By Bruce Haring
The festival celebrates diverse stories while finding the next generation of storytellers. Admission to the screening and awards is free and open to the public but requires a ticket that can be obtained at the festival web site, nbcushortsfest.com.
Awards in eight categories will be presented to winning filmmakers by Essence Atkins (Marlon), Stephen Bishop (Imposters, Being Mary Jane), Ester Dean (Pitch Perfect 3), Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 3), Akbar Gbajabiamila (American Ninja Warrior), Manny Jacinto (The Good Place), Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect 3, Love Beats Rhymes), Allen Maldonado (Black-ish, The Last O.G.), Nico Santos (Superstore, Crazy Rich Asians), Victor Turpin (Shades of Blue) and Kelvin Yu (Master of None).
The festival has also partnered with America Ferrera’s advocacy organization Harness for the “Harness Social Impact Award,” to be given to the short that best represents a social issue. Harness is an advocacy organization founded by Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams and Wilmer Valderrama that connects artists, influencers and grassroots leaders to inspire action and change. Harness will present the award in conjunction with the NBCUniversal Social Responsibility division.
“Part of our mission at Harness is to increase representation of diverse voices in entertainment as a means to expose audiences to new perspectives and to create more empathy in the world,” said Ferrera. “Partnering with the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival gives us an opportunity to honor an up and coming filmmaker whose work shows a unique point of view on a critical social issue.”
The festival is also introducing the “Critics’ Choice Award,” with an 18-member jury of film and television critics and entertainment writers voting on the short they feel makes the most impact. The award will be presented by the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Claudia Puig, a former USA Today critic who also served as an inaugural jury member.
“The passionate response from artists such as Kym and our amazing presenters, organizations like Harness and respected journalists to be part of our festival signifies how widespread the desire is to increase representation in entertainment,” said Karen Horne, SVP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. “We are proud that our short film festival is not only a platform for diverse stories, but also a place to develop up and coming storytellers who are already creating work that reflects our society.”
The festival will also award filmmakers in the Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Comedy, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Writer, Outstanding Actor and the Audience Award categories.
The awards will be determined by the festival’s first-ever ambassadors, including Ferrera (Superstore), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) and Lena Waithe (Master of None), as well as a judging panel. That panel includes 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).