join renew donate

Press Releases

The Gotham Film & Media Institute and HBO Documentary Films Announce Second-Annual Documentary Development Initiative Cohort

by The Gotham Staff on January 9, 2024

NEW YORK (January 9, 2024) – The Gotham Film and Media Institute and HBO Documentary FIlms have announced the second-annual cohort and mentors for the Documentary Development Initiative. Launched in 2022, the initiative was designed for storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or storytellers with disabilities, to provide resources to develop thought-provoking, character-driven, contemporary ideas for documentary films and limited series.

Those selected as participants are Rolake Bamgbose, Dan Chen, Elizabeth Lo, Andy Sarjahani, Krystal Tingle, and Monica Villamizar. Creatives serving as mentors include Anthony Caronna, Zackary Drucker, David France, Dawn Porter, Fernando Villena, and Nanfu Wang.

The selected filmmakers will once again be given grants of $50,000 for research and creative development at an early stage. HBO and The Gotham will provide resources and mentorship to support the development of documentary projects and select grantees will have the opportunity to receive additional funding. Initial funding may be used for creative development and ideation, research, treatment development, securing access, initial shooting and the production of work samples, trailers, and more. Funding for these grants is sponsored by HBO Documentary Films and WBD Access. Through best-in-class talent development programs, mentorship, placement opportunities and industry exposure, WBD Access serves as a powerful conduit connecting underrepresented talent to Warner Bros. Discovery content and brands.

“It’s our privilege and joy to collaborate with a new group of fellows for the second year of this important initiative,” said Sara Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, HBO Documentary Films. “We are indebted to our talented mentors for their generosity in providing expertise and guidance which are crucial to the program’s continued success.”

“After an incredible launch year filled with bold stories and practical learning, we couldn’t be more excited to welcome a new cohort and new mentors to this Documentary Development Initiative,” said Kia Brooks, Deputy Director of The Gotham. “This new cohort stands out due to their talent, perspectives, and desire to break storytelling boundaries. We’re thrilled to extend our partnership with HBO Documentary Films on this program and to find new ways to create pathways for historically excluded storytellers in a changing media landscape.”

The program will take place throughout the fall of 2024. Ideas generated through the Initiative will be offered to HBO on a “first-look” basis, giving the network the first opportunity to make an offer to develop them further.

See below for additional details on the selected cohort and mentors.

Cohort Participants

Rolake Bamgbose is a two-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker and former journalist with over a decade of experience producing and directing compelling documentaries and short films. She is a Los Angeles born, first generation Nigerian-American passionate about shining light on circumstances that drive cultural shifts, and illuminating varying experiences throughout the African diaspora, and other marginalized communities around the world. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).

Dan Chen is an Emmy-nominated director from small town Manhattan, Kansas, where he developed his love of horizon lines and do-it-yourself filmmaking. The son of Chinese immigrants, his work explores outsiders fighting human nature, flawed systems, and the passage of time. He has screened work at Tribeca and Slamdance, appeared on Vimeo Staff Picks and Short of the Week, and his documentary feature film debut Accepted received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary as a part of PBS’ POV series.

Elizabeth Lo is a filmmaker whose work includes Stray (New York Times Critics’ Pick, Independent Spirit Award nominee 2021) and Hotel 22 (Sundance 2015). She’s been featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” DOC NYC’s “40 Under 40” List, and Cannes Lions’ “New Directors Showcase,” and is a recipient of the Locarno, NYFF, Yaddo, and MacDowell artist fellowships. Currently she is directing her next film, Untitled Mistress Dispeller Project, co-financed by Anonymous Content and Impact Partners, and supported by the Concordia Studio Fellowship and Rooftop Filmmaker Fund.

Andy Sarjahani is an Iranian-American documentary filmmaker and cinematographer raised outside the Arkansas Ozarks. He is interested in people, our relationship to place, and how that shapes our worldview. His work has been supported by The Pulitzer Center, ITVS, The New Yorker, Center for Asian American Media, DOC NYC, New Orleans Film Society, Southern Doc Fund, and PBS.

Krystal Tingle is a Jamaican-American, award-winning director, writer, and producer living between Los Angeles and her hometown of Miami, Florida. Her films explore themes of faith, joy, womanhood, and the rich complexities of Blackness across the diaspora. Her film Over The Wall, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short at the BlackStar Film Festival. She is known for her work on the Emmy-nominated, Critics Choice Award-winning The 1619 Project.

Monica Villamizar is a three time Emmy-winning Colombian-American filmmaker and foreign correspondent. She directed and produced the documentary Transition, which premiered at Tribeca 2023 and won the Audience Award at the Berlin Human Rights Film Festival. She was a producer on Showtime’s series The Trade and National Geographic’s documentary The First Wave, which was awarded the Best Documentary Emmy in 2022.

Cohort Mentors

Anthony Caronna is a filmmaker in Brooklyn, New York who over the past decade has transitioned from experimental live theater to filmmaking. In part because of this unique background their work has been celebrated as genre breaking. Most recently they co-created and directed the critically acclaimed four-part docuseries Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York for HBO. 

Zackary Drucker is an American multimedia artist, director, and producer who has dedicated her work to telling stories that expand our cultural understanding of difference. Her credits include directing the Hulu Original documentary Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl; and co-directing the Sundance award-winning HBO original documentary film The Stroll and the HBO documentary series The Lady and the Dale. She has performed and exhibited her work internationally in museums, galleries, and film festivals including the Whitney Biennial 2014, MoMA PS1, Hammer Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, MCA San Diego, and SF MoMA, among others.

​​David France is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning investigative journalist. His documentary films have screened globally and received Peabody, Emmy and BAFTA awards. His films include How to Survive a Plague (2012), The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017), and Welcome to Chechnya (2020).

Dawn Porter‘s films include Gideon’s Army (Sundance 2013), Trapped (Sundance 2016), The Way I See It, and John Lewis Good Trouble. Porter’s work has been featured on HBO, Netflix, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, MTV Films, and other platforms. Porter’s latest documentary, The Lady Bird Diaries, an all-archival documentary about Lady Bird Johnson, debuted at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Lone Star Prize and is currently streaming on Hulu.

Fernando Villena directed With Any One of Us after a 20-year editing career. The film was nominated for two Sports Emmys. Giving Voice, co-directed with long time collaborator Jim Stern, was voted Festival Favorite at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It follows the lives of five teenagers as they compete in The August Wilson Monologue Competition. He next directed HBO’s Dear Rider, an intimate portrait of Jake Burton Carpenter and his role in making snowboarding a global phenomenon. Villena’s latest project is an HBO limited documentary series, The Golden Boy, based on the life of boxer Oscar De La Hoya. 

Nanfu Wang is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes feature documentaries Hooligan Sparrow (Sundance 2016), I Am Another You (SXSW 2017, Special Jury Prize winner), One Child Nation (Sundance 2019, Grand Jury Prize Winner), and HBO’s In the Same Breath (Sundance 2021). Most recently, Wang directed and executive produced Mind Over Murder, a six-episode documentary series for HBO. Wang’s films have been shortlisted for three Oscars, received seven Emmy nominations, one DGA nomination, three Independent Spirits Awards nominations, and two PGA nominations among other awards.

About WBD Access 

At Warner Bros. Discovery we believe in authentic, meaningful connection—to each other, to culture, and to our consumer. That’s why we empower fearless storytellers who bring our world into focus—and create cultural touchstones with the power to draw us together. Through best-in-class talent development programs, mentorship, placement opportunities and industry exposure, WBD Access serves as a powerful conduit connecting underrepresented talent to our content and brands. For more information on WBD Access visit

About Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery (NASDAQ: WBD) is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates and distributes the world’s most differentiated and complete portfolio of content and brands across television, film and streaming. Available in more than  220 countries and territories and 50 languages, Warner Bros. Discovery inspires, informs and entertains audiences worldwide through its iconic brands and products including: Discovery Channel, discovery+, CNN, DC, Eurosport, HBO, HBO Max, HGTV, Food Network, OWN, Investigation Discovery, TLC, Magnolia Network, TNT, TBS, truTV, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Television, Warner Bros. Games, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies, Discovery en Español, Hogar de HGTV and others. For more information, please visit

About The Gotham Film & Media Institute

The Gotham celebrates and nurtures independent film and media creators, providing career-building resources, access to industry influencers, and pathways to wider recognition. The organization, under the leadership of Executive Director and award-winning producer Jeffrey Sharp, fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Gotham Week, Gotham Labs, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Awards, Gotham EDU, Owning It, and Expanding Communities.

Media Contact
[email protected]