In Focus: Spring SFFS/KRF Grant Winners!

The Spring SFFS/KRF Grant winners have been announced! SFFS, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, is giving away serious money once again, continuing the rapid growth as a prolific funding source in indie cinema—past winners include Beasts of the Southern Wild and Fruitvale Station!

Eight filmmaking teams were granted funding a total of $340,000 in funding—the largest amount disbursed to date—to help with their next stage of production, from screenwriting to post. Congratulations to the following filmmakers! We look forward to viewing their work!

Jonas Carpignano-A Chjana.jpg

Jonas Carpignano (writer/director)
A Chjana
$45,000 for preproduction

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.

Jonas Caripgnano is an Italian-American filmmaker based in Rome and Brooklyn. His short films have played at SXSW, New Directors/New Films and Venice, where his film A Chjana won the Controcampo Award for best short. Carpignano recently completed the Sundance Writing and Directing Labs for the feature-length version of A Chjana, and was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film. He is currently an MFA candidate at NYU Tisch, where he won the Martin Scorsese Young Filmmakers Award. He is also the recipient of the Mahindra Award at Sundance.


Grainger David (writer/director)
$35,000 for screenwriting

Nocturne is the story of a white South Carolina cop on the verge of retirement who accidentally kills a young black teenager he suspects of a recent robbery and murder. In a moment of extreme weakness, he hides the boy's body in a woodshed—only to return a day later to discover it has disappeared.

Grainger David is a director from Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. His NYU Grad Film thesis The Chair was the only American short film nominated for the Palme D'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The Chair also won Jury Prizes at the SXSW, Los Angeles, and Hollyshorts Film Festivals, and has screened at major festivals around the world, including Telluride, Hamptons and the 63rd Berlinale. David has been awarded grants from the Tribeca Film Institute, the Sloan Foundation, the National Board of Review and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


Ian Hendrie and Jyson McLean (co-writers/directors/producers)
Mercy Road
$40,000 for development

Based on true events, Mercy Road traces the political and spiritual odyssey of a small town housewife as she turns from a peaceful pro-life activist to an underground militant willing to commit violence and murder in the name of God.

Ian Hendrie is a San Francisco–based filmmaker and the cofounder of Fantoma, a production company and independent DVD label which has been releasing premium edition DVDs of films by such famed auteurs as Francis Ford Coppola, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Samuel Fuller, Fritz Lang, Kenneth Anger and Alex Cox, among others, since 1999. Hendrie and his filmmaking partner Jyson McLean are proud and grateful recipients of a Fall 2011 SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grant, SFFS FilmHouse residents, alumni of the 2013 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and finalists for the upcoming Sundance Directors Lab for Mercy Road.

Co-writer/director/producer Jyson McLean began making short films in high school. He attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His commercials and music videos, which have aired nationally and overseas, include spots for Bud Light, Career Builder, and Quaker Oats. He has won the ITVA PEER award three years in a row, and has worked with numerous award winning advertising agencies including DDB Los Angeles, BBDO London and Fred & Farid, Paris. He is currently signed at Contagious LA and Magali Films, Paris for commercial representation in America and Europe respectively.


Maryam Keshavarz and Paolo Marinou-Blanco (cowriters)
The Last Harem
$35,000 for screenwriting

The Last Harem follows the battle between Jayran, a young musician girl, and Malik Jahan, the mother of the newly-ascended boy-king, for the affection of the new monarch and control of the palace's extensive harem. Whoever wins becomes the most powerful woman in the Persian empire...

Maryam Keshavarz received her MFA from NYU/Tisch in film direction and has been making award-winning films for 11 years. Keshavarz’s first narrative feature Circumstance premiered to overwhelming critical acclaim at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and garnered the coveted Sundance Audience Award, leading to Keshavarz’s inclusion in Deadline’s 2011 Directors to Watch. Keshavarz’s newest film project The Last Harem, originally developed at the Cine Qua Non Lab, won the prestigious SFFS/Hearst Screenwriting Grant and her multimedia installation work Between Sight and Desire: Imagining the Muslim Woman won a multi-year grant from the Creative Capital Fund.

Born in New York and raised in China, South Africa and Portugal, Paolo Marinou-Blanco studied philosophy and theater before pursuing an MFA in Filmmaking at NYU-Tisch. In 2007 he won funding from the Portuguese Film Institute to write and direct his first feature, Goodnight Irene, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to much critical acclaim, went on to travel to dozens of international festivals and was theatrically released in Europe in 2008. Marinou-Blanco now works in the U.S., Europe and Brazil as a screenwriter; The Last Harem is his first collaboration with writer/director Maryam Keshavarz.

Richard Levien and Chad Burris-La Migra.jpg

Richard Levien (writer/director) and Chad Burris (producer)
La Migra
$20,000 for development

Twelve-year-old Itan's life in San Francisco is turned upside down when she comes home from school to find her apartment ransacked and her mother missing. Suddenly she must rely on her estranged uncle Eevencio, who she suspects is a criminal. They cross the country in Eevencio's dilapidated truck, through the labyrinth of immigration detention, trying to find Itan's mother and prevent her from being deported.

Richard Levien has been writing, directing and editing award-winning films for 8 years. Levien's short film Immersion, about a ten-year-old boy from Mexico who speaks no English and struggles to fit in at his new school in the U.S., premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2009. Immersion won the "No Violence" award at the Ann Arbor film festival, and the Best Bay Area short film award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2009 Levien won the inaugural San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, for screenwriting on La Migra.

Films that Chad Burris produced and executive produced have screened at some of the world's most prestigious festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, New Directors/New Films, Toronto, Cannes and Venice. His latest film as producer, Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and was nominated for a 2013 Independent Spirit Award. Burris executive produced the Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, Famke Janssen's directorial debut Bringing Up Bobby, and Nick Cassavetes’ Yellow. He was the last recipient of the Mark Silverman Award for New Producers from the Sundance Institute in 2007.

Tommy Oliver-1982.jpg

Tommy Oliver (writer/director/producer)
$85,000 for postproduction

Semi-autobiographical and inspired by true events, 1982 tells the story of a black father whose wife succumbs to a crack cocaine addiction and his efforts to shield his young daughter from the ill effects of having a drug-addicted mother. Set at the very onset of the crack epidemic, the film is about a father doing whatever he can to protect his family.

Tommy Oliver, producer of Kinyarwanda, a film Roger Ebert named to his top 10 films of 2011, is a strong believer in the transformative power of film. As a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where he double majored in Economics and Digital Media, he developed a keen understanding for business as a whole. In addition to the 2011 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award–winning Kinyarwanda, Oliver has produced three films, including his directorial debut 1982.


Vendela Vida (cowriter) and Eva Weber (cowriter/director)
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
$35,000 for screenwriting

28-year-old Clarissa discovers on the day of her father's funeral that everything she believed about her life was a lie. She flees New York and travels to the Artic Circle to find her real father, but instead is reunited with her mother who abandoned her when Clarissa was only 14.

Vendela Vida cowrote (with Dave Eggers) the script for Away We Go, which was directed by Sam Mendes and released by Focus Features in 2009. Her book Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name was selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and was awarded the Kate Chopin Award. In 2013 Vida and Eva Weber attended the Sundance Institute's Screenwriters' Lab where they worked on the script for Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name; they also received the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award to further develop the project.

Eva Weber's short documentary Reindeer is a lyrical and haunting portrait of reindeer herding in Lapland. The film screened at LAFF, Telluride, AFI Fest and Sundance, with upcoming screenings at Sundance London and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Weber's multi-award-winning film The Solitary Life of Cranes was selected as one of the top five films of the year in Sight & Sound magazine's annual film review. Other films include The Intimacy of Strangers, Steel Homes, City of Cranes, and Black Out.


Josef Wladyka (cowriter/director)
Manos Sucias
$45,000 for production

A desperate fisherman and a naive young man embark on a dangerous journey trafficking drugs up the Pacific coast of Colombia. Hidden beneath the waves, they tow a narco-torpedo filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Together they must brave the war-torn region while navigating the growing tension between them.

Josef Kubota Wladyka fell in love with filmmaking in high school. Even while pursing a B.S. in Finance he continued to make short films. When Wladyka returned to school for his MFA in Film at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, the quality of his first year work earned him a prestigious Faculty Fellowship Award. His short films, commercials, and screenplays also garnered the attention of director Spike Lee who named him recipient of the 2010 Spike Lee Fellowship Award, providing research funds and mentorship for his first feature film. Manos Sucias is his feature film debut.