top of page
  • Writer's pictureKids In The Spotlight

KITS Film Awards Illuminates Unique Films Created by L.A.’s Youngest Filmmakers

Annual Event Recognizes Inspiring Talent and Their Stories, Their Way

LOS ANGELES – Local non-profit Kids In The Spotlight (KITS) recently hosted its thirteenth annual movie premiere and awards ceremony at the iconic Paramount Pictures Studios on Saturday, November 4th, honoring the creative achievements of young filmmakers, some of whom have been impacted by foster care. The screening included a first ever commercial – in partnership with Biscuit Filmworks and Wieden + Kennedy, and directed by 2010 KITS alum, dayday – and a trailer for KITS’ upcoming feature-length documentary, “Recovering Innocence” among nine short films produced by KITS this past year. The emerging artists received awards from Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Zach King, and James Pickens, Jr. to name a few. The event was possible with the generous support of The Canet Foundation, U.S. Bank, and Music is Unity.

The night also acknowledged foster youth and underserved groups’ biggest advocates. California State Senator Caroline Menjivar received the Gary Burrell Humanitarian Award, named for actor Ty Burrell’s father and the work he did for foster youth. Menjivar was honored due to her advocacy and policy work which exemplifies the spirit of the award through her unwavering dedication to the betterment of the lives of vulnerable youth and the community at large. As the Senator was unable to attend, Ty Burrell accepted the award on her behalf, to be presented later. Wendy Raquel Robinson, who served as host, presented the Jordan Award to Randal Wells, a recording artist and founder of the Foster Tales Podcast, Wells uses his lived experience in foster care to provide a platform for other foster impacted youth to heal through sharing their stories.

KITS Film Awards coverage has included:

Fox 11 News Los Angeles (part 1, pre-event)

NBC4’s “Today in LA”

Getty Images

The Hollywood Reporter

Additional event sponsors included Schimmel & Parks, Paramount Pictures, The California Wellness Foundation, Gregory & Becky Metzger, Sykes Entertainment, and Weingart Foundation.

The award winners for the 2023 KITS Film Awards were:

Best Supporting Actor: Ages 12-17: Serenity R. as “Emma” in “Mind Games” | Ages 18-24: Sci [skaɪ] Proud as “Donte” in “Unconditional”

Best Ensemble Cast: Ages 12-17: “In This House” | Ages 18-24: “Unconditional” Best Screenplay: Ages 12-17: “In This House” | Ages 18-24: “Unconditional” Best Actor: Ages 12-17: Dereon D. as “Tristian” in “In This House” | Ages 18-24: London Jones as “Amari” in “Unconditional” Best Film: Ages 12-17: “In This House” | Ages 18-24: “Unconditional”

Best known for its flagship Script-to-Screen program, Kids In The Spotlight serves opportunity youth ages 12-24 who write, cast, and star in their original short films, which are directed and produced by industry professionals. This year’s top winners, “In This House” and “Unconditional” were directed by Julia Verdin and Grant Housley, respectively. Script-to-Screen curriculum engages teaching artists to lead classes in screenwriting, acting, casting, and editing, helping youth impacted by foster care heal and grow from trauma through the power of storytelling and filmmaking. Script-to-Screen cultivates technical skills, goal-setting, mental well-being, and confidence through concrete achievements.

Through this program, KITS prepares youth for entertainment internships and entry-level jobs, opening the door to a network of industry peers and mentors. The KITS Production Studio with Purpose also serves as a workforce development center where alums can get paid work opportunities to help generate incomes, impacting outcomes foster youth typically face.

Nehemyah Gray, one of the “Unconditional” writers, said, “I have grown so much with this program. I didn’t know that my dreams could come true, due to my journey, but Kids In The Spotlight made that possible.” Fellow “Unconditional” team writer and actor, David-Jeremiah Russell, said, “Shout out to KITS for letting us have it our way with everything. They really do let us put our visions and our ideas on the screen. Shout out to Grant for seeing our vision and helping us make a masterpiece.”

To learn more about Kids In The Spotlight, please email

About Kids In The Spotlight (KITS)

Founded in 2009, KITS is a Los Angeles County-based organization that helps foster youth heal and grow from trauma through the power of storytelling and filmmaking. In the KITS flagship Script-to-Screen program, foster youth ages 12-24 write, cast, and star in their own short films, telling their stories their way. KITS envisions a pipeline of Black and Brown leaders in positions of decision-making power. By building the pipeline, KITS pursues the restoration of economic stability and generational wealth for Black and Brown youth. Learn more at

# # #

18 views0 comments
bottom of page