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Comedian-Actor Kym Whitley Set to Host the 12th Annual NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL Finale Screening & Awards Ceremony on October 18

Award Presenters Include Essence Atkins, Stephen Bishop, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Akbar Gbajabiamila, Manny Jacinto, Jameela Jamil, Hana Mae Lee, Allen Maldonado, Claudia Puig, Nico Santos, Chris Su 10/13/2017 1:15 PM

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.– Comedian-actor Kym Whitley (“Young & Hungry”) will act as host for the finale screening and awards ceremony of the 12th Annual NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL which celebrates diverse stories while finding the next generation of storytellers, on October 18, 2017 at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. Awards in eight categories will be presented to winning filmmakers by a diverse group of actors and writers including Essence Atkins (“Marlon”), Stephen Bishop (“Imposters,” “Being Mary Jane”), Ester Dean (Pitch Perfect 3), Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 3), Akbar Gbajabiamila (“American Ninja Warrior”), Manny Jacinto (“The Good Place”), Jameela Jamil (“The Good Place”), Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect 3Love Beats Rhymes), Allen Maldonado (“Black-ish,” “The Last O.G.”), Nico Santos (“Superstore,” Crazy Rich Asians), Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us”), Victor Turpin (“Shades of Blue”) and Kelvin Yu (“Master of None”).

“I’m honored to be part of the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival,” said Whitley. “Platforms like this are so important to make sure we as a community find, encourage and support artists who tell stories about underrepresented people that are relatable to all of us regardless of ethnicity, creed, gender and sexual orientation.” 

The festival is furthering its emphasis on social change this year by presenting the HARNESS Social Impact Award to the filmmaker whose short best represents an important social issue. The award stems from a first-time partnership with HARNESS, an advocacy organization founded by America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams and Wilmer Valderrama that connects artists, influencers and grassroots leaders to inspire action and change. HARNESS will present the award in conjunction with the NBCUniversal Social Responsibility division.

“Part of our mission at Harness is to increase representation of diverse voices in entertainment as a means to expose audiences to new perspectives and to create more empathy in the world,” said Ferrera. “Partnering with the NBCUniversal Short Film Festival gives us an opportunity to honor an up and coming filmmaker whose work shows a unique point of view on a critical social issue.” 

The festival is also introducing the Critics’ Choice Award with an 18-member jury of film and television critics and entertainment writers voting on the short they feel makes the most impact. Jury members are comprised of journalists from BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Hearst Digital Media, Kore Asian Media, Los Angeles Times, Moviemaker Magazine, Paste Magazine, Refinery29, the San Francisco Chronicle, Screen International, TV Guide Magazine, USA TODAY and TheWrap, among others. The award will be presented by the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Claudia Puig, who also served as an inaugural jury member.

“The passionate response from artists such as Kym and our amazing presenters, organizations like Harness and respected journalists to be part of our festival signifies how widespread the desire is to increase representation in entertainment,” said Karen Horne, SVP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television.“We are proud that our short film festival is not only a platform for diverse stories, but also a place to develop up and coming storytellers who are already creating work that reflects our society.”  

The festival will also award filmmakers in the Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Comedy, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Writer, Outstanding Actor and the Audience Award categories. 

The awards will be determined by the festival’s first-ever ambassadors, America Ferrera (“Superstore”), Mariska Hargitay (“Law & Order: SVU”), Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”) and Lena Waithe (2017 Emmy® Award winner for “Master of None”), as well as the judging panel which includes NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, Universal Television President Pearlena IgbokweDebra Martin Chase (The Princess DiariesJust Wright), Sakina Jaffrey(“Timeless,” “The Mindy Project”), Allen Maldonado (“Black-ish,” “Survivor’s Remorse”), Victor Turpin (“Shades of Blue”) and Masi Oka (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Heroes”).

The finale screening and awards ceremony is free and open to the public. Tickets can be reserved at the festival website

The NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is presented by NBCUniversal and NBC Entertainment with title partners:Universal Pictures, Panavision, Xfinity and the NBCUniversal Division for Social Responsibility. Additional 2017 festival partners include Focus Features, Oxygen, USA Network, Bravo, Syfy, Fandango, E! Entertainment, Telemundo and Hulu, as well as industry partners including Creative Artists Agency (CAA), SAG-AFTRA, Tandem Productions, Everybody Digital, Room & Board, Writers Guild of America – East, Writers Guild of America – West, DGA and PGA. 

About the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Founded in 2006, the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL is the first and only film festival created and run by an entertainment studio solely dedicated to celebrating the importance of diversity in entertainment and discovering the next generation of storytellers. The annual bicoastal program is a nationwide search for diverse talent, both in front of and behind the camera, including those from ethnically diverse backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ community, artists with disabilities and female content creators. Winners are awarded with prizes ranging from development meetings and holding deals with NBCUniversal to cash grants and NBC-lot professional services. Festival alumni include Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”) and Hasan Minhaj (“The Daily Show”). The festival is part of the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS) that discover and nurture on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds. For more information, visit NBCUshortsFEST.com #NBCUshortsFEST

About the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS)

Since 2000, NBC has been dedicated to discovering and nurturing on screen and behind-the-camera talent of diverse and inclusive backgrounds through the NBC Talent Infusion Programs (NBC TIPS). NBC TIPS are amongst the most extensive and robust diversity and inclusion programs in the television industry. They feature more than 20 programs including Writers on the Verge, the Diverse Staff Writer Initiative, Female Forward, Emerging Director Program, StandUp NBC nationwide search for stand-up comedians and the NBCUniversal SHORT FILM FESTIVAL that celebrates diverse stories and the filmmakers who create them. Program alumni are celebrated producers, writers, directors and actors in the entertainment industry who have gone on to win Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards and include Alan Yang, Mindy Kaling, Deon Cole, Lil Rel Howery, Keto Shimizu, Natasha Rothwell, Danny Pudi and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel. For more information, visit NBCUniTIPS.com.