Six filmmaking teams were granted funding from the SFFS, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation (KRF), to help with the next stage of their creative process, from screenwriting to postproduction. The Film Society’s flagship SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grants are awarded twice annually to filmmakers for narrative feature films that will have significant economic or professional impact on the Bay Area filmmaking community. More than $2.8 million has been awarded since the launch of the Film Society’s grant program in 2009.
The SFFS/KRF program has funded more than 50 projects since its inception, including recent success stories such as Kat Candler’s “Hellion” and Ira Sachs’ “Love Is Strange,” both of which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
“This grant is truly the special sauce of American independent cinema. It powered four films into Sundance premieres last year, and there are likely to be at least that many announced shortly for this upcoming January. We feel incredibly privileged to help shepherd these grantees to the same impact as past recipients like ‘Fruitvale Station’ and ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,'” Noah Cowan, SFFS Executive Director, told Indiewire.
The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Noah Cowan, SFFS Executive Director; Jonathan King, Executive Vice President of Production at Participant Media; Jennifer Rainin, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation; Sue Turley, Managing Director of ro*co films; and Michele Turnure-Salleo, Director of Filmmaker360.
“These inventive and in some cases quite edgy projects impressed us with their bold explorations into visual expression and narrative styles,” the jury noted in a statement. “They show great ambition in their global scale and their head-on approach to urgent contemporary issues, and yet remain attentive to emotional intricacy and honesty. Each film also in its own way challenges established international production frameworks and has a unique storytelling process, and we’re excited to be a supportive partner in that effort.”
Descriptions of the projects, with the size of each grant, supplied by the SFFS are below:
Dark Forest – Elena Greenlee, writer/director – $35,000 for screenwriting
A hipster millennial—equally versed in neuroscience and party drugs—steps out of her depth into the complex world of Amazonian shamanism. She finds herself in the crossfire of an intense battle for power being waged in a magical dimension she’s not even sure she believes in.
God Bless the Child – Robert Machoian, writer/codirector; Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, codirector; Robert Thomas, producer; Laura Heberton, producer – $60,000 for postproduction
Five siblings spend a summer day on their own. Only the eldest—the one girl, 13—knows their mother may never be coming back, and while looking after her brothers she lets them just be little kids, drawing them closer to her as the day goes by. More info at 433pictures.com.
Mediterranea – Jonas Carpignano, writer/director – $60,000 for postproduction
After leaving his native Burkina Faso, Ayiva makes the perilous journey across the Sahara and Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. Once in Italy, he must balance his desire to provide for his family in Africa with the intolerance and harsh working conditions he finds in his newly claimed home.
Skunk – Annie Silverstein, writer/director – $35,000 for screenwriting
Long-lying tensions erupt in a small watershed town east of Houston after a sexual prank by a group of teenage boys is linked to a local girl’s suicide. 14-year-old Laney, riddled with guilt and grief over the loss of her friend, begins her own investigation which has unforeseen consequences. More info at anniesilverstein.com.
Songs My Brother Taught Me – Chloé Zhao, writer/director/producer – $60,000 for postproduction
Johnny, a restless Lakota teen, fights to escape his life on the reservation but soon realizes that leaving the only place he has ever known is far more complicated than he thought.
Unexpected – Kris Swanberg, writer/director – $50,000 for postproduction
An inner-city high school teacher finds herself pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students, and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies.