THE BIG PITCH
TALES MEDIA GROUP
Congratulations to the Winners of the
2023 Big Pitch at TIFF
What’s My Name? (Documentary Feature)
2nd Prize & Audience Choice
Celestina Aleobua & Naira Adedeji
Jaded (TV Series)
Scarborough’s Love (Narrative Feature)
ABOUT THE BIG PITCH
MEET THE PARTICIPANTS
Nauzanin Knight is a Canadian woman of Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent. Her nuanced stories reflect the uniqueness of her heritage and international life. Nauzanin began her career in creative writing before directing film projects including, “My Lyric I Never Knew” (CBC Canadian Reflections & GEM 2020); “Notes on Being Un-Popular” (Cinefam Big Pitch 2022); Abu & Mo: Two Orphans (Muslim Kids TV 2023); Precarity (Telus Optik On Demand 2021). As a storyteller, Nauzanin is interested in exposing striking stories which tell us about the universality of human emotion despite diversity of human experience. She is to founder and CEO of 1844 Studios Inc. a production company situated in Edmonton, Alberta.
Speaker, comedian, and 5-time author Mahlena-Rae Johnson is The Only Executive Storytelling Expert for Introverts. The quirky CEO of her company Mahlena Speaks, Mahlena honed her relationship-building skills while earning her MBA in Marketing at the University of Southern California. She later translated her quiet savvy for connecting with like-minded individuals into expanding her media empire from the US to Canada, where she taught graduate level classes in Social Media at Seneca College. An Américaine living her best life in the suburbs of Toronto, Mahlena has been featured on BusinessBecause, CBC Kids, The Great Canadian Woman Podcast, and more.
Chelsea Nyomi is a visual storyteller whose interests lie in arts, culture, and identity. She is a multidisciplinary artist focused on building communities through shared experiences, creating through the mediums of film/video, photography, graphic design, creative direction, and writing. Her film projects include Generations of Home, Memoirs to Little Jamaica, Cultured Reflections, and Life of An Artist. She works as a video editor in the screen industries and has worked for reputable companies such as TSN, MLSE, Yahoo Sports, CP24, and Proper Television. Chelsea is the founder Vagus Creatives, a platform that features a global selection of diverse artists and creative entrepreneurs to showcase their artwork and share their stories (www.vaguscreatives.net).
Vicky Plancher is a Canadian filmmaker of Haitian ancestry and an alumni of McGill University. She recently produced and directed the short film, A Digital Hogan’s Alley, for CBC Creators Network. Her career in the film inductry spans over 20 years. Most recently, she worked as an assistant production coordinator on The Flash. Her resume highlights assisting groundbreaking TV show creator, Patrick Ian Polk, and film producer, Damon Lee. She has been very involvedin the Haitian community organizing and funding concerts, movie premieres, and other events related to the growthof the cultural scene. Vicky is passionate about educating, sharing, advocating for the preservation of Haitian culture and traditions.
KhaRå Martin is an artist and filmmaker from Pickering / Scarborough Ontario. UofT and Sheridan College is where she began directing, winning the Robert Gill Award for Best Direction. Graduating from OYA’s Emerging Filmmakers program, KhaRå’s short film No Justice No Peace premiered at TIFF NEXT WAVE, won Best Short Film at the Emerging Lens Film Festival, and the Impact award at CineFAM Film Festival. Her second documentary, The Idea of The Black Dollar, is now on CBCGem. Currently, KhaRå is hosting a docuseries called Black Community Mixtapes, and is writing a feature film called Scarborough’s Love.
Lulu Wei is an award-winning director and filmmaker based in Toronto. Their work delves into themes of space-making, cultural identity, and queerness, reflecting a unique style influenced by their background in commercials and documentary filmmaking. In 2020, their debut feature film, “There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace,” garnered an audience award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and received nominations for Best Directing and Best Writing at the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards. Lulu’s sophomore film, “Supporting Our Selves,” premiered as the Centrepiece Gala at the Inside Out Film Festival in 2023, where it won the juried award for Best Canadian Feature. As a cinematographer, they have worked on feature films and documentary series for Vice, Crave, and the CBC. Notably, their cinematography on the award-winning documentary “Sex With Sue” (2022) earned them a Canadian Screen Award nomination. Currently in development on their third documentary feature, Lulu continues to explore complex stories, aiming to inspire and engage audiences. When they’re not behind a camera, you’ll usually find Lulu DJing a dance party or hosting events with New Ho Queen, the queer Asian arts collective they co-founded.
Andrea Martinez Crowther
Andrea recently leapt out of her comfort zone as a feature film director in Mexico City to move to Toronto and sort of start from scratch. She has directed four feature films. The first, INSIGNIFICANT THINGS, was executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro and participated in the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. It premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival. She went on to direct the award- winning intimate documentary CICLO about her father’s bicycle journey from Mexico to Canada. After that came OBSERVAR LAS AVES about a writer with Alzheimer’s who decides to say farewell to life by making a movie, winning the People’s Choice Award at the Los Cabos Film Festival. Her most recent film, TARE, stars renowned Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta (Narcos, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) and is in post-production. Andrea is currently developing the Mexico-Canada coproduction LABRANZA as well as MOLECULES, her first venture in the world of Web Series. Andrea is a member of the DGC, an alumna of WIDC and a WIFT mentor. She is represented by Carmen Bonnici of Pacific Artists.
Giselle Miller is a Jamaican-Canadian writer, actor and filmmaker living in Vancouver. Five of her feature-length screenplays have placed as quarterfinalists in competitions in the United States. After completing an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, she went on to write, produce and direct twelve short films and two seasons of the Leo Award-nominated web series “Young, Single and Black” that follows black millennials as they navigate romance in Vancouver. Giselle also received Leo Award-nominations for her performance in the series. Last year, Giselle released another web series “Big People Tingz.” So far in 2023, Giselle was a participant in the Fiction Toolbox at the European Film Market and the Whistler Screenwriters Lab. Her play THE SPIRIT HAS TEETH was selected for the Or Festival and had its world premiere at the Jericho Arts Centre in 2023. One of the reasons Giselle became a filmmaker was to elevate black female voices in the industry and tell the types of stories that she isn’t seeing on screen so that they reflect complex, nuanced images of black people. Her productions have been featured in the Women of African Descent Film Festival, the Roma Shorts Film Festival and the Reel Q: Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Giselle is the founder of Orange Rose Productions, a company that focuses on telling stories from black communities.
Atefeh Khademolreza is an acclaimed writer and director hailing from Iran and currently based in Toronto, Canada. With an impressive career spanning over fifteen years, she has garnered international recognition for her filmmaking expertise. Atefeh had the privilege of studying under the late maestro, Abbas Kiarostami, before making the life-changing decision to immigrate to Canada. Her compelling films have been showcased at renowned film festivals worldwide, including the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, and Vienna International Film Festival. Atefeh’s exceptional talent has earned her the distinguished position of Writer-in-Residence at the Micki Moore Residency hosted by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF’21). Moreover, her remarkable achievements secured her a coveted spot in the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Pitch Program in 2023. Atefeh’s commitment to artistic growth has led her to participate in esteemed institutions such as the Berlinale Talent Campus (2006), the Asian Film Academy (2008), the Serbia Interaction Film Camp (2006, 2016), and Reelworld E20 (2019). In addition to her creative endeavours, Atefeh has served as a jury member for various festivals, including the Oscar-qualifying Tehran International Short Film Festival and the selection committee for TIFF’s Micki Moore Residency in 2022. Driven by her passion for storytelling, Atefeh’s works delve into profound themes of empowering women, transformative immigration, and complex identity, fearlessly exploring the intricacies of disorientation and reorientation, both culturally and socially. Atefeh holds a Master’s Degree in Film Production from York University (2019), is one of the founders and board member of the Association of Iranian Film and Theater Artists Abroad (AIFTAA), an esteemed member of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), and Women In Film & Television (WIFT).
Vanessa Mitchell is a producer, creator, actress and the co-founder of Madden & Mitchell Media Inc. (MMM) who regards art as activism. Her background in advocacy, youth mentoring and supporting underserved racialized families; propels Vanessa to develop content that authentically represents these diverse stories. Vanessa has worked in the film and television industry as an actress for over 15 years. Seeing the lack of stories being told about Black Canadians and across the diaspora, Vanessa felt the strong desire to create content that explored stories about the black experience and create more opportunities for artists of colour hence the creation of MMM. MMM’s first project was co –produced in association with EMG, a short film called Truth igniting a passion within Vanessa to produce more impactful content for the screen. Vanessa currently is developing two TV series. In co-production with Hungry Eyes Media, a limited drama TV series That Lonesome Road exploring the largely untold stories of Black Canadian Freedom Fighters; Viola Desmond and Carrie Best written by award winning author Lawrence Hill. Her second in partnership with Archipelago Productions is Baked Goods, a serialized drama-comedy that dives into the impacts of marginalization and legalization of cannabis on a racial diverse community in Scarborough through the lens of a Jamaican-Canadian family. Vanessa is an alumnus of the Netflix- Banff Diversity of Voices Initiative, Reelworld Producers and E20 programs, Banff Spark and OYA Scale Up Business Bootcamp.
Naira Adedeji (left) & Celestina Aleobua (right)
Celestina Aleobua is an Actress, Writer, Director, and Producer based in Toronto, Canada. Born in Lesotho to Nigerian parents and raised in South Africa, Celestina has a passion for telling stories that preserve African culture and history, and as a filmmaker, her narratives focus on cultural enlightenment through the creation of authentic black stories. Celestina has written, produced, directed and starred in numerous films and series, including ‘Second Wind’ (2022), ‘Finch’ (2019), and ‘The People of Sand’ (2018). Celestina has recently appeared in Showtime’s ‘Fellow Travellers’ (2023), and Skydance/ Amazon Studio’s ‘Reacher’ (2022). She hopes to continue rising and sharing her talents with the art of storytelling.
Naira Adedeji, professionally known as NA!RA, award winning Afrobeats recording artist, Creative Director and filmmaker. As a passionate steward of storytelling, her contributions include over 20 film and television projects as a screenwriter, director, editor, cinematographer, actor and music composer. She is most noted for juxtaposing African culture with poetic visuals, vibrant worlds, thoughtful dialogue, and creating dynamic characters.