Eight filmmaking teams receive the grants to push their projects into the next stage of their creative process, from screenwriting to production. Awarded twice annually, the grants are intended for narrative features that impact the burgeoning Bay Area film community.
These are promising projects to watch for. Past films have enjoyed indie success on the festival circuit and theatrically, including Ira Sachs’ "Love Is Strange," Destin Cretton’s "Short Term 12," Ryan Coogler’s "Fruitvale Station," which went all the way to win a Cannes prize, and Benh Zeitlin’s Best Picture-nominated "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Several of this year’s winners, from Travis Mathews to Ian Olds, already have considerable traction in the indie film scene and received Film Society backing in 2014. Also, "Jones" writer/director Sally El Hosaini was SFFS’s winter 2015 Artist in Residence.
The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Noah Cowan, SFFS Executive Director; Jonathan Marlow, Chief Content Officer at Fandor; Jennifer Rainin, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation; Kirsten Schaffer, Executive Director of Women in Film; and Michele Turnure- Salleo, Director of Filmmaker360.
The eight winners are:
"The Fixer" – Ian Olds, co-writer/director; Paul Felten, co-writer; Caroline von Kuhn, producer – $75,000 for production
An Afghan journalist is exiled from his war-torn country to a small bohemian community in Northern California. When he attempts to turn his menial job on the local police blotter into “Afghan-style” coverage of local crime he gets drawn into the backwoods of this small town—a shadow Northern California where sex is casual, true friendship is hard to come by, and an unfamiliar form of violence burbles up all around him.
"Jones" – Sally El Hosaini, writer/director – $25,000 for screenwriting
When his father abandons him deep in the Guyanese jungle, the rebellious son of a narcissistic church leader discovers a new life of freedom. His utopia is soon shattered when “Dad” arrives with hundreds of followers. Driven by the universal need for a father’s love he becomes complicit in the depravity he previously rejected. Based on Stephan Jones’s true-life story.
"Mustang" – Laure de Clermont Tonnerre, writer/director – $25,000 for screenwriting
Roman Coleman is halfway through serving an 11-year sentence for attempted murder when he is offered the chance to participate in an ongoing rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of recently captured wild mustangs. Through his struggle to communicate with the animals, trainers, and other inmates he is forced to face his past and must learn confront his inner demons.
"Oscillate Wildly" – Travis Mathews, writer/director; Andrew Carlberg, Jonathan Duffy and Kelly
Williams, producers – $75,000 for production
When a first love challenges his guarded sense of what’s possible, a hot-headed young gay man with
mild cerebral palsy is forced to confront the disability he’s let consume and define him.
"Reza and the Refugees" – Aaron Douglas Johnston, writer/director; Charlotte Scott-Wilson, Trent
Scott-Wilson, Laura Wagner, producers – $25,000 for screenwriting
A ragtag team of Middle Eastern political refugees in Holland enters the Eurovision song contest in an
effort to save their friend from deportation and certain death.
"Sorry To Bother You" – Boots Riley, writer/director; Jonathan Duffy, George Rush and Kelly Williams, producers – $25,000 for screenwriting
A Black telemarketer discovers a magical way to make his voice overdubbed by a White actor, propelling him into the upper echelon of a macabre universe where he is selected to lead a species of genetically manipulated horse-people, called the Equisapiens.
"Staring at the Sun" – Ryan Piers Williams, writer/director; Jason Michael Berman, America Ferrera and Caroline Kaplan, producers – $25,000 for screenwriting After a massive solar event knocks out the world’s technological infrastructure, healthcare becomes a vital commodity. An elite group of United Nations aid workers given access to the best healthcare are tasked to isolate the sick from the healthy and privileged. When a young aid worker finds himself in a forbidden love, he must choose between a life of solitude or an uncertain fate with the woman he loves.
"What Waits For Them In Darkness" – Stephen Dunn, writer/director – $25,000 for screenwriting
11-year-old Skipper gets separated from her family during the Newfoundland resettlement and stranded alone in her floating house on the high seas of the Atlantic where reality mixes with the rich folklore of Newfoundland for a dark fantasy adventure.