By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 7, 2009 at 6:26AM
Cinereach presented filmmakers Brendon McQueen and Danielle Russell with its first-ever Reach Out Award at last night's screening and reception celebrating the culmination of its annual Reach Film Fellowship, which is now in its second year. Cinereach was founded in 2006 "by a group of young filmmakers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs with the goal of championing socially relevant films." McQueen and Russell each received a $2,500 grant they can use to cover costs related to the completion and distribution of their Reach Film Fellowship films.
McQueen worked with mentor and director So Yong Kim ("Treeless Mountain") on his film, "Skip Rocks," which "weaves a moving tale of intergenerational alienation and connectedness between a 12-year-old girl, and a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's." Russell, a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design, worked with mentor Renee Bishop, a Savannah-based, Emmy-winning producer, on "Bridging the Gap," a documentary in which "she challenges her parents, aunt and uncle to open up about their participation in a historic civil rights march, hoping to inspire the younger generation to continue the legacy of social action."
Last night's event was the conclusion of the intensive six-month Reach Film Fellowship program in which McQueen, Russell and two other filmmakers - Jules Monteyne and Dena Greenbaum - were paired with mentors and advisors who helped them take their short films from script or treatment through completion. In addition to Kim and Bishop, this year's mentors were Producer Jeremy Kipp Walker ("Half Nelson") and Writer/Director Nicole Kassell ("The Woodsman"). All four fellows received a grant of $5,000 at the start of the program, in addition to donated materials and services from sponsors like Kodak, Postworks and Showbiz Software.
The fellows also participated in a series of workshops led by advisors such as Academy Award-nominated director Ellen Kuras ("The Betrayal: Nerakhoon"), producer Susan Leber ("Down to the Bone"), documentary director Edet Belzberg ("Children Underground"), screenwriter Afia Nathanial, an acclaimed independent filmmaker from Pakistan, and writer/director/actor Paola Mendoza ("Still Standing").
"It's been incredibly rewarding to watch this year's fellows grow and evolve," said Cinereach founder Philipp Engelhorn in a statement. "At a challenging time like this, it's more important than ever that we nurture and support filmmakers who dare to tackle difficult issues in an original, entertaining way. They need opportunities to practice their craft and real exposure to the film industry."