May 30, 2019
$100,000 Awarded to Support US-Based Independent Filmmakers Developing Narrative Feature Screenplays
San Francisco, CA – SFFILM, in partnership with the Westridge Foundation, announced today the projects that will receive a total of $100,000 in funding in the latest round of SFFILM Westridge Grants. Five filmmaking teams were granted funding to help support the screenwriting and project development stages of their narrative feature films. SFFILM Westridge Grants, which are awarded twice annually, are designed for US-based filmmakers whose stories take place primarily in the United States and focus on the significant social issues and questions of our time. The application period for the fall round of grants is now open at sffilm.org/makers; the deadline to apply is July 31.
SFFILM Westridge Grants provide support to film projects in their critical early stages, safeguarding filmmakers’ creative processes and allowing artists to concentrate on thoughtfully developing their stories while building the right strategy and infrastructure to guide them through financing and production. In addition to cash grants, recipients will benefit from SFFILM’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development program, SFFILM Makers, as well as support and counsel from SFFILM, the Westridge Foundation, and a dedicated mentor.
The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions were Anne Carey, President of Production at Archer Gray; Locsi Ferra, Head of Impact at Level Forward; Lauren Kushner, SFFILM Senior Manager of Artist Development; Shelby Rachleff, Westridge Foundation Program Manager; Jenny Slattery, SFFILM Associate Director of Artist Development and Foundations; and Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM Director of Artist Development.
In a statement, the jury said, “We are thrilled to be able to support these five filmmakers and their exceptional projects. Each has used their unique voice and experience to illuminate places we don’t often get to see—from the golden fields of the Pacific Northwest to the vibrantly fluid Southern border, to former Midwestern metropolises—in search of their new identities. The characters that inhabit these stories are bold and determined, casting off expectations and embracing the faults in themselves, those around them, and the worlds they live in. In many ways, these projects add up to a mosaic of what the American Dream looks like: hopeful, complex, and deeply flawed.”
SPRING 2019 SFFILM WESTRIDGE GRANT WINNERS
The American Society of Magical Negroes
Kobi Libii, writer/director – screenwriting – $20,000
Omar, a young black man, is recruited into an undercover society of Magical Negroes who secretly conjure literal magic to make white people’s lives easier. Although initially enamored with his new powers, once he realizes they are using supernatural means to do the very thing he’s felt obligated to do his whole life, he attempts to buck the system and put his own dreams first.
Haley Anderson, writer/director/producer – screenwriting – $20,000
Homeless and living on the streets of New Orleans, Trey hangs on a promise that his estranged, graffiti-writer brother Marcus will come to claim him. After Trey learns of Marcus’s passing on the website Squat the Planet, he meets Luke, a train hopping crust punk who he has seen in pictures with his brother, an apparent friend. With nothing to lose and the possibility of retracing Marcus’s paths, Trey joins Luke and his family of runaways, artists, and activists on illegal train rides that take him deep into a world off the grid.
Lakshmi Simhan, writer/director – screenwriting – $20,000
Leela is the only child of an unorthodox comp lit professor and a poet in the throes of writer’s block. She’s 17, Indian, and a recent transplant to the ranch country of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s the summer before college, and she falls in with a group of Ukrainian teenagers. As her parent’s marriage slowly dissolves, she’s caught up in a world of guns, religion, and mounting acts of petty violence.
El Otro Lado (The Other Side)
Barbara Cigarroa, writer/director; Julie O’Leary and Animal Kingdom, producers – screenwriting – $20,000
Set in Brownsville, Texas, during the child migration crisis, El Otro Lado (The Other Side) centers on Lucy, a low-income Mexican American teen who is forced to confront her own need for escape when her father decides to sponsor two undocumented minors for money.
Musa Syeed, writer/director – screenwriting – $20,000
In the American Rust Belt, two young boxers—one Arab American and one African American—train for their first professional bout. As their lives collide in a makeshift ring in a church rec hall in Ohio, the fight takes a fateful turn that alters the lives of both men, their families, and their communities.
The SFFILM Westridge Grant is part of a robust suite of funding and support initiatives facilitated by SFFILM Makers, the artist development branch of SFFILM. Additional programs include the SFFILM Rainin Grant, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund, the FilmHouse artist residency program, and a range of fellowships and professional development opportunities. For more information, visit sffilm.org/makers.
SFFILM Makers (formerly “Filmmaker360”), the organization’s artist development program, provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, and more. Since 2009, over $6.5 million has been disbursed to more than 150 film projects in various stages of production. Highlights include the SFFILM Rainin Grant and the SFFILM Westridge Grant, which together distribute the most nonprofit funding for narrative features in the United States; a joint effort with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to cultivate stories rooted in science and technology; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation. For more information, visit sffilm.org/makers.
The Westridge Foundation seeks to support individuals, organizations, institutions, and programs dedicated to promoting community and/or national social good.
SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information visit sffilm.org.