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Margaret Rose Lester, Steve Martinez and Chandus Jackson

Talent Talent

2018 Directors Initiative

As part of the studio’s ongoing commitment to inclusively identify and develop female and diverse directors, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Global Talent Development & Inclusion launched the Universal Directors Initiative in 2018.

The Intitiative convenes participants from the Sundance FilmTwo Initiative in which Universal is an exclusive sponsor and AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women where the studio is a sponsoring partner.  During the yearlong curriculum, selected filmmakers are introduced various UFEG business units as well as select NBCUniversal businesses.  


Christina Choe

Christina Choe's debut feature Nancy recently premiered at Sundance in the US Dramatic Competition, where it won the Waldo Salt Best Screenplay Award and was acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films for theatrical release. Nancy stars Andrea Riseborough, Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo, and J. Smith-Cameron and was included on the Best films of 2018 by Indiewire, The Village Voice and the A/V Club.

Choe's docu-series Welcome to the DPRK, a personal portrait of North Korea, was acquired by First Look Media/Topic Studios and currently streaming online.
Her short films, I am John Wayne won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, with The Queen and Flow screening at Telluride, SXSW, Aspen, among many others.
Additional honors include a year-long Directing Fellowship with HBO, a Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship awarded at the Independent Spirit Awards and Sundance Film Two Fellowship.

Andrew MacLean

Andrew Okpeaha MacLean is an Iñupiaq filmmaker originally from Alaska, living now in Brooklyn, NY. Previous credits include the short films Natchiliagniaqtuguk Aapagalu: Seal Hunting With Dad, which played at the Sundance film Festival, Sikumi, which won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at Sundance, and the feature film On The Ice, which won a Crystal Bear and the Best First Feature Prize at the Berlinale. In his hometown of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow, Alaska), Andrew co-founded the Iñupiat Theater, which was dedicated to performing shown entirely in the Iñupiaq language. He currently teaches directing in New York University’s Graduate Film Program, of which he is also an alumnus. Andrew is currently developing his second feature film, Qimmit.

Nijla Mu'min

Nijla Mu'min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area.  Named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine for 2017, she tells stories about black girls and women who find themselves between worlds and identities. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, IFP, and Film Independent.  Her short film Dream was acquired by Issa Rae Productions (Insecure, HBO) for online streaming. Her debut feature film, Jinn, premiered in narrative competition at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where she won the Special Jury Recognition Award for screenwriting. The film will be released by Orion Classics on November 15th. She recently directed an episode of Ava DuVernay's critically-acclaimed television series Queen Sugar. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of CalArts MFA Film Directing and Writing Programs.

Olivia Newman

Writer-director Olivia Newman’s debut feature film, First Match, was named one of the Audience Award and Gamechanger Award at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. Written and directed by Newman and financed by Netflix, First Match stars newcomer, Elvire Emmanuelle, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, The Get Down) and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead, If Beale Street Could Talk). Newman is an alumna of the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and the 2018 Sundance Two Initiative for the development of her second feature, Southwest of Oneonta. In addition, Newman is attached to write and direct Courting Danger for Maven Pictures, starring Olivia Cooke.  As one of ten directors selected for NBC's inaugural Female Forward TV Directors Initiative, Newman was recently hired to direct an episode of Chicago Fire. Newman is the recipient of high-profile grants including the IFP/ Durga Foundation Filmmaker Award, Tribeca All Access, and the Adrienne Shelly Foundation Filmmaker Grant and has received support for her films from the Sundance Insitute, the San Francisco Film Society, Film Independent, IFP and the Tribeca Film Institute.  Now based in Los Angeles, Newman received her BA in French and Women’s Studies from Vassar College and her MFA in Film from Columbia University. She is represented by WME and Grandview Management


Georgia Fu

Georgia Fu is a filmmaker who grew up between two worlds, Taiwan and the United States, which is a theme she continues to inhabit today. She received her BFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts majoring in Cinema Studies with a minor in East Asian Studies. After college, she spent over a year perfecting her Chinese language skills at the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University. After Taiwan, she worked at the photo desk in Paris and Hong Kong at the International Herald Tribune. She then returned to NYU to complete her MFA in film production at their Tisch Asia campus in Singapore. Her first short, Gigantic screened at Slamdance and Chicago International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the “Gold Hugo” prize for Best Short Film. Miss World, her NYU thesis won the Jury Prize at New Orleans Film Festival, an Oscar qualifying festival, and the Best Editing prize at Hollyshorts. She also received the Linda Mabalot New Directors/New Vision award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, as the film continues to travel the festival circuit. Georgia attended AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, completing another short film, You Win USA Vacation Resort which she is developing into a feature film. Recently she participated in this year's TIFF Filmmaker Lab where she was one of three filmmakers chosen to participate in the Hollywood Foreign Press / Film Independent inaugural Los Angeles Residency. In addition to writing, directing, and photography she also works as an editor in Los Angeles. She has had extensive training working as assistant director on film productions in places as varied as China, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong and Prague.

Milena Govich

Along with being selected for AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, Milena Govich also participated in Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors Program. She is currently directing episodes of Chicago Med and Chicago Fire on NBC. Her short film and TV series proof-of-concept called Unspeakable, starring Laura Vandervoort and Jeff Kober, had its World Premiere at SXSW 2018. Her short film, Temporary, has played all over the country winning Best Narrative Short at Anthem Film Festival, Best Dark Comedy at Atlanta ShortsFest, and the Jury Award at Anchorage International Film Festival. She has also mentored with and shadowed over a dozen established film and television directors. As an actor, she started on Broadway in the Sam Mendes/ Rob Marshall revival of Cabaret at Studio 54, and is best known for her TV work on Finding Carter (MTV), Rescue Me (FX/Denis Leary), and as the first and only female detective on the Emmy winning series, Law & Order (NBC).

Gandja Monteiro

Gandja Monteiro is a director, writer and producer based in Los Angeles and São Paulo. Raised between New York's Lower East Side and Brazil, she has been making films since she was 17 and traveling the world since she was just three months old. This early exposure to such vast cultures instilled a curiosity that has always inspired and informed her work.

Since graduating in film from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she has directed work in more than a dozen countries, four continents and eight languages. Her narrative short Almost Every Day (2009) won international visibility in festivals such as Tribeca and Palm Springs, and went on to be shortlisted for the Academy Awards®. Monteiro has directed commercials and branded content for industry heavy-hitters such as Nike, Adidas, Google, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Chevrolet and Smirnoff, among others. Beneath the Canopy, a film she directed for Google Brand Studio, was shortlisted at the Cannes Lions Festival.

Her first TV project, an hour-long episode for HBO's documentary series Youth just had its broadcast premiere. On the episodic TV front, she recently booked two episodes of Vida for Starz.

As a 2018 fellow of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women, Gandja completed her new sci-fi short film Control/Option/Escape, which she directed through the program. She’s currently serializing the concept for digital consumption as well as developing her first feature film.

Lorraine Nicholson

Life Boat, Lorraine's third short film, premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival in 2017. The film went on to play at the Oscar-qualifying AFI Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Florida Film Festival, among others. Life Boat won an audience award at the Napa Valley Film Festival in 2017. That same year, Lorraine was selected to participate in AFI's Directing Lab for Women.

In the digital space, Lorraine brought her fresh perspective to a trio of feminist stop-motion music videos she co-directed for Grammy-nominated artist Tommy Trash, a dance video Strangers featuring spectacular talent Lil Buck and most recently videos for Metric, Hana and Grammy-nominated artist K. Flay. 

In addition, Lorraine has honed her filmmaking skills working on-camera as an actress for 10 years. Her wide range of credits include the feature films Click with Adam Sandler, Soul Surfer with Helen Hunt and Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Lorraine graduated from Brown University in 2012.


Michael Podogil

Born in Vienna, Michael Podogil studied at the Technical University of Vienna where he accomplished small film projects and later attended Rockport International Film School in Rockport, Maine. In 2009 he was accepted into the Vienna Film Academy where he earned his bachelor’s degree.  He is currently pursuing a master’s degree studying under Michael Haneke (Happy End, Amour) and Wolfgang Murnberger (Come Sweet Death, Silentium). In addition to his directorial work in television and commercials, he teaches Film and Photography at a local secondary school and works with Austria’s National Theatre, the Burgtheater. His short films are screened at festivals around the world. In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious Carl Mayer-Förderpreis — one of Austria’s most important script writing awards — at the Diagonale Graz. Michael’s short film Fucking Drama received a nomination for Best Live Action at the 2017 BAFTA Student Film Awards in Los Angeles.