Home #Hwoodtimes KCET’s Fine Cut Festival of Films Awards and Screening

KCET’s Fine Cut Festival of Films Awards and Screening

By: Judy Shields


Photographs : Steve Viero (THT)

West Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/19/2018 – “Over 300 films were submitted by filmmakers enrolled in 54 Southern California schools (36 collegiate level and 18 grade schools). 50% of the finalists had a director that was a person of color, 56% of the finalists were female directors, and 13% of the finalists included LGBTQ themes.” Ariel Carpenter, Vice President, Communications told the audience members before the award presentation.


The screening and awards presentation was held at the Directors Guild of America on Sunset.

The red carpet was a mix of inspiring filmmaker finalists, Fine Cut judges and celebrities.

Benjamin Howard – Director of Narrative film “Deviant”; Xavier Neal-Burgin – Director of Narrative film “On Time”; Derek Tonks – Producer of Narrative film “One Small Step”;  Chloe Hsu – Director of Animation film “Candy Crushed”; Kim Nguyen – Director of Animation film “General Dupont in General Dupont Does Laundry”; Siti Lu – Director of Animation film “Dumpling”; Hanna Kim – Director of animated film “Raccoon and The Light”; Jungmin Cha – Director of animated film “Where I was Born”; Omar Al Dakheel – Director of Documentary film “Al Imam”; Nate Noreli – Director of Documentary “Kip”; Mark Ledbetter – Director of Documentary film “If You Want Out”; American Pavilion Selections: David Freid – Documentary Directed film “Guns Found Here”; Susie Singer Carter – Narrative Directed film “My Mom and The Girl” and Amanda Renee Knox – Narrative Directed film “Night Call”


Finalists and winners in each category were determined by an industry panel of ten esteemed experts that included Pixar’s Animation Studios director Domee Shi (Bao, Inside Out, Incredibles 2, The Good Dinosaur), film/TV producer Effie T. Brown (Dear White People, Star, Project Greenlight), Indiewire film reporter Jenna Marotta, actress/writer/composer Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Blindspot, Without a Trace, Broadchurch, Training Day), story artist Michael Herrera (Angry Birds the Movie, Wreck It Ralph 2), Chief Film Critic/KCET Must See Movies Host Pete Hammond, producer/director Phillip Rodriguez (Los Angeles Now, The Rise and Fall of Brown Buffalo, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle), Executive Director of the International Documentary Association (IDA) Simon Kilmurry (PBS’ POV), Head of Logo Documentary Films Taj Paxton (Hungry, Out of Iraq, The IT Project) and animator/writer/producer Van Partible (Pete the Cat, Johnny Bravo, The Cartoon Cartoon Show).

All finalists’ films will be part of KCET’s FINE CUT television series premiering Wed., Sept. 26 in Southern California at 9 p.m. PT. The short film series includes six 30-minute broadcast episodes showcasing the finalists’ work.


The Hollywood Times had the pleasure to interview several of the filmmakers, celebrities and judges on the red carpet.

Benjamin Howard interviewed by The Hollywood Times

Benjamin Howard (BH)– Director of “Deviant”


THT: What is the name of your film?

BH: “Deviant.  A period piece about a young teenager who escapes the horrors of electrotherapeutic conversion therapy and he finds faith and acceptance out of that.”

THT: What school are you representing?

BH: “It was a project made for San Diego State and I actually just moved up here this week and I am going to UCLA for their grad program.”

THT: What was the first movie you saw that made you say I want to make movies?

BH: “It was more like the idea of making a film that really inspired me to want to do that. It was these home videos that my brother and I would make. It was Boogie Nights that was really the type of movie I wanted to make. When I saw that movie for the first time, that was when my vision as a director came by watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.”

THT: Where do you see yourself in five years?

BH: “Hopefully working on my second feature film and hope to have had one by then. Getting into Sundance, into a major festival would be a big goal of mine.”

THT: Do you like documentaries?

BH: “I don’t have experience in documentaries, but I did film my best friend’s engagement to his girlfriend. I filmed him going to the mall to pick out the ring and he proposing to his girlfriend and then at the wedding and then edited that all and showed it at the reception and so that was my way of making some sort of documentary and people enjoyed that. Long term narrative filmmaking is what I want to do.”

Nate Norell, Kip Henderson, Micah Malinics & Lorenzo Anzoleaga

Nate Norell, Kip Henderson, Micah Malinics & Lorenzo Anzoleaga, their Documentary film is called “Kip”

THT: What is your film called and what is it about?

Nate Norell: “We entered a documentary after Kip here. It’s 60 minutes long and I will let Kip talk a little about it.”

Kip Henderson: “It talks about my career as an artist and the different ways I progress in that. It documents some of my story with a disability and the different ways I have overcome that disability and with identity and the path of art and faith that has taken me on.”

Nate Norell: “I was the director and we have another director who was unable to make it tonight and his name is Nick Moyer, but we shot together and we are both friends with Kip and I have known him for a while and told him that he had an amazing story. I told him I would like to be able to capture it and he was so kind and willing to open up to us and share an amazing story with us.”

THT: When did the project start?

Nate Norell: “About a year and a half ago. It’s been a while in the making and we finally got it done and we are so excited with the response we are getting from friends and family and other film festivals and how people have reacted. The movie is called Kip and drawing the bigger picture. I graduated from Biola University, so about three months ago.”

Micah Malinics: “Me and Lorenzo here didn’t actually work on the project with Nate and Nick, but we co-own the production company that we formed. They did an amazing job with Kip and we have decided to keep working with them.”

They have all been friends for over three years now and lived in the same college dorm and they all moved into a house together and converted the house into a production company and the garage is their studio. They are the passionate film makers they all shared and laughed a bit as well.

Kip Henderson said he is currently working on a fantasy comic book about an FBI guy in the 1930’s who can turn into a dragon. It is a lot of fun and I’m working hard on it. I was just recently recognized for art work with the Kennedy Foundation at the Kennedy Center. I went up to DC and received an award for young artist with a disability and that was a lot of fun. Check out his work on his website:

Simon Kilmurry, IDA Exec Director

Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director Int’l Documentary Assoc. (SK)

THT: How did you get that title:

SK: “I was executive producer for many years then I started running the International Documentary Association for the past three years ago.”

THT: What was the first documentary film you watched that made you say I want to get into this business?

SK: “A film called “Brother’s Keeper” by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky back in 1992. It’s about four brothers in upstate New York who live on a farm and isolated and one of them dies and one of the brothers is accused of murder. But it’s really a portrait of a family and their struggle for justice and they’re a marginalized family. It’s a beautiful cinéma vérité entrance into this world that you would never get entrance to and that really inspired me to get into documentary film. That access into these worlds I would never get access to.”

THT: What type of documentaries inspire you the most?

SK: “I think films which challenge my, challenge my perspective, films which take me into places that I don’t get into in my daily life. That introduce me to people who I have never met and take me to places I would never go to. I am very curious about the world and documentaries are a great way to explore that world.”

THT: What words of wisdom would you give to these inspiring documentary filmmakers?

SK: “The business of documentary film is about passion. It’s not about bottom line, perhaps in the way that the other part of Hollywood is. So you really have to be passionate about the subject, you have to be tenacious, you got to have empathy and you have to have curiosity. You have to have all those in the right combination they can push you a long way.”

THT: When are you going to right your life story?

SK: “I am already the publisher of documentary magazine, so we have put out a lot of stuff all the time. Which covers both upcoming and historical work and we try to do that on an ongoing basis.”

THT: What about a book about your life?

SK: laughter! “Maybe when I retire.”

THT: What are you currently working on?

SK: “I am in the mist of producing a conference called “getting real” which brings together a 1,000 documentary filmmakers here in Hollywood next week. So they are coming from all over the world to talk about the business and what they are all working on. The challenges they are facing and how we can all support each other.”

Effie T. Brown

Effie T. Brown (ETB)

THT: What film inspired you to become a film producer?

ETB: “This question always sort of embarrasses me because I wish it was something like, ‘Citizen Cane’ but really what it was, was Aliens. Gasp by THT, I know, I know, really it was Alien because it was the first time I saw a woman be the hero. She saved herself and there was an inter-racial crew, the black guy got to live to the bitter end. You know what I mean, that was the movie that made me go “oh wow!”

THT: Do you have a favorite documentary?

ETB: “You know what I kind of like the Thin Blue Line still, it’s an oldie but goodie. I actually saw Mister Rogers, it was everything and I have to tell you, why didn’t we love him more when he was here.”

Marianne Jean-Baptiste interview

Marianne Jean-Baptiste (MJB)

THT: What movie inspired you to become an actress?

MJB: “There are just too many, there are too many movies. So much stuff to watch, imitation of life, I love movies.”

THT: Do you have a favorite documentary?

MJB: “I would say Grey Gardens is one of my favorite documentary picture. I saw it in England on BBC. There is also another documentary series that Michael Apted called “Up Series, the first one was called seven up and they followed a child every seven years to see what would happen to them. That one is a great documentary series.”

THT: What words of wisdom would you give these inspiring filmmakers?

MJB:   “I would encourage people to really believe in themselves and their vision and just keep going. It can be quite thankless and you can be told that it’s pie in the sky and it’s not a really job, but you have to be stubborn about it! Keep going.

THT: What are you currently working on?

MJB: “I am actually promoting a movie that I did last year in London. I’m gearing up to do a show called Mixed Tape for Netflix. Basically it is serious drama with music. We start shooting next year so maybe 2020.”

Jungmin Cha

Jungmin Cha – Director of “Where I was Born” – Animation Film winner tonight (JC)

THT: What is your film about?

JC: “I am from Korea and there is a lot of social issues going on and I made my film based on that to portray those social issues. It’s a little bit sarcastic with a little bit of humor”

THT: What drew you to animation?

JC: “I actually majored in media study and I got a chance to go to graduate school at Cal Arts so it’s going to be my second year and I got an opportunity to learn about animation and I want to make amination movies.”

Derek Tonks

Producer Derek Tonks (DT) for “One Small Step” winner of Narrative film:

THT: What is your film about?

DT: “It is a short narrative film about a young girl named Asani who is put in a situation where she has to make a decision between her family and her future. Her Mother is a black lives matter activist and an important day for an important field trip, she goes missing and Asani has to decide on taking care of her baby sister or looking for her mom that has gone missing at this rally. It is about choosing sometimes yourself as the hard decision, but sometimes the right decision. It was a fun movie to make and we think it is very powerful.”

THT: How long did it take you to make the film?

DT: “We shot the film in four weekends. It was a school film and we had to shot on the weekends. Our writer is Travis Rush and we all went to school at USC and the director Aqsa was not able to make it tonight.”

The movie was filmed in Compton, California. They knocked on doors until they found someone who would allow them to film their movie there. USC is the real production and they appreciated what they have done for them and this is their career. Movie making.

Michael Herrera

Michael Herrera (MH) – Storyboard artist currently working on Frozen 2 for the Walt Disney Company.

THT: What is a storyboard artist?

MH: “A storyboard artist essentially tries to conceive the whole movie before we make it. With animation, you have to make everything from scratch. So we sketch out the entire story in rough drawings before we animate anything so we can put it up as a rough cut and watch the entire movie and see if we want to go ahead with the movie if all is right.”

THT: So you do the actually drawings?

MH: “Yes and everything is essentially digital. It used to be pads of paper, back in the old Walt Disney days, but that whole process is digital now. Drawing on tablets now.”

THT: How old where you when you discovered you could draw?

MH: “From what I’ve been told, since I could hold a pencil. I have always been drawing since I was like three. Fostered and encouraged and I always knew I wanted to work in animation.”

THT: Do you remember your first drawing as a child?

MH: “I copied a lot of Disney and Looney Tunes characters to help me draw and little monsters and stuff like that.”

THT: What’s your dream animated project?

MH: “Oh man, gosh, I like breaking new ground, I’m such a fan of the medium and such a nostalgic person, because of that I am always looking forward. I’m excited to see what hasn’t been done in animation. There is a lot of room for tone and genre we can break boundaries with and I’m a big fan of musicals and I hope one day I will be working on a musical animated film, which I am kind of doing it right now on Frozen 2. I just started on that project.”

Maury Sterling
Alexis Boozer Sterling

Actor Maury Sterling and his actress wife Alexis Boozer Sterling:

THT: How is it being married and having a busy acting career?

MS: “It’s been good. It has its moments and some of the cliché are true!”

ABS: “Sometimes the scheduling is rotten, but we just worked together on a play called Mayakovski and Stalin, a cheerful subject.”

MS: “It was a comedy, I played Stalin.”

ABS: “That was actually the weirdest part, he brought the mustache home every night! So it was a little weird to be waking up next to Stalin.”

MS: “Yes.”

THT: What are working on now?

MS: “Right now we are working on home stuff, Ally is actually producing right now and I am waiting to hear about the next season of “Homeland” and what is going on with that.”

ABS: “I have a movie coming out on streaming platforms, called “Hide in the Light.” A low budget horror film. It’s very good. It was the most fun I ever had. It was like summer camp but scary, the cast was amazing. Running up and down hallways screaming all day. It was a blast. My thought is not good.”

MS: “She has a heck of a scream!”

THT: What words of wisdom do you two have for these inspiring filmmakers?

MS: “Stay with it, stay with it! Find yourself, I know that sounds sort of cheesy, but find yourself and your own vision and hang in there. You are going to get a lot of no’s and just keeping telling stories and surround yourself with people who will walk you through the hard stuff.”

Tom Teller

Tom Teller – last years winner of the Jack Larson Award for his movie “Hum”

THT: What was your movie about?

TT: “My movie was about a robot who cleans dishes and he breaks out, breaks free into the world. It was called ‘Hum’.”

THT: How did the movie come about?

TT: “I did the movie while in college at Chapman College. It was a film that combined visual effects and animation with life action. I love sci-fi and fun to do in CGI.”

THT: What are you currently working on?

TT: “I am running a production company called Frame 48 based in Culver City, we are doing visual effects as well as commercial and features.”

THT: Where do you see yourself in five years?

TT: “Hopefully still running my company, that would be amazing. Maybe in a bigger office with more employees. I have three people full time currently.”

Van Partible

Van Partible (VP)- animator

THT: What are you working on?

VP: “I am currently working on Pete the Cat, which is an animated show on Amazon. I am directing on that. It has Elvis Castello and Diana Krall they play Pete’s Mom and Dad and Jacob Tremblay, plays Pete the Cat. It’s a fun kids show.

Pete the Cat premieres tonight September 21st.

It is based on the children’s books series by James Dean! It is produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s company Appian Way and also Alcon Entertainment, they produced Blade Runner and Dolphin Tale, it’s a fun conglomeration of folks that put it together.

All finalists’ films will be part of KCET’s FINE CUT television series premiering Wed., Sept. 26 in Southern California at 9 p.m. PT. The short film series includes six 30-minute broadcast episodes showcasing the finalists’ work.

Fine Cut Season 19

Sept. 26 Ep 1 – AT ODDS – When a Black female cop patrolling Inglewood gets called to a disturbance, she is forced to make a life altering decision in this thrilling crime drama from Chapman University. Followed by a brave story of LGBTQ conversion therapy based on true events from San Diego State.

Oct. 3 Ep 2 –MY RIGHT– Award winning video journalist, David Freid (New York Times, Vanity Fair) traces gun crime in America. Followed by a film exploring the path to motherhood from UCLA and a heart warming animated short from Cal Arts.

Oct. 10 Ep 3 – NOW WHAT – From USC, One Small Step follows a young girl attempting to juggle adult responsibilities after her mother goes missing. Followed by an intense documentary examining the power of exclusive religions from San Diego State and an animated caricature of wealth and domestic life from UCLA.

 Oct. 17 Ep 4 – OH, HELLO! – Three up-and-coming female directors bring funny, quirky and unforgettable tales, including the true story of a woman with Alzheimer’s and her odd encounter late night on the streets of East L.A, starring Emmy Winner Valerie Harper.

Oct. 24 Ep 5 – INFLUENCE- Actor turned serial killer wreaks havoc in this dark comedy from the USC. Followed by two films from Biola University and Cal Arts exploring the dark origins from which a superhero can emerge.

Oct. 31 Ep 6 – PUSHBACK- Multicultural filmmakers from USC share stories of women taking risks. Despite controversy and threats, Muslim spiritual leader Ani Zonneveld takes a stand for justice. Followed by a mother who must make a dangerous decision to get ahead.

What a great night it was with amazing interviews and fantastic movies.

My favorite was the documentary film “One Small Step.” I can see why it won for best Documentary.  Make sure you catch this one.  Wow!

Jack Larson Award Winner Raccoon and the Light


I really liked the animated movie “Raccoon and The Light” directed by Hanna Kim and winner of the Jack Larson Award.  [Jack Larson was an American actor, screenwriter and producer best known for his portrayal of photographer/cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on the television series Adventures of Superman.  The prize is a tribute to the festival’s founder Jack Larson and his commitment to fostering new generations of filmmakers in Southern California.]

So make it a point to watch these amazing films on KCET Fine Cut television series premiering Wednesday, September 26th in Southern California at 9 p.m. PT.

Pete Hammond & Hanna Kim

The Jack Larson Award was presented by Pete Hammond ( Chief Film Critic/KCET Must See Movies Host) to Director Hanna Kim for her Animated film “Raccoon and The Light” a film about a raccoon who finds a flashlight.


Effie T. Brown (film/TV producer) presented the Animation Award to Director Jungmin Cha for her film “Where I Was Born” a film of vignettes of South Korea culture.

Simon Kilmurry & Omar Al Dakheel

Simon Kilmurry (Exec. Dir. Int’l Documentary Association (IDA) presented the Documentary Award to director Omar Al Dakheel, for his documentary film called “Al Imam” about a Muslim singer/songwriter turned spiritual leader takes a stand.




Marianne Jean-Baptiste & Derek Tonks

Marianne Jean-Baptiste (actress/writer/composer) presented the Narrative Award to Producer Derek Tongs for his film “One Small Step” about a 9-year old girl attempts to juggle school and her younger siblings.


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