Courtesy of Dolby Newsroom

Dolby Laboratories, Inc. and Ghetto Film School announced the winners of the 2024 Dolby Institute x Ghetto Film School “New Voices. New Visions.” competition on Nov. 10.   

The contest, a collaboration between audiovisual technology company Dolby Laboratories and nonprofit organization Ghetto Film School, asked applicants to develop and submit an original short film concept for consideration. The guidelines asked for films that would “benefit from the ultra-vivid color of Dolby Vision and the immersive sound of Dolby Atmos.” The winners are able to claim $25,000 grants in addition to the support from Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Three film pitches received the prize, including “You’re Dead” by Sarah Jean Williams and Luna Garcia ’23. 

“We were so excited! It’s hard to overstate how critical receiving this amount of funding is for young filmmakers,” Garcia told the News. “We have so many ideas, but it’s often difficult to raise the money necessary to realize these cinematic goals.”

Garcia, who is from Los Angeles, has been writing short films since she was a teenager. At 16, she wrote “Charley Horse,” which competed at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, SFFILM and the Bentonville Film Festival. 

Her upcoming film, “You’re Dead,” will tell the story of Talia, a woman who embarks on a journey to the afterlife to reunite with her dead sister. 

When asked how she and Williams came up with the idea for the story, Garcia emphasized the film’s themes of loss and grief. 

“Sarah Jean and I started off with the visual of someone running towards their own lifeless body,” she said. “From that point, we began developing a story that captured the urge to connect with someone who passed, as well as the macabre obsession with where you go after you die.”

As a directing-writing duo, Garcia and Williams collaborated on all aspects of the film. 

Having previously done stand-up comedy together, the pair had an established working relationship before beginning work on “You’re Dead.”

“We collaborated on everything,” Williams told the News. “I took the lead on designing the pitch deck and lookbook, while Luna mainly wrote out the script for the pitch. We cross-collaborated on both, and we would constantly be on calls with one another refining our story.”

Winners of the contest will receive mentorship from leading filmmakers, such as Carlos López Estrada, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. Winners will also receive production support from Antigravity Academy, visual support from Dolby Vision and audio support from Dolby Atmos in addition to the individual $25,000 grants.

In total, Dolby is investing over $200,000 dollars in the 2024 contest. 

“We aren’t just writing checks and saying to these filmmakers ‘Go write your films,’” Dolby Institute director Glenn Kiser told the News. “We say, ‘Come back to Dolby, come finish your films with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos,’ and the result is hopefully that they will make these really unique films that are unlike any other short films on the market.”

According to Kiser, the contest typically receives between 75 and 100 submissions. They then narrow the pool down to between two and four finalists, depending on the year. This year, the contest application closed on Sept. 30, and winners were selected on Oct. 23. Dolby announced the winners to the public on Nov. 10. 

Although it has run for three years, Kiser said that the program has grown tremendously.

“What we’ve seen in the three years we’ve been working with Ghetto Film School is that the proposals have gotten so much richer in terms of detail and also scale,” he told the News. “People are bringing some really interesting big thinking and big concept projects to us and that’s been really fun to watch.” 

Kiser said that the program has also evolved. He added that this is the first year that Dolby and Ghetto Film School staff will help contest winners submit their finalized films to leading film festivals. 

This year’s contest theme was “New Voices. New Visions.”

“Our theme was designed to be open-ended and subject to interpretation,” Kiser said. “This year in particular, we tried to remove all the guardrails and let the filmmakers express themselves as fully as they might want to.”

Although Garcia and Williams will be busy working on “You’re Dead” for the foreseeable future, both have big career plans. 

Williams is finishing her final year at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, and Garcia is working at NBCUniversal in Los Angeles. 

When asked about her next steps, Garcia said that she “hope[s] to get staffed in a writers’ room,” while Williams aims to “continue directing narrative fiction and developing her singular creative voice.”

Williams and Garcia will complete “You’re Dead” over the next nine months. 

Emily Aikens is an Associate Beat Reporter covering faculty and academics at Yale. Originally from Pennsylvania, she is a sophomore in Trumbull College studying English.