THE SQUAD CLASS of 2021
Evelyn Belasco is a native Californian who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from UCSB. She worked as a script supervisor in features and commercials before finding her home in sitcoms. In 2019, Evelyn made the jump to directing on the Nickelodeon hit Henry Danger. Since then she has gone on to direct 20 episodes of television for Nickelodeon (Henry Danger, Danger Force, Side Hustle ) Paramount + (The Fairly OddParents) and Disney (Raven’s Home). With a decade of experience in sitcoms, Evelyn brings a deep understanding of the specific craft of the sitcom, and a sincere love for all things comedy. She lives in Woodland Hills with her husband Alan and 7 year old son Izzy.
SJ Chiro’s latest feature film, East of the Mountains, starring Tom Skerritt, Mira Sorvino, and Annie Gonzalez maintains 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Both the film and lead actor Tom Skerritt are nominated for Satellite Awards.Her first feature, Lane 1974 premiered at SXSW 2017 and went on to win the FIPRESCI award for New American Cinema, as well as several other honors. The film stars Sophia Mitri Schloss and Katherine Moennig. Chiro produced and directed several short films including Howard From Ohio which won a special award at the Seattle International Film Festival. Chiro trained as an actor at Bennington College including study in London with professors from RADA. Upon graduation Chiro moved to Seattle where she helped to develop Annex Theatre, eventually becoming Artistic Director. SJ Chiro is a member of the DGA.
Elvira Ibragimova is an LA-based director and writer, specializing in comedy. Elvira is a half Jewish, half Muslim refugee, hailing from sunny, Soviet-era Uzbekistan. After an initial career in architecture, she turned to filmmaking. She is a graduate of Second City’s Harold Ramis Film School. Her short films Dingus Wishes and Straight or Alive have placed in multiple film festivals and helped her secure the Viacom Viewfinder Directing Fellowship, a year long training program for episodic television. Her television credits include Danger Force on Nickelodeon and The Fairly OddParents on Paramount+.
Born and raised in Manila, Marie Jamora began her career directing music videos during the golden age of the Philippine rock scene. Her first feature, What Isn’t There, premiered internationally at Slamdance and led her to immigrate to America. Her film, Flip the Record, won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short at Urbanworld and she is an executive producer and director of Family Style (HBO Max). Marie is the first Filipina to be accepted into the WB TV Directors’ Workshop and AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women, where she wrote and directed Harana, which won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Narrative Short at the Sarasota Film Festival. After joining the DGA in 2021, she’s directed episodes for Queen Sugar (OWN), The Cleaning Lady (FOX), and Good Sam(CBS). Marie also founded Cinema Sala, a screening and workshop series that showcases Filipinx artists in film and the performing arts.
Jen McGowan is a director based in LA. Her recent feature, the survival thriller, RUST CREEK, was released in theaters by IFC Midnight, hailed as “the feminist thriller Hollywood needs” by Harper’s Bazaar and “certified fresh” at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. McGowan’s first feature, the dramedy KELLY & CAL (Juliette Lewis & Cybill Shepherd) premiered at SXSW where she won the Gamechanger Award. It was released theatrically by IFC Films (71% on Rotten Tomatoes). In television she directed episodes of STAR TREK:DISCOVERY, TWILIGHT ZONE and THE GAME for Paramount+. With her partner Eliza Lee she co-created & sold the series, Angelica, about the last remaining abortion clinic in a small Midwest town. Creator of Glass Elevator she also mentors other filmmakers through the AWD. She is attached to the sci-fi action CAPSULE with Hutch Parker (LOGAN, X-MEN) for 20th Century. Since 2017 she has trained as an amateur boxer with Golden Gloves champ Jill Morley.
Nijla Mu’min is a writer/filmmaker from the East Bay Area. Her work is informed by poetry, photography, fiction, and dance. Her debut feature film Jinn, premiered at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where she won the Jury Recognition Award for Screenwriting. Jinn, a New York Times Critic’s pick, was released in November 2018 by Orion Classics, and is streaming on Amazon. In 2018, she directed an episode of “Queen Sugar.” She’s also written for the Apple series, “Swagger,” and the Starz show “Blindspotting”. In 2019, she joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and directed an episode of HBO’s “Insecure.” She also directed a short film for Netflix, entitled Black Prom. In 2021, she directed an episode of “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” for Hulu. She is currently developing her second feature film Mosswood Park. She is a graduate of CalArts MFA Film Directing and Creative Writing Programs.
Tchaiko’s filmmaking is influenced by growing up as a Third Culture Kid. Magic, themes of in-between in the African Diaspora, its effects on the body and spirit, fill her work. Her creative impulses for fantasy are a connection to African Indigeneity and its healing potential. She centers ethical practices of care, process, intuition and deep listening to her body, dreams, and the magic of her baby. Her debut feature film Solace, about a Black girl navigating an eating disorder is streaming on Showtime, Kweli TV, Apple TV and Amazon. The film features Hope Olaide Wilson, Chelsea Tavares, Lynn Whitfield, and Glynn Turman. It won Special Jury Mention at LA Film Festival and Audience Award at New Orleans Film Festival. Tchaiko’s episodic work begun on Season 4 of Queen Sugar, followed by Cherish The Day Season 2. She directs commercials with Unicorns + Unicorns.
Jen Derwingson-Peacock is a Writer/Director working in TV. Recent credits include Black Summer, Z Nation and NCIS: New Orleans. The descendant of Chinese and German immigrants, Jen grew up in Northern California at the foot of Mt. Shasta, mythical home of Big Foot, aliens, the survivors of Atlantis and a panther who turns into Jesus Christ. Jen is also a student and teacher of Buddhist meditation. A fellow director calls her “A Buddhist who likes to blow shit up.” Jen earned a BA in English from Stanford and an MFA in Film Production from USC. She began her career as a theatre director working in Bali, London, and San Francisco. After moving to LA, she made several award winning short films before starting in TV. Jen is known for her inventive world building and for creating grounded, complex characters, sharp dialogue, moody suspense and visceral action and horror.
Dr. Rachel Raimist
Dr. Rachel Raimist is a formerly tenured college professor turned television director. She broke into TV when she was tapped by Ava DuVernay to direct QUEEN SUGAR for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). She has recently directed episodes including QUEENS (ABC), THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS (HBO Max), THE BIG LEAP (Fox), WU-TANG: AN AMERICAN SAGA (Hulu), FANTASY ISLAND (Fox), DIARY OF A FUTURE PRESIDENT (Disney+) and 4400, THE REPUBLIC OF SARAH, NANCY DREW and ROSWELL NEW MEXICO for The CW. Raimist holds a B.A. and a M.F.A. in Directing from the UCLA School of Film and Television and a M.A. in Women’s Studies and a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota where The Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center was named in her honor.
A native Angeleno, Charissa Sanjarernsuithikul is a director with an 18 year career in TV post production. Working alongside powerhouse Showrunners such as Greg Berlanti, Kevin Williamson, Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin, Charissa’s editing credits include The Following, The Newsroom and Doom Patrol. In 2016, Charissa took a break from editing to enrich her craft by shadowing working television directors. Her debut short film, Playing It Straight was followed by LA Hustle and Post Sentence, which won the Best Women’s Short Award at the 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival. Her short films rendered her a finalist in the 2018-2020 Disney ABC Directing Program, a participant in the 2018 Sony Diverse Directors Program & 2019 Warner Bros Television Directors’ Workshop. Charissa’s episodic television directorial debut was the Season 2 Midseason Finale of God Friended Me and she recently directed an episode of Good Trouble, All American and The Rookie.
America Young is currently working in Film, TV, Animation and Video Games, as a Director and stunt coordinator. Her first feature, “The Concessionaires Must Die!!,” executive produced by Stan Lee, is now available on VOD platforms. She directed the Vertical Slice for Resident Evil: Village that was recently released to record setting numbers. And is currently directing another AAA title game. Her second feature, the magical surrealistic “Back to Lyla” will be released 2022. Since completion of the Warner Bros directing program in 2019, she has directed 9 episodes of Television including a pilot, Surfside Girls, for Apple TV. When America’s not kicking the crap out of Super-Heroes that support the Superhuman Registration Act, jumping off buildings, teaching actors how to fight or setting herself on fire, she enjoys telling stories, sipping herbal tea and sharpening her pair of Sai.