Focus Features, Oxygen, USA Network, Bravo, Syfy, Fandango, E! Entertainment, Telemundo and Hulu, as well as industry partners including Creative Artists Agency (CAA), SAG-AFTRA, Tandem Productions, Everybody Digital, Room & Board, Writers Guild of America – East, Writers Guild of America – West, DGA and PGA.


Founded in 2006, the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is the first and only film festival created and run by an entertainment studio solely dedicated to celebrating the importance of diversity in entertainment and discovering the next generation of storytellers. The annual bicoastal program is a nationwide search for diverse talent, both in front of and behind the camera, including those from ethnically diverse backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ community, artists with disabilities and female content creators. Winners are awarded with prizes ranging from development meetings and holding deals with NBCUniversal to cash grants and industry standard software and camera packages. Festival alumni include Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) and Hasan Minhaj (The Daily Show). The festival is part of the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS) that discover and nurture on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds. For more information, visit #NBCUshortsFEST

About the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS)

Since 2000, NBC has been dedicated to discovering and nurturing on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds through the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS). NBC TIPS are amongst the most extensive and robust diversity and inclusion programs in the television industry. They feature more than 20 programs including Writers on the Verge, the Diverse Staff Writer Initiative, Female Forward, Emerging Director Program, StandUp NBC nationwide search for stand-up comedians and the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL that celebrates diverse stories and the filmmakers who create them. Program alumni are celebrated producers, writers, directors and actors in the entertainment industry who have gone on to win Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards and include Alan Yang, Mindy Kaling, Deon Cole, Lil Rel Howery, Keto Shimizu, Natasha Rothwell, Danny Pudi and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel. For more information, visit


Dupe Bosu

NBC Entertainment


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