11 Project of the Day Success Stories: Read and Be Inspired

Since launching our Project of the Day contest in 2011, we’ve highlighted hundreds of deserving projects. Many of them have gone on to screen at film festivals around the world, win awards and get theatrical and/or digital releases. Given that we recently updated our Project of the Day contest with a new submission form and FAQ, we thought it was the perfect time to highlight some of the success stories. We promise to share more success stories in the near future.

Below you’ll find updates on previous narrative Projects of the Day with synopses courtesy of the filmmakers. Note that statements from the filmmakers are in their own words, but have been edited for length.

READ MORE: 10 Project of the Day Success Stories: Documentary Highlights

“Amira & Sam” (originally submitted for POTD with the title “Sam & Amira”)
Project of the Day on May 21, 2014
Winner, Project of the Week and May 2014 Project of the Month

About the Film: Rousing, smart, and sweet, “Amira & Sam” is a confident feature debut from writer-director Sean Mullin, and follows Sam (Martin Starr, “Freaks & Geeks”, “Silicon Valley”), an army veteran adapting back to civilian life after a lengthy tour overseas. Upon reuniting with his unit’s former Iraqi translator in New York City, he meets Amira (newcomer Dina Shihabi), his war buddy’s niece; suspicious of soldiers, she wants nothing to do with him. However, when Amira runs into immigration trouble, Sam offers to keep her safe at his apartment. After a rocky start, their unlikely friendship starts to blossom into something more. Meanwhile, Sam’s cousin Charlie (Paul Wesley, “Before I Disappear,” ”The Vampire Diaries”) offers him a lucrative opportunity at his hedge fund, helping to secure wealthy veterans as new clients. However, all is not as it seems, and Amira and Sam soon find themselves faced with mounting obstacles in order to stay together.

The Latest: “Amira & Sam” had its world premiere at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival and received a day-and-date release on January 30, 2015 through Drafthouse Films. To purchase a copy of the film or find out which VOD and digital platforms it is currently available on, you can visit the film’s page on the Drafthouse website.

Dear White People
Project of the Day on June 27, 2012
Winner, Project of the Week, July 2012 Project of the Month and 2012 Project of the Year

About the Film: The unexpected election of activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) as head of a traditionally black residence hall sets up a college campus culture war that challenges conventional notions of what it means to be black. While Sam leverages her notoriety as host of the provocative and polarizing radio show “Dear White People” to try to prevent the college from diversifying Armstrong Parker House, outgoing head-of-house Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), son of the university’s dean (Dennis Haysbert), defies his father’s lofty expectations by applying to join the staff of Pastiche, the college’s influential humor magazine. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), an Afro-sporting sci-fi geek, is recruited by the otherwise all-white student newspaper to go undercover and write about black culture—a subject he knows little about—while the aggressively assimilated Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) tries to use the controversy on campus to carve out a career in reality TV. But no one at Winchester University is prepared for Pastiche’s outrageous, ill-conceived annual Halloween party, with its “unleash your inner Negro” theme throwing oil on an already smoldering fire of resentment and misunderstanding. When the party descends into riotous mayhem, everyone must choose a side.

The Latest: Justin Simien’s directorial debut was the first film to be voted Project of the Year. “Dear White People” went on to premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where the film was awarded the Breakthrough Talent Special Jury Prize. Acquired by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, the film received a theatrical release on October 17, 2014. At this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, Simien took home the Best First Screenplay award for his work on “Dear White People.”

From the Filmmakers: It jumpstarted attention to the project that eventually got us fully financed and into the Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to become the highest grossing film ever to have used crowdfunding, as welling as picking up a number of awards including the Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

“Driving Not Knowing”
Project of the Day on July 2, 2014
Winner, Project of the Week

About the Film: Lee, a drug-addled yet sensitive musician, is in love with Will, an ambitious poet. Volatile and intense, Will is hesitant to make himself vulnerable to Lee’s affection. After a year apart, the two reunite for a weekend at Lee’s home in the country. Not knowing how to be free and connected at the same time, the men struggle to find what they are driving towards.

The Latest: “Driving Not Knowing” had its world premiere at Outfest on July 11, 2015.

From the Filmmakers: Being named Project of the Day and winning Project of the Week gave us a rallying point during our Kickstarter campaign to fund post-production and cover festival submissions. The Indiewire community helped increase our exposure last summer and gave us confidence to reach our goal. “Driving Not Knowing” is finally done, and we’re having our world premiere at Outfest in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 11! After that, we head to the Rhode Island International Film Festival and a few more that we can’t announce just yet.

“Fort Tilden”
Project of the Day on February 19, 2014

About the Film: Fort Tilden: New York City’s secluded seaside nirvana where, like flies to honey, Brooklyn’s hip millennial set flocks on sweltering weekend afternoons for unbridled summertime indulgence. Amidst the vexing stagnation of quarter-life crises, Allie (Clare McNulty) struggles to prepare for the Peace Corps, while Harper (Bridey Elliott) awaits checks from her father to fund her artistic dreams. But the two friends quickly shun responsibilities for the day when a pair of good-looking guys invites them along for a carefree Fort Tilden afternoon. As the two young women board their fixed-gear bicycles and embark on a lengthy journey to the beach, they quickly realize that, akin to their confusing, transitioning lives, they neither know where they’re going nor how they plan to get there.

The Latest: Co-directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, “Fort Tilden” had its world premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize in Narrative Feature Competition. Earlier this year, Orion Releasing picked up the distribution rights for the film, which is slated for a theatrical and VOD release in August 2015.

The Foxy Merkins
Project of the Day on January 8, 2014

About the Film: Margaret is a down-on-her-luck lesbian hooker in training. She meets Jo, a beautiful, self-assured — and straight — grifter from a wealthy family who’s an expert on picking up women. The duo hit the streets where they encounter bargain-hunting housewives and double-dealing conservative women, all the while trying to reconcile their differing feelings towards each other. The makers of “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same” bring you this lesbian hooker buddy comedy, an homage to and parody of iconic male hustler films.

The Latest: “Foxy Merkins” had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance NEXT Weekend in Los Angeles (now known as Sundance NEXT FEST). The film went on to screen at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and, with the help of IFP, received a theatrical release in New York last December. Directed by Madeleine Olnek, “Foxy Merkins” is currently available to watch on Netflix and iTunes.

“Know How”
Project of the Day on June 12, 2013
Winner, Project of the Week and June 2015 Project of the Month

About the Film: A film written and acted by foster care youth ripped from the stories of their lives. Five youth’s worlds interweave as they confront loss, heartbreak, and come of age in this tale about transience and perseverance. Addie struggles to graduate from high school while her best friend Marie loses her grandmother. Megan copes with being taken from her abusive family and faces the harsh reality of living in a residential treatment center. All the while Eva works to be mother to her sister while their father falls deeper into a crack addiction. Finally, there’s Austin who’s living on the street with his brother; barely able to feed himself. All of them must decide to survive or else fall victim to a broken system.

The Latest: Directed by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza,” Know How” had its world premiere at the the Cinequest Film Festival in March 2014. After a short theatrical run in Los Angeles and New York, the film had its broadcast premiere on May 27, 2015 on Pivot TV and is now available to stream on Netflix.

From the Filmmakers: We ended up being Project of the Year 2014, and that was an enormous honor for us. We were able to go the the Tribeca Film Festival and meet up with industry leaders, pitch them “Know How,” and garner interest in distributing the film. None of those relationships would have been possible without having been named Project of the Day.

We were nominated for Project of the Day a few weeks before launched our Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $25K which would just barely get us to a finished film. Project of the Day and later on Project of the Month was ground zero for building our base of support, and these 464 backers became champions of our grassroots campaign in the years to come.

For small films, without studio backing, it’s so important to receive accolades. We bet the farm on that contest because we have to, it’s important to show the film has forward momentum moving into film festival season. By winning it allowed us to cut through the noise, and unify our growing community around something we won together.

I Believe in Unicorns
Project of the Day on March 4, 2014

About the Film: Davina is an imaginative and strong-willed teenage girl who often escapes into a beautifully twisted fantasy life. Having grown up quickly as the sole caretaker of her disabled mother, she looks for salvation in a new relationship with an older boy. Davina is swept into a whirlwind of romance and adventure, but the enchantment of her new relationship quickly fades when his volatile side begins to emerge. “I Believe in Unicorns” takes us on a road trip through the stunning and complex landscape of troubled young love.

The Latest: Writer-director Leah Meyerhoff’s feature directorial debut had its world premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival. “I Believe in Unicorns” was released theatrically in New York on May 29, 2015 and in Los Angeles on June 19, 2015 by Gravitas Ventures. The film is also available for purchase or rent on Vimeo On Demand.

From the Filmmakers: When “I Believe in Unicorns” was named Project of the Day we received an immediate boost to our crowdfunding campaign and wider recognition for the project as a whole. And on a personal level, it felt like being showered in handfuls of glitter, in a virtual way of course!

“Manson Family Vacation”
Project of the Day on August 12, 2013

About the Film: Nick Morgan (Jay Duplass) has it all: a loving family, a beautiful home and a successful law practice in Los Angeles. His estranged brother Conrad (Linas Phillips) has nothing but a backpack. When Conrad shows up for a surprise visit, all he wants to do in town is go to the infamous Manson Family murder sites. Reluctantly, Nick joins him and ends up on a road trip that leads the brothers into the modern-day world of Charles Manson.

The Latest: Following its world premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival, Netflix acquired the distribution rights for “Manson Family Vacation,” a project that was written and directed by J. Davis and executive produced and starring Jay Duplass.

“Naz & Maalik” (originally submitted for POTD with the title “Naz + Maalik”)
Project of the Day on November 19, 2013
Winner, Project of the Week

About the Film: Over the course of one Friday afternoon in Brooklyn, two closeted Muslim teens have their secretive lives rattled by FBI surveillance. Intimate and meditative, “Naz & Maalik” examines the mysterious forces that animate teenage minds.

The Latest: Jay Dockendorf’s feature directorial debut had its world premiere at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. In June 2015, “Naz & Maalik” was acquired by Wolfe Releasing, which plans to release the film theatrically and on DVD in 2016.

“Nowhere Girl”
Project of the Day on May 13, 2013
Winner, Project of the Week and May 2013 Project of the Month

About the Film: “Nowhere Girl” is a charming, funny and heartfelt story about how falling in love can be exhilarating but also a bit crazy. After Tyler (Josh Robert Thompson) meets Katy (Ilana Guralnik) he finally starts to shake off the lingering effects of a bad break-up and she inspires him to do more and be more than the life he had settled into. At first his friends Michelle and Justin (Jennifer Aspen and David O’Donnell) think this is a wonderful change, but cracks in this new relationship start to show and they begin thinking it’s unhealthy. But just what is “unhealthy” when it comes to a relationship and just who gets to decide these things?

The Latest: Written and directed by Jed Rigney, “Nowhere Girl” was acquired for distribution by Gravitas Ventures. The distributor plans to release the film on all VOD platforms, including Vimeo On Demand, and set up a one-week theatrical run for the film in Los Angeles around the same time. An exact release date has yet to be determined. 

From the Filmmakers: I think the best thing that came out of being named Project of the Day was the simplicity of being recognized as a feature film. Like “Hey, this is a real thing.” It’s so small but it actually means a lot to the people who worked their butts off for very little pay just on the off chance that all the pieces might fall into place and the film turns out good. The response to the film’s description was so positive and the sheer numbers of votes we got really blew us away.

Having also won Project of the Month, we were rewarded with a consultation with the Tribeca Film Institute and they had some great advice for us on this film and the next one I’m doing as well. They pushed us to be very upfront about our film’s almost supernatural quality – even though it’s a comedy – so we made that a priority when creating the trailer. That’s been huge in terms of us getting interest in the film – within the industry and in the public.”

“The Space Between”
Project of the Day on October 29, 2014
Winner, Project of the Week, October 2014 Project of the Month and 2014 Project of the Year

About the Film: When a proud new father learns his wife took his infertility into her own hands with a 19-year-old ginger, he sets out on a hilarious and heartfelt journey to find the biological baby-daddy! Filled with a quirky cast of supporting characters, “The Space Between” is a film about acceptance, family, love…and a few dirty diapers.

The Latest: Written and directed by Amy Jo Johnson, best known for playing the role of pink Power Ranger Kimberly Hart in the original “Power Rangers” television series and two subsequent feature films, “The Space Between” is slated to begin shooting in Canada in July 2015.

To read all of the Project of the Day selections visit here.

Got a project that you’d like to be featured? Submit to Project of the Day HERE.

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