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San Francisco Film Society Announces Recipients of Inaugural Women Filmmaker Fellowships

San Francisco Film Society Announces Recipients of Inaugural Women Filmmaker Fellowships

Jennifer Phang (“Advantageous”), Nikole Beckwith (“Stockholm, Pennsylvania”) and Stewart Thorndike (“Lyle”) have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the San Francisco Film Society’s Women Filmmaker Fellowships.

The newly launched fellowship was created to support female writer/directors who are working on their second or third narrative feature. As we previously noted, “a significant number of female filmmakers have shared that securing funding for their second projects proved challenging, even if their first films were financial and critical successes.” 

Support will be provided in the form of both financial backing and a variety of mentorship services, including helping the filmmakers establish industry connections. In order to be eligible for the program, participants had to have premiered a previous film at a major international festival. Women working in the genres of science fiction, comedy, action, thriller and horror were given priority, as these genres are typically male-dominated. 

“We’re thrilled to be kicking off this new initiative with such talented individuals and to help bridge the support gap we have seen for many women in finding the resources they need,” said Michele Turnure-Salleo, director of Filmmaker360, the SFFS’s Filmmaker services department. “It’s also very satisfying to support kick-ass women making edgy sci-fi, horror and comedies, and we hope this initiative contributes to leveling the playing field in those areas. Like our SFFS Producers Initiative, this program focuses on backing people rather than individual projects, and we are committed to helping these amazing folks realize their creative visions.”

In recent interviews with Women and Hollywood, Phang and Beckwith told us what advice they’d give fellow female filmmakers. Phang shared, “We really do need to support each other. Too many times I’ve been led to believe that my direct competition was other women, as if there can be [only] a handful of successful female filmmakers a year. That conversation, that perception, needs to change. Women are the people who have helped me make films I love, and I want to be that kind of strength to other women.” Beckwith said, “Trust yourself. Be your own best advocate. Be willing to be ‘difficult,’ or at least labeled as difficult. It doesn’t mean you are. It just means you’re strong.” 

For more information about the SFFS’s first Women Filmmaker fellows and the fellowships in general, see below: 


Nikole Beckwith 
Nikole Beckwith is from Newburyport, Massachusetts. Her plays have been developed and performed with the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, HERE Arts Center, Colt Coeur, Lesser America, 3LD and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater among others. Her newest play “Untitled Matriarch Play” (or “Seven Sisters”) was written at the National Theatre of London’s Studio and premiered in rep at the Royal Court under the direction of Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone. Also a pen and ink artist, Beckwith’s comics have been featured on NPR, WNYC, the Huffington Post and the Hairpin, among others. Her first film “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” (2012 Nicholl Fellowship, 2012 Black List, 2013 Sundance Screenwriters Lab), which was adapted from her stage play of the same name, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in the US Dramatic Competition. She lives in Brooklyn. 

Jennifer Phang 
Jennifer Phang’s sophomore feature “Advantageous” won the US Dramatic Competition Special Jury Prize in Collaborative Vision at Sundance 2015. The film will play at the San Francisco International Film Festival and BAM Cinemafest, and is expected to see a release in June. Her award-winning debut feature “Half-Life” premiered in 2008 at the Tokyo International and Sundance film festivals. It screened at SXSW and was distributed by Sundance Channel. She was invited to Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and was awarded a SFFS FilmHouse Residency and Sundance Institute Feature Film Grants in support of “Advantageous.” Phang was originally commissioned to create Advantageous as a short film for the ITVS Futurestates Program. A Berkeley-born daughter of a Chinese-Malaysian father and Vietnamese mother, Phang graduated from the MFA directing program at the American Film Institute.

Stewart Thorndike
Stewart Thorndike is a writer/director from Tacoma, Washington. She makes female-driven genre films and her first film, “Lyle,” was hailed as a “lesbian Rosemary’s Baby” after its premiere at Outfest, where star Gaby Hoffmann won the Grand Jury Award for Best Actress. Thorndike attended NYU’s graduate film program and her thesis short film, “Tess and Nana,” premiered at SXSW. Stewart’s next film, “The Stay,” is about a group of women at a hotel who are told to do bad things by a haunted TED Talk, with Chloe Sevigny attached to star in the 2015 production. She is currently developing her second horror feature, “Daughter,” about a love triangle between a single mother, her troubled teenage daughter and the witch who moves in next door. Thorndike plans to shoot “Daughter” in 2016.

SFFS Women Filmmaker Fellowships will take place from April to October each year, overlapping with the Film Society’s previously announced Producers Fellowship programs and the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23 – May 7). Program support includes:

  *  A $25,000 – $40,000 cash grant, which must be used for living expenses. Individual amounts depend on place of residence and estimated travel costs to participate in Bay Area fellowship components.

  *  Placement in FilmHouse Residency program and access to all FilmHouse programs and activities.

  *  One-on-one consultation with film industry experts from the Bay Area and beyond regarding casting, financing, budgeting, legal issues, distribution and other relevant topics. 

  *  Weekly one-on-one consultation services provided by Filmmaker360 staff, with feedback on screenplays, verbal pitch strategies and written materials such as synopsis and treatment. 

  *  Presentations and networking opportunities with Bay Area narrative filmmakers. 

  *  Expenses covered for one 3-day networking trip with a Filmmaker360 staff member from San Francisco to Los Angeles, for meetings with established industry professionals. 

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