Support East of the River, a coming of age film

What does a day in the life look like for teens pushed out of the public school system? Help tell a story about the nation's capital that hasn't been told before

East of the River A Project of Creative Visions Fiscal Sponsorship

East of the River is a coming-of-age film about teenagers finding their way through an overburdened public school system in the nation's capital.


East of the River is a short coming-of-age film about Teonna, a teenage girl, who is unexpectedly suspended from school and is faced with figuring out what to do with a day on the streets of the nation's capital. Teonna encounters Malik, who was expelled from his charter school, and Sara, who left school because she saw more economic opportunity on the streets. The three set out for an adventure that takes them east of the Anacostia river. It is an unflinching portrait of the education and lived experience of teenagers finding their way through an overburdened public school system.

This story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream narratives about the experiences of young people of color who are often misunderstood by schools and pushed out by the very institutions that are there to help them flourish. It shows that despite the disproportionate amount of obstacles placed on their path, they still find ways to educate themselves and grow amidst the glaring absence of social and economic opportunities to pursue the lives they want to lead.

We couldn't be more excited to make this film, and hope you'll join us in bringing it to life. We believe that East of the River features untold stories in the nation's capital that is an opening for a critical dialogue about the experiences of a generation that should not be ignored. With every contribution you are helping us to extend this project beyond the screen, and into a tool to open up a dialogue and to bring attention to the very real life experiences of youth like Teonna, Sara, and Malik.

Genre: Coming of Age

Expected Running Time: 15 minutes

Production Dates: October 6-10

Filming Locations: Washington, D.C. (NE and SE neighborhoods)

Tone: This film is certainly backgrounded by harsh circumstances, but inside of the world of the young characters in which we will be, there is mischief, comedy, and all the humorous, awkward, lovable things that come with coming-of-age stories.

Similar Projects:

Five Feet High and Rising (2000) dir. Peter Sollett (short)

The Florida Project (2017) dir. Sean Baker (feature)

Heaven Knows What (2014) dir. Josh and Benny Sadie (feature)

This is a story we have not heard: East of the River takes place in parts of the nation's capital that rarely receive coverage in media, yet we believe if heard, would resonate deeply with a wide audience. We are choosing to highlight the experiences of young, black female and gender non-conforming students and to cast actual DC youth attending public schools.

To expand the school-to-prison pipeline dialogue: In Monique Morris' book "Pushout," she explains that "black girls are 16% of the student population, but nearly one-third of all girls referred to law enforcement and more than one-third of all female school-based arrests. The criminalization of black girls is much more than a street phenomenon. It has extended into our schools, disrupting one of the most important protective factors in a girl's life: her education." This film offers a nuanced view of the normalization of zero-tolerance school discipline practices that have profound implications and too often funnel students into the delinquency/criminal systems.

Film Should Be Inclusive: Movies belong to everyone, but not everyone's story gets featured on the screen. In films, low-income neighborhoods and the people who live in them are not often portrayed with dignity and respect and instead are often represented through violence and two-dimensional characters. We are all equally important, and drama should not be the preserve of the middle and upper class. We wanted to make this a narrative fiction film because we believe that gives audiences a chance to share in the experience of young people pushed out of schools rather than to see them as stark statistics.

To make is to take action: If you've read this far, there is a good chance we are on the same page in saying that the current political situation is really scary. Action can come in all forms, including the way we represent people, places, and circumstances in media. By contributing to this film, we entirely count you as collaborators in this effort.


Ayiana is a sophomore in the music dept. at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC. What we love about Ayiana is her intuitive grasp on the character, her inquisitiveness and readiness to collaborate.

Instagram @ayiana_taina

Malachi is 14 and loves to sing and meet new people. Malachi was one of the first people we auditioned and we have adored his charisma, sense of self and fashion, and humor ever since.

Instagram @savejiirealness

Steloni was born and raised in the DC area. She is an upcoming senior this year and recently started a business called Paws n Found. While she is an entrepreneur in school, she has always had a huge dream of becoming a big time actress and model.

Instagram @milangirl_


Writer/ Directer Hannah Peterson completed her BFA at the New School in New York where she studied documentary and experimental film theory. She worked as an apprentice to Alex Gibney on the feature documentary Going Clear, the Amazon series the New Yorker Presents, and the Netflix series Cooked prior to coming to California. Additionally, she served as a staff member for the 2015 Flaherty Film Seminar. Most recently she worked with writer and director Sean Baker on his forthcoming feature, The Florida Project which had it's world premiere at Cannes Director's Fortnight and was recently acquired by A24. She also worked with Baker on his award winning short film, Snowbird. In addition, she has worked in various roles such as cinematographer, AD, and producer in several short films. Currently, Hannah is completing her MFA in Film Directing at the California Institute of the Arts, School of Film/Video.

Co-Writer Stacey Eunnae is a Clinical Instructor and Supervising Attorney in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC- DCSL). Prior to joining UDC-DCSL, Stacey worked for two years as a staff attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. where she provided direct advocacy and support to more than 150 students and their families on critical cases involving educational placements, and she successfully represented clients in school discipline hearings before charter school boards and administrative law judges. Stacey has testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Education on legislative and policy matters and she has conducted multiple community trainings on representing families in school discipline cases. Stacey received her bachelor's degree in Women Studies at the College of William & Mary, and her Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Executive Producer Nasreen Alkhateeb is an award-winning Producer / Director, whose content has broadcast internationally for over 11 years. By motivating audiences, and empowering new voices, Nasreen thrives as a leader on diverse storytelling projects that include broadcast, digital, and film.

Nasreen has curated and created original content for NASA, BBC, NPR, The Atlantic, UNITED NATIONS, TED, SXSW, AMC, Coachella, Discovery Networks, American Film Institute, and IFC Films. In 2016, Nasreen was awarded Cinematographer of the Year by NASA.

Creative Producer Sinah Ober was born in Germany's Black Forest to a carpenter and a tailor. She recently received her MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Last fall she participated in the 2016 Telluride Student Symposium and taught a semester long seminar class, Social Media and Storytelling, at CalArts.

Sinah has worked on over 40 short films. Her films as a director have screened at several venues, including the Student Experimental Film Festival at SUNY, the International Academic Video Festival in São Paulo, and the International Kansk Video Festival in Russia, among others. She is the producer of numerous short films, including The Sacred Disease and The Creature, and her films as a producer have recently screened at the Viennale, Portland Film Festival, Baltimore Film Festival, and elsewhere. Blanco Orejinegro will be her first feature.

Director of Photography Christopher Messina is a filmmaker and cinematographer, making experimental, narrative, and documentary films. His work has been programmed in festivals and galleries around the world. His feature film credits include For The Plasma (dir. Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan), If There's A Hell Below (dir. Nathan Williams), and the documentary features The New Radical, and Hot Sugar's Cold World (dir. Adam Bhala Lough). His recent short film work includes Dear Renzo (dir. Agostina Gálvez and Francisco Lezama), Dead Water (dir. Andrew Gilchrist), and The Clean Up (dir. Jesse Allen). Additionally, his work as a camera operator can be seen in Josh and Benny Safdie's Heaven Knows What and Good Time, which recently had it's world premiere at Cannes. Chris also writes and directs films, including Beijing which won the first prize for best documentary short at the Rhode Island Film Festival.

Assistant Director Ryan Daniel Browne is an Australian-American filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is a musician and has directed over a dozen music videos. His most recent narrative film, Napalm, was successfully funded through a crowdfunding campaign, and explores teenage friendship, violence, and pyromania. It will be released in late 2017. Ryan recently received his MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

Mentor Juan Pablo González, named one of the Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" for 2015, is an emerging Mexican filmmaker whose work includes documentary, fiction and experimental films. His work and collaborations have screened at film festivals such as Cannes, Locarno, IDFA, Edinburgh, Slamdance, Morelia, Full Frame, among others. He has been a grantee of the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA), the Austin Film Society, and received a Jesse H Jones Fellowship for his thesis project at the University of Texas at Austin. Juan Pablo currently teaches at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the MFA in Film Directing.

Advisor Sean Baker is a writer/director known for the Spirit Award nominated films Take Out (2004), Prince of Broadway (2008) and Starlet (2012) (winner of the Robert Altman Spirit Award). His film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released by Magnolia Pictures in the United States. Baker's most recent film, The Florida Project premiered at Cannes Director's Fortnight and will be distributed by A24. He is also one of the creators of the long running comedy television show entitled Greg the Bunny (2005) and its spin-off Warren the Ape (2010).

Advisor Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas is the Executive Director for Advocates for Justice and Education where she has spent over the last eleven years representing hundreds of parents/students in school discipline, special education and other educational matters. She manages all legal services provided to AJE families and its legal programs. In addition, Ms. Hiligh-Thomas provides training on educational matters involving school discipline, special education and other educational rights to parents, youth, school staff and other professionals. Rochanda is a native Washingtonian and graduate of a District of Columbia public high school.

Our Youth Advisory board is group of DC youth that will meet a total of 3 times before production to assist in the research process in order to ensure that the plot and characters are an honest representation of teenagers growing up in the DC Public School system.


Your support will make it possible for us to work at the standard expected at A-list film festivals. Your support will help us fund equipment rentals, insurance costs, location fees, compensating the cast and crew, post-production and distribution.

East of the River has the support of the California Institute of the Arts where Hannah is studying for her Masters in Fine Arts, and they will help us get a good amount of the equipment and insurance. Now we need your help to complete our finance plan. Please give what you can, share our links, and help us reach our goal. Every little bit helps!