Film Student Cecilia Otero Named 2021 Film Independent Producing Lab Fellow

BY Angeline Dimambro, November 22, 2021

Film student Cecilia Otero was accepted into the 2021 Film Independent Producing Lab. 


As part of the Producing Lab, the fellows will participate in a program set up to help develop their skills and further their careers by pairing them with a creative mentor who will advise on both the craft and business of independent producing. The 2021 Producing Lab is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


“We are thrilled to support this year’s talented cohort of Producers who are championing global stories that speak to the universal human experiences of ambition, redemption and connection,” said Angela C. Lee, Associate Director of Artist Development, in a statement to Deadline. “This year’s projects span from the US to Bangladesh, Trinidad to Europe, and we are excited to help further empower our producing fellows to bring to life these beautiful stories that can and will entertain a worldwide audience.” 


The lab selects five filmmakers and projects each year for their annual program. Otero was selected for a feature screenplay written by fellow Film Program student Felix van Kann, entitled Upstreamers. The script follows Alex, a 30-year-old professional tennis player. When Alex is threatened with losing his scholarship at his academy, his once promising career faces a sudden end. In his despair and obsession with succeeding in the sport he loves, he turns to what he sees as his last option to turn his fate around: doping. The project was also a recipient of the Sloan Producers Grant, a $30,000 grant to further develop a project that explores science and technology themes or characters in engaging and innovative ways.

“I’m really honored to have been awarded the Sloan Grant,” said Otero. “As a female producer from Latin America, it’s been really exciting to feel I can step into a field that’s been so dominated by men and tell this story of struggle that is so close to our hearts. Upstreamers explores the limits of art, passion, and tennis through our protagonist’s obsession with success. Having the support of the Sloan Foundation and Film Independent brings us one step closer to realizing this story onscreen. As an independent and international filmmaker these kinds of initiatives are fundamental in making our work possible.”


Cecilia Otero is a New York-based writer/producer/director who was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Santiago, Chile. She runs the production company Hiedra. The first movie Otero produced, Piola, won 6 prizes in the Work in Progress section of the 2019 Guadalajara International Film Festival and is part of the official selection at FICG 35, in Guadalajara, México and Málaga Film Festival in Spain. She is currently developing The Fox & the Raven, based on her own script, which she will also direct. Otero’s short documentary Partir (2011), which she produced and directed, was showcased at the Havana Film Festival and at the Chicago-Latino Film Festival and won several awards. Her second documentary, Memories of the Absent (2015), financed through a grant from the Chilean government, was also showcased at the Havana Film Festival. Otero has worked as a screenwriter on the award-winning Chilean television series, Bala Loca. In 2016, she also helped adapt for the screen My Tender Matador, a novel by Pedro Lemebel to be directed by Rodrigo Sepúlveda. Her directorial debut in fiction, Aburo, was supported by the Amsterdam World Cinema Fund and will enter the festival circuit soon.