Local Film News: Austin Film Society Grants

(Austin, TX)–The Austin Film Society (AFS) is very proud to announce the recipients of both its 2014 AFS Grant and Travel Grant, which this year in total have given away $115,000 to 37 projects and 40 filmmakers from across the state of Texas.
This year, the AFS Grant awarded $90,000 for production, post-production and distribution to 25 projects from emerging Texas filmmakers. In addition to cash grants of $90,000, AFS awarded $10,000 in goods and services from MPS Camera Austin and $5,000 worth of Kodak film stock. A panel of filmmakers and curators from outside of Texas determines the recipients of the AFS Grant. The panel is always a mix of accomplished independent filmmakers and influential film curators. Participating on this year’s jury was: Aaron Katz, the co-writer/director of LAND HO!, which is currently in theaters; Angela Tucker, documentary producer and director; and curator and film journalist Tom Hall, who is the newly named Director of the Montclair Film Festival.
The 2014 AFS Grant was awarded to a number of first time recipients alongside well-known names in Texas filmmaking.  More than half of the grant money (58%) was allocated to applicants who had never received any previous funding from AFS, neither from the AFS Grant nor the Travel Grant. This year’s highest grant allotment was $10,000 for a single project.  Three of the four $10,000 grants went to new grantees, including Alvaro Torres-Crespo for IN THE SHADOWS (doc feature), Travis Pittman & Kelly Daniela Norris for NAKOM (narrative feature), and Nicole Marie Tavares & Shams-Tabraiz Muzaffar for SON OF A BUG (doc feature).
Among the former AFS Grant recipients on this years list are Yen Tan (PIT STOP), Andrew Bujalski (COMPUTER CHESS), Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, Jr. (INCENDIARY: THE JIM WILLINGHAM CASE), John Fiege (ABOVE ALL ELSE, MISSISSIPPI CHICKEN), Berndt Mader (FIVE TIME CHAMPION), Keith Maitland (THE EYES OF ME) and Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund (NOW, FORAGER). Among the filmmakers who received AFS Grants for the first time are 2014 Cannes-award winner Annie Silverstein (SKUNK) and Sundance and SXSW alumnus Clay Liford (SLASH, MY MOM SMOKES WEED), who had both previously received travel grants from AFS.
The  25 recipients were chosen from a pool of 161 applicants. The majority of this year’s recipients are Austin-based, but the list also includes filmmakers from Dallas, Richardson and Marfa.
AFS’s 2014 Travel Grant program also disbursed another $10,000 in cash in travel stipends to 14 Texas filmmakers, bringing AFS’s total grant amount to $115,000 for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Projects that received the grant were selected by prestigious festivals, industry forums and awards events, such as the Sundance, Berlin, Rotterdam and Toronto Film Festivals, Venice’s Biennale College, and the Independent Spirit Awards.
Of this year’s grant cycle, Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick remarked, “The jury had very difficult choices to make from an applicant pool teeming with gifted artists and deeply creative projects.  The level of competition this year speaks to a growing number of accomplished, professional filmmakers in the Texas independent film community, and yet the Grant continues to reach numerous promising up-and-comers. AFS intends to empower Texas filmmakers to take creative leaps, and there are undoubtedly career breakthroughs to come from this year’s recipients.”
AFS raises funds for filmmaker grants through the annual Texas Film Awards and major premieres such as the recent BOYHOOD and SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR events.
The grant, which started in 1996 and is awarded annually, has given $1.4 million in cash and $172,790 in goods and services to over 330 artists.  Filmmakers receiving the grants have completed films that go on to prestigious festivals and receive international recognition. Recent past winners include Andrew Bujalski’s Sundance Award-winning and critically acclaimed feature COMPUTER CHESS,  and Heather Courtney’s Emmy Award-winning documentary WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM.
AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick administered the 2014 grant. Herrick was assisted by AFS Program Coordinator Aaron Malzahn.
Photos (300 dpi) available upon request.
2014 AFS Grant Recipients
FEATURE NARRATIVES
ALL THAT WE LOVE – Yen Tan – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
MPS Camera Award: $5,000
The death of a beloved pet compels a middle-aged man to examine the fragility of his present relationships.
ANY ROUGH TIMES ARE NOW BEHIND YOU – Alex R. Johnson – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $5,000
After a sports fix goes wrong and his accomplice is murdered, Charlie Moore flees Texas to South America where he tries to hide out and start anew in the highlands of the Andes.
BOOGER RED – Berndt Mader – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $10,000
A veteran reporter searches for the truth behind the largest child-sex ring in Texas history. On his journey through the bowels of East Texas, he discovers that the allegations at the root of his investigation might have never happened.
JACKRABBIT – Carleton Ranney – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
Two unlikely computer prodigies must team up to discover the truth behind their mutual friend’s mysterious suicide – leading them down a dangerous and revelatory path.
LA BARRACUDA – Jason Cortlund & Julia Halperin – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
A strange woman comes to Texas to meet her half-sister and stake a claim to the family’s outlaw music legacy, one way or another.
NAKOM – Travis Pittman & Kelly Daniela Norris – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $10,000
Upon his father’s sudden death, a talented medical student returns to his home village in Ghana to face the realities of a struggling farm, his family’s survival, and the choice between two very different futures.
NEVER GOIN’ BACK – Augustine Frizzell – Dallas, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
MPS Camera Award: $5,000
In an attempt to get rent money and avoid eviction, high school drop outs Jessie and Angela embark on a day of adventure that includes dudes, drugs, booze and an ill-advised heist. Just another day in the life of your average 16-year-old girl.
RESULTS – Andrew Bujalski – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $5,000
Set in the fitness industry, Results is an unconventional romantic comedy that follows two mismatched personal trainers, Trevor (Guy Pearce) and Kat (Cobie Smulders), surrender to love propelled by the actions of a newly wealthy client.
SLASH – Clay Liford – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
A teen’s online erotic fiction leads him to discover truths about his own sexuality when his newfound notoriety forces him out into the real world.
SLOW CREEP – Jim Hickcox – Austin, TX
Kodak Film Award (film stock) : $3,000
Mom and dad are out of town, and three teens are excited for a night of movies and sneaked alcohol. What they’re not counting on is an attack from the Slow Creep.
FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES
ANTHROPOCENE – John Fiege – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
Through the stories, emotions and visual poetry found in humanity’s complex relationships with nature, ANTHROPOCENE visits every continent on earth to create a provocative portrait of a new geologic era marked by the sixth mass extinction of species and the permanent imprint of human beings upon every aspect of the planet.
BOOM TOWN – Chelsea Hernandez – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
Texas’ booming $67 billion construction industry is hailed as a recession-proof economic miracle.  BOOM TOWN witnesses the impact of dangerous underpaid working conditions of the industry’s exploited labor force.
IN THE SHADOWS – Alvaro Torres-Crespo – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $10,000
IN THE SHADOWS tells the story of six gold panners living deep in Costa Rica’s rainforest. In the name of environmental preservation, the president has decided to expel all panners from the Osa. This intimate and lyrical film captures the group as it tries to survive an increasingly hostile environment and organize as a community, and questions Costa Rica’s famed conservation practices.
SEADRIFT – Timothy Tsai – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $5,000
In 1979, the fatal shooting of a white crabber in a small Texas fishing village ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese fishing communities along the Gulf Coast.  SEADRIFT inspects the circumstances surrounding the incident and its tumultuous aftermath, and tells the story of Vietnamese refugees who flee their home country only to be confronted by angry fishermen and the KKK as they search for a new home in a strange land.
SON OF A BUG – Nicole Marie Tavares & Shams-Tabraiz Muzaffar – Richardson, TX
AFS Grant Award: $10,000
SON OF A BUG is a feature-length documentary that explores the history of the Bugs, the first Pakistani rock band, and contested spaces of culture and religion, particularly what it means to be Muslim and Pakistani American, as revealed through the father-son relationship between former drummer-turned-Texan “Jimmy” Jumshade and his Texas-raised son, Shams-Tabraiz.
STUMPED – Robin Berghaus – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
After filmmaker Will Lautzenheiser lost his limbs to a bacterial infection, his life was derailed. With his career on hold, Will finds a new creative outlet in stand-up comedy that becomes a form of on-stage therapy. Now, a Boston medical team wants to help Will get his life back by performing an experimental, double-arm transplantation.
TOWER – Keith Maitland – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $5,000
August 1st, 1966 – a lone gunman ascended the University of Texas tower and opened fire; it was America’s first school shooting.  TOWER, an animated documentary, will explore the story of that day and its effects over the past 50 years. Visceral first-hand accounts of those who were there, ask: How did the worst in one man bring out the best in so many others?
UNTITLED HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECT – Joe Bailey Jr. & Steve Mims – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $2,500
Filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, Jr.’s new project, now in production, focuses on contemporary national issues in public higher education, through the lens of Texas’ two flagship schools, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.

SHORTS
BROKEN ARROW – Dustin Shroff – Austin, TX|
AFS Grant Award: $1,500
Chris is a twelve-year-old loner trapped in the suburban sprawl of 1995 Tulsa, Oklahoma…with a huge crush on Kurt Cobain.
BURY ME IN THE DARK – Juan Pablo González – Austin, TX
Miriam and Rutilio are a Mexican couple who have lived in Austin, TX for half of their lives. Their stable existence is disrupted suddenly when Rutilio suffers a fatal accident and dies inside the house. Miriam and her daughter have to make the body disappear to save themselves from deportation.
FLORENCE – Caleb Kuntz – Austin, TX
Kodak Film Award (film stock) : $2,000
Florence is a young teenage girl who has a mild form of Aspergers Syndrome, but is misdiagnosed as having depression, and prescribed psychotropic medication. The short film follows Florence’s decision whether or not to take the medication.
HOUSEKEEPING – Catherine Licata – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $1,000
Melody and Elliott’s domestic idyll is destroyed by an unexpected arrival.
MIDDLE WITCH – Amanda Gotera – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $1,500
MIDDLE WITCH is a contemporary folktale that follows a restless fifteen-year-old witch on the day she steals a magic egg from the abandoned lot behind her house, unwittingly luring a terrible Beast home with her, and putting her sisters in grave danger.
SKUNK – Annie Silverstein – Austin, TX
AFS Grant Award: $1,000
When her pit bull is stolen by an aspiring dogfighter, Leila is forced to stand up for herself, at the cost of her own innocence.
UNTITLED MEGALITH FILM – Jennifer Lane – Marfa, TX
AFS Grant Award: $1,000
With a combination of dreamlike, slow motion imagery and stark, mysterious long takes, this film is an experimental documentary of Neolithic megalithic architecture – Dolmens or “passage graves” – across the Iberian peninsula.
2014 AFS Travel Grant Recipients: 
BOB BIRDNOW’S REMARKABLE TALE OF HUMAN SURVIVAL AND THE TRANSCENDENCE OF SELF – Eric Steele
Hamptons International Film FestivalKUMIKO: THE TREASURE HUNTER – David Zellner
Sundance & Berline Film Festivals
LA BARRACUDA – Julia Halperin & Jason Cortlund
Biennale College (Venice)NO NO: A DOCKUMENTARY – Jeffrey Radice
Sundance Film FestivalHELLION – Kat Candler
Sundance Film Festival

PING PONG SUMMER – Michael Tully
Rotterdam Film Festival

PIT STOP – Yen Tan
Independent Spirit Awards
RAT PACK RAT – Todd Rohal
Sundance Film Festival
R/B/G – Alejandro Pena
Slamdance Film Festival
THE REALIST – Scott Stark
Toronto International Film Festival
REHEARSAL – Thomas S. Rosenberg
CPH:DOX
THE RETRIEVAL – Chris Eska
Woodstock & Thessaloniki Film Festivals
SLASH – Clay Liford
IFP No Borders
WINTER IN THE BLOOD – Alex Smith
Woodstock Film Festival
About Austin Film Society:
The Austin Film Society empowers our community to make, watch and love film and creative media. Through Austin Studios, which AFS opened in 2000 through a lease with the City of Austin, AFS attracts film development and production to Austin and Texas. Gala film premieres and the annual Texas Film Awards raise funds and awareness of the impact of film on economy and community. Austin Film Society is ranked among the top film centers in the country and recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and Directors Guild of America. For more information on the Austin Film Society, visit www.austinfilm.org.
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