NFMLA Panel - Scripted Series Development with Freeform & Dinh Thai
Join NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) for a conversation about the scripted series development process with Creative Development Executives from Freeform and NFMLA Alumni and Filmmaker Dinh Thai who currently has a project in development with the Network.
- Panelist: Naomi Funabashi – VP of Programming and Development at Freeform (Walt Disney Television’s young adult television network)
- Panelist: Alix Lee – Manager, Development and Programming at Freeform (Walt Disney Television’s young adult television network)
Alix Lee is a comedy and drama development executive on Freeform’s Original Programming Team. Since joining the team in 2017, Alix has had a hand in the development of Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem, the Party of Five reboot, and the upcoming drama series Cruel Summer from Jessica Biel’s Iron Ocean and Bert Royal (Easy A). She started at ABC Family in 2012 as an assistant to the SVP of Acquisitions and Scheduling before eventually moving to the desk of then-president Tom Ascheim in 2013, where she had a unique position in working through a top-down rebrand as the channel evolved into Freeform. Alix began her career at Trifecta Entertainment, a full-service multi-media company that engages in development, production, distribution and ad sales.
Alix is originally from El Paso, TX and lives in LA with her husband Stephen and puppy Nelson.
- Panelist: Dinh Thai | Filmmaker and TV Director + Writer
Dinh Thai is an Asian-American writer/director by way of commercial directing based in Los Angeles. Born in Vietnam, fled to France, and finally settling in Los Angeles, the 80s and 90s nurtured a fascinating cultural mix that strongly informs Dinh’s filmic approach and aesthetic. He brings a youthful, multi-cultural viewpoint to his creative and energetic productions. His work blends visual style with realism, focusing on social media influencers, dialogue, comedy, celebrities, and storytelling — all with strong musical influences. His commercial clients include Adidas, T-Mobile, Toyota, and the US Navy.
Dinh’s narrative work has aired on HBO and Cinemax. Specifically, MONDAY, a short film he wrote and directed has garnished over 50 festival awards and nominations, including first place in the inaugural HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries competition, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Actor and Next Generation Filmmaker Award at the prestigious NBCU Shorts Festival, Best Direction at the New York Television Festival and The One Screen Festival, Best Short Film at CATALYST, and Best New Filmmaker of the Year at NFMLA.
Along with being in the Disney|ABC Director Program, Dinh has shadowed on American Horror Story (Ryan Murphy’s Half-Initiative), MAYANS M.C. (Fox 21 TV), and directed an episode of New Amsterdam (218 ‘Matter of Seconds”) through NBC’s Emerging Director Program. he is also actively pursuing film and TV directing assignments as well as developing a show based on his short film and other multicultural ideas.
- Moderator: Varda Bar-Kar | NFMLA Board Member and Film + TV Director (Ryan Murphy’s 9-1-1, Big Voice)
Award-winning director Varda Bar-Kar has directed over forty productions, including documentaries, episodic television, web series, short films, branded content, and viral videos. Varda was born in London, England, and had lived on three different continents by the time she was ten years old. Her international upbringing provides her with a truly global perspective. She is an activist filmmaker focusing her lens on meaningful stories exploring the breadth and diversity of the human condition. She faces society’s challenges with an uplifting approach that speaks into possibility.
Varda developed her directing voice creating short films, including the festival-winning Window starring Louis Gossett, Jr. Window garnered the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival, screened at Cannes and aired across the United States on local affiliate stations including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, in honor of Black History Month.
Shoot Magazine selected Varda for their prestigious New Director Showcase; Lincoln Mercury’s Rising Stars Campaign awarded her music video Race to the Sky the Grand Prize and aired it during the Grammy Awards. Varda was also selected to participate in Ryan Murphy’s HALF Director Mentorship Program, and then directed for the hit FOX show 9-1-1.
Varda has just completed the two-year production of Fandango at the Wall an exuberant music documentary celebrating the lives and music of the masters a mystical three-hundred-year-old Mexican folk music tradition called son jarocho. The film follows the son jarocho masters to the United States-Mexico border where they join renowned New York Maestro Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for a transformational music festival taking place on both sides of the border. Quincy Jones, Andrew Young, Carlos Santana, and Kabir Sehgal serve as the film’s Executive Producers. It was funded in part by the Ford Foundation & Miranda Foundation. Sony music serves as the project’s sales agent.
Varda’s feature documentary Big Voice received the “Best Documentary Award” from the Heartland Film Festival, NewFilmmakers LA and The South Dakota Film Festival. Big Voice chronicles a challenging year in the life of a determined high school choir director and his most advanced ensemble. The documentary was picked up by Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon, and was broadcast on PBS winning a Bronze Telly Award.
Varda’s viral videos have amassed tens of millions of views for non-profits including The Humane Farming Association, Feeding America, MZA Events, The Chopra Center, and Unify among others. YouTube honored Varda’s viral video What Kind of Planet Are We On with their Most Innovative Non-profit Video Award and featured it on their homepage. What Kind of Planet Are We On was screened for the United States Congress as part of a campaign for Social Security equality for same-sex couples.
Varda is on the board of NFMLA and a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the International Documentary Association & Film Fatales.
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