We are pleased to announce the eight finalists for the seventh SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant — a $15,000 prize awarded annually to a screenwriter who has been practicing for at least five years and who has previously written at least one feature screenplay. The grant is open to US-based writers whose projects express both unique personal perspectives and artistic approaches to their subjects. The finalists were selected from submissions received in response to a nationwide call for entries, and the winner will be announced in mid-October.
As with all Film Society grants, in addition to the cash awards SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant recipients gain access to numerous benefits through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s comprehensive and dynamic filmmaker services program. Filmmaker360 is a leader in the field of non-profit support of cinema and offers unparalleled assistance and opportunities designed to foster creativity and further the careers of independent filmmakers worldwide. Apart from overseeing one of the largest film grant programs in the country, Filmmaker360 also provides project development consultation, artist residencies, screenwriting workshops, fiscal sponsorship opportunities and more.
Without further ado, allow us to introduce our 2015 finalists.
Andrew Burrows-Trotman (writer/director) — If We Left
Inspired by the events that led to the creation of the Residential Care For the Elderly Reform Act, If We Left tells the story of a cook and a janitor who stay without pay to care for abandoned senior residents when their assisted-living home is shut down in Castro Valley, CA.
Christina Choe (writer/director) — Seed War
When a teenage girl discovers her mission to save an agricultural Noah’s ark, she embarks on a dangerous quest to save humanity. Seed War is a story set in a dystopian future about the endangerment of our food supply, the ethics of genetic engineering, and the fate of a seed bank.
Maris Curran (writer/director) — Selene
Selene fears she has laryngitis again. On a routine doctor visit to get antibiotics, she is diagnosed with a rare condition that leaves her permanently voiceless. As her world turns upside down and she struggles to communicate and adapt, she discovers that this new limitation leads to the opening of a new world.
Cheryl Dunye (writer/director) and Marc Smolowitz (producer) — Black is Blue
Black Is Blue is a chilling dramatic tale inspired by the 2013 murder-suicide of a trans woman
who shot and killed a trans man before turning the gun on herself. Using characters from the award-winning short film of the same title, this feature follows two queer people of color who struggle to find home in their bodies and in the ever-changing city of Oakland.
Rob Epstein (writer/director) — Dogpatch
Jake, a successful, funny, smart and handsome filmmaker in his 50s, lives alone in a funky Victorian in San Francisco. Jake’s lover—the love of his life—died of AIDS 25 years ago along with all of Jake’s friends from his younger days. Jake has never quite gotten over this, nor has he ever truly dealt with his grief... That is, until the ghosts of his dead friends visit to set him free.
Brent Green (co-writer/director) and Thyra Heder (co-writer) — Over The Eaves
In this stop-motion animated film, a young boy begins inventing strange, hand-made machines to ease his mother’s hard labor and bring joy to her monotonous life. When his most daring invention backfires and changes life on Earth forever, his neighbors struggle to understand whether he has done them harm or shown them what they have been missing.
Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo (co-writer/directors) — Seeds
After a complicated abortion that leaves her infertile, June decides to visit a “psychic surgeon” in the Brazilian desert with her estranged friend, Camila, only to get caught in the middle of a sexual abuse scandal.
Lanre Olabisi (writer/director) — Highway to Nowhere
One border tells three intersecting stories: one about a young teen trying to cross it in search of his father; another about a young man trying to impress his father by controlling both sides of it; and the last about a grizzled US border patrol officer whose life is thrown into upheaval when he is assigned to protect it.
Previous winners of the SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant include A. Sayeeda Moreno and Micah Shaffer for White (2014), Alistair Banks Griffin for Snow the Jones (2013), Maryam Keshavarz and Paolo Marinou-Blanco for The Last Harem (2012), Ian Olds and Paul Felten for The Fixer (formerly titled The Western Habit, 2011), Eric Escobar for Conveyance (2010) and Mora Stephens for Made in the USA (2009).
The SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant, supported by a gift from William R. Hearst III, is a component of the grants program administered through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s robust filmmaker services department.
Recent Filmmaker360 success stories include Jennifer Phang's Advantageous, which premiered at Sundance 2015, was a smash hit on the festival circuit and is currently streaming on Netflix; Chloé Zhao's Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which screened at Sundance and Cannes and will be released in theaters this fall; Kat Candler's Hellion and Ira Sachs' Love Is Strange, both of which premiered to strong reviews at Sundance 2014; Short Term 12, Destin Cretton's sophomore feature which won both the Narrative Grand Jury Award and Audience Award at South by Southwest 2013; Ryan Coogler's debut feature Fruitvale Station, which won the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, the Un Certain Regard Avenir Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the narrative category at Sundance 2013; and Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin's debut phenomenon which won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and Cannes' Camera d'Or in 2012 and earned four Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture).