More than $100,000 in cash, donations and services were awarded on Thursday afternoon as the Independent Feature Project (IFP) showcased filmmakers and their new projects during the organizations annual “Independent Film Week” in New York City. Eunhee Cho received the inaugural Adrienne Shelly Director’s Grant for her new film, “Inner Circle Line,” while Avi Weider received a pair of prizes for his project, “Zeroes and Ones.”
Selected to receive the Adrienne Shelley grant by jurors Hal Hartley, Bennett Miller, Paul Rudd and Keri Russell, an excited Eunhee Cho flew in from Korea to accept her $10,000 grant at Thursday’s luncheon at the Chinatown Brasserie in downtown Manhattan. Her film, described by the late Shelly’s husband as “the story of two people with the same name who come together,” screened last year at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and also won a special jury prize at SXSW, among other fests. Chatting with indieWIRE after lunch, she said that the prize would hopefully help her reach a wider audience for her film, which she hopes will connect with a Korean audience. “With this money, I will find more people (to see my film),” Eunhee Cho told indieWIRE, “The Adrienne Shelly Grant makes it happen!”
“I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact that we are supporting individual artists,” noted Michelle Byrd, reitering that the awards presented on Thursday will enable these filmmakers to make their movies. “A lot of times, film gets put into a very commercial category, while the reality is that people who are making independent films are really struggling.” Continuing, Byrd added, “(We are) trying to remind people of that struggle and that these are artists who are making work [and] care passionately about what it is they are doing.”
Avi Weider’s “Zeroes and Ones” was singled out for the Emerging Narrative Screenplay prize, which includes a $5,000 grant from Artists Public Domain. His script is the story of a bank employee who interviews her grandmother — a Holocaust survivor with an untold secret — and inputs her stories into a machine that brings “new life” to them after her grandmother’s passing. He was also selected to receive a Panasonic Digital Filmmaking Grant to support his new project. Chatting with indieWIRE Weider added that he is also preparing a separate documentary project that will be boosted by his week of meetings and networking at the IFP Market.
Nir Paniry received a Kodak grant of $6,000 in film stock for the emerging narrative screennplay project, “Kamikaze Dolls,” while other recipients of the Panasonic in-kind filmmaking grants, valued at $54,000, were Frederic Collier for “M & N,” Eric Lane for “Murnur,” Phillipp Wolter for “The State of Being,” Nena Eskridge for “Stray,” and Sean Patrick McCarthy for “Mohammed and Mary,” Jennifer Sharp for “Native Monkeys,” and Paola Mendoza & Gloria LaMorte for “We Can.”
Landon Van Soest‘s “Good Fortune” receive the $10,000 Fledgling Fund Award for Socially Conscious Documentaries. The doc explores how massive international aid in Africa may be exacerbating the problem of poverty in Africa. Through portraits with individuals living in the poorest areas of Kenya, the film presents a unique perspective on how human rights violations and environmental destruction is carried out in the name of progress.
Also from the Fledgling Fund, Yolanda Pividal received the organization’s $10,000 award for emerging Latino filmmakers. Her project portrays three separate stories that revolve around the U.S. border with Mexico. In one, a gang member is deported after living five years in the U.S., while another profiles a 14 year-old aspiring artist who at night smuggles people across the border. The third is the story of street children earning a living in Tijuana with no intentions of crossing the heavily fortified border.
Thursday’s awards luncheon marked a convergence of a number of Independent Feature Project programs, weaving in prizes for IFP Market projects and also showcasing participants in the recent IFP Narrative Rough Cut Lab who have been attending Market events. Also highlighted were filmmakers named as the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in the latest edition of Filmmaker Magazine.
Leading up to the IFP’s 30th anniversary next year, Michelle Byrd told indieWIRE, the organization hopes to offer a number of activities for the 2008 edition of Independent Film Week that will emphasize the range of IFP programs, building on this year’s programming. “This is kind of the baby step this year,” Byrd told indieWIRE, “But next year you will see that more fully unveiled.”
The IFP’s Filmmaker Conference concludes on Friday with a free Fair Use Day, exploring issues related to documentary filmmaking.