Rob Cristiano ’13 and Valeria Contreras ’23, selected for the 2023 Film Independent Producers Lab

Joséphine Simonian
October 30, 2023

Film Alumni  Rob Cristiano ’13 and Valeria Contreras ’23 have been selected for the  2023 Film Independent Producers Lab. Apoorva Charan ’18 will serve as one of the program's guest speakers.

The lab is an intensive program designed to help creative, independent producers develop their skills and boost their careers. It aims at connecting them with film professionals to support them both with the craft and the business of independent producing. Each fellow will work hand in hand with a Creative Advisor, developing a project over the course of the lab. Charan will be a guest speaker alongside the lead creative advisor Rebecca Green. 

Contreras’s project, Not My Name, written by Film alumnus Juan Paulo Laserna ’22, is set in Colombia in 1996. The film follows a family that must travel on a perilous rural road with fake identities, exposing their child to the reality of war. The project is currently in development. 

Also in the development stage is Cristiano’s project, Gone by Morning. The film follows Lucy, a free-spirited dancer and single mother, who returns to the family ranch she desperately wanted to escape and realizes that her life might be there.

Valeria Contreras is a bilingual, Mexican-American writer, director, and producer. Her work is inspired by her binational upbringing alongside the U.S.-Mexico Border in her hometown of El Paso, Texas, as well as the experience she gained leading projects on cross-border relations, immigration, and healthcare policy in local government. Her first short film, Homesick, is a modern-day tale of two star-crossed lovers, separated by a global pandemic and the U.S.-Mexico Border. The film was selected for various festivals including the Atlanta Film Festival (Oscar Qualifying Festival), Philadelphia Latino Arts and Film Festival, Iberoamerican Film Festival, and the Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase which included screenings in the UK and Australia. Valeria has produced a slate of short films that explore various social issues, ranging in genre from drama to comedy to horror. Valeria is also an entrepreneur and founder of Valcon Comics, a small business specializing in the publication of bilingual, educational comics for kids. Through this venture, Valeria published El Cartoon, a free, monthly comics newspaper distributed across borders.

Rob Cristiano is a Brooklyn-born independent filmmaker. His feature film producing credits include festival favorites The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2018), Bob and the Trees (Sundance 2015, Winner of the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary Int'l Film Fest 2015), Keep the Change (Winner of Best US Narrative Film at Tribeca Film Festival 2017, Winner of the Critics' Award, Karlovy Vary Int'l Film Festival 2017), and others. In recent years, Cristiano produced the award-winning Broadway-themed web series Understudies, an episodic VR pilot, and more than a dozen acclaimed short films that have screened at over one hundred film festivals in twenty different countries. His chess-themed short film, The King's Pawn (dir. Jonah Bleicher), received a production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and was honored by Vimeo as a Staff Pick.