Austin Film Society grants $111,000 to Texas filmmakers


It looks like Austin director Annie Silverstein, the director of 2019’s “Bull,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, is back at work with a new feature film, “A Time, A Place.” News of Silverstein’s newest feature comes with the Austin Film Society’s announcement that it is handing out $110,000 in cash grants to feature projects by Texas filmmakers.

A total of 15 feature-film projects received funding from the 2020 AFS Grants. The grants provide crucial resources to Texas artists who are working outside the mainstream. And as usual, this year’s grants reflect a diversity that helps empower Texas storytellers.

To say that the year of the pandemic has been challenging would be an understatement, but the AFS has expanded the program to mid-career artists; partnered with the Stand With Austin fund to support projects hurt by the pandemic; and worked with Ley Line Entertainment, Sailor Bear, the Dallas Producers Association and the Oak Cliff Film Festival to fund three debut feature projects by North Texas-based directors.

“AFS is focusing on building the ecosystem for filmmaking in Texas, so that it’s a boost, and not an impediment, to live in Texas and advance your career from here, and the AFS Grant is a major initiative that serves that vision,” says Rebecca Campbell, CEO of the Austin Film Society.

The society says that 66.6 percent of this year’s grant recipients identified with a community of color. In addition to the $110,000 in grants, the society is also awarding goods and services totaling about $15,000 in this cycle. Applicants for short film grants — those projects 40 minutes and under — can apply for funds starting Sept. 2. Recipients will be announced in December.

In addition to the Silverstein grant, here’s a list of the others, some of which do not have descriptions:

Feature film production grants

  • North Texas Pioneer Film Fund Recipient
    “Chicle,” directed by Lizette Barrera of Arlington. Narrative feature in development.
  • “Fandom,” directed by Shadi Qutob of Austin. This narrative feature focus on a Pakistani woman who creates a politically charged piece of art of an iconic comic book character.
  • “From the Ground Up,” directed by Jeremy Rodgers of Taylor. This documentary is in post production and focuses on Daoud Nassar and his Palestinian family of farmers in the West Bank.
Fly Girl
“Fly Girl”

New Texas Voices Grant

  • “Fly Girl,” directed by Angela Chen of Austin. This narrative feature deals with a 42-year-old Vietnamese-American divorced mom who impresses folks during a “twerkshop.” This is a $10,000 grant for a filmmaker identifying with a community of color who is making his or her first feature-length film.
  • “The In Between,” directed by Robie Flores of Eagle Pass. A coming of age story of folks living along the U.S.-Mexico border.

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant

  • “Jockey,” directed by Clint Bentley of Dallas. An aging jockey tries to hang on and win one last championship.
  • “Los Blackalleres,” directed by Kelly Daniela Norris of Austin. A narrative feature in development.

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant

  • “A Reckoning: Stories for Racial Healing with Dr. Njoki McElroy,” directed by Christian Vasquez of Dallas. A documentary focusing on the work of the noted educator and activist.
  • “The River,” directed by Ray Santisteban of San Antonio. A documentary feature in development.
  • “San Antonio,” directed by Ya’Ke Smith of Austin. Smith is best known as the writer/director of 2012’s “Wolf.” He also teaches film at the University of Texas.
Tazmanian Devil
“Tazmanian Devil”

Stuck on on Award

  • “Tazmanian Devil,” directed by Solomon Onita of Missouri City. A 19-year-old Nigerian immigrant wants to join a college fraternity without alienating his father, who’s a strict pastor.
  • “Untitled Criminal Justice High School Project,” directed by Margaret Crow of Marfa.
  • “Zoe and Hahn,” directed by Kim Tran of Austin. A narrative feature in development.

MPS Camera and Lighting Award

  • “TLALOC,” directed bay Alejandro Sescosse and Anna Verselova of Houston. A narrative feature described as a romance of digital illusions set in the near future.

The AFS/Stand With Austin Fund also provide money to filmmakers hurt by the cancellation of SXSW. Supplemental money has been made through the Austin Community Foundation and the AFS’s travel grant funds to provide relief. Recipients include: “Without Getting Killed of Caught: The Life and Music of Gary Clark,” directed by Tamara Savanna; “The Carnivores,” by Caleb Johnson; “Good Ol Girl,” by Sarah Brenna Kolb; “One of These Days,” by Bastian Gunther; and “The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon,” by Matthew Eskey.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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