Austin Film Society Grant Party 2018

Warbach Lighting and Design Studio hosted the 2018 Austin Film Society Grant Party on October 4th, and  filmmakers gathered together to celebrate and discuss their projects.

AFS Head of Film Holly Herrick commented on this year’s crop of grantees, “Our program is evidence that regionally-based filmmakers are the driving innovators of American independent film. Texas continues to turn out some of the country’s most promising artistic voices, but also, our region-specific projects are often bellwethers for national conversations. This is the case now more than ever, as the country’s attention is turned toward our borders. Through the process of celebrating our latest grantees, we’re eager to have the film community outside of Texas get to know the filmmakers who are telling these critical stories from an inside perspective.”

The 2018 AFS Grant recipients reflect the organization’s commitment to diversity with 11 of the 19 (58%) projects directed by women and 50% of the directors/co-directors identifying with a community of color. The recipients are all emerging filmmakers, early to mid-career, who are poised for career leaps. Several of the more established filmmakers have received significant recognition for previous work. Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan, whose short films have been acclaimed around the globe, received a second round of support for their feature film, PAHOKEE, as well as an in-kind grant from Stuck On On. Maisie Crow is a first time AFS Grant recipient for an untitled feature documentary being shot on the Texas border. Crow is the director of JACKSON, an award-winning abortion clinic documentary now airing on Showtime. Yen Tan, whose AFS-grant funded film 1985 won top festival awards, received a second round of funding to support the film’s theatrical roll out this fall. Jazmin Diaz, whose AFS-funded short film CARNE SECA won a top prize at SXSW, was the recipient of one of three North Texas Pioneer Film Grants, sponsored by Sailor Bear and Ley Line Entertainment in partnership with the Oak Cliff Film Festival. Diaz’s grant will fund her first narrative feature film LULU STREET. Chelsea Hernandez received a second round of funding for BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM, her documentary on exploitation of Latino workers in the Texas construction boom.

Newcomers this year include Li Lu, who was the recipient of AFS’s inaugural New Texas Voices Grant, a $10,000 cash grant for a filmmaker identifying with a community of color who is making his or her first feature length film. Li Lu’s documentary, A TOWN CALLED VICTORIA, focuses on a mosque burning that both divided and united a small Texas town. Geronimo Barrera and Carlo Nassise received their first AFS Grant for their feature documentary XA-LYU K’YA about indigenous Oaxacan communities in the cloud forests encountering dramatic political and environmental changes. First time recipient Vanessa Pla received in-kind grants from Kodak Film and MPS Camera and Lighting for the production of a short narrative film, POR NADA, that looks at how one Tejana girl is affected by national immigration policy.

In the past several years, AFS has seen incredible career leaps from filmmakers supported by the fund. Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan received the top prize for a short film at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight for AFS-funded SKIP DAY. Augustine Frizzell’s AFS Grant-funded NEVER GOIN’ BACK was bought by A24 at Sundance and distributed nationwide in theaters. Keith Maitland’s AFS Grant-funded documentary feature TOWER was shortlisted for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW. Narrative feature NAKOM by TW Pittman and Kelly Daniela Norris was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Recently funded films have been selected for festivals including Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Locarno, Tribeca, Karlovy Vary and other prestigious international events.

The AFS Grant selections are made by a panel of industry experts residing outside of the state of Texas. This year’s panelists included award-winning documentary filmmaker Jamie Meltzer (TRUE CONVICTION, THE INFORMANT), Independent Spirit-Award nominated writer/director and composer Amman Abbassi (DAYVEON) and Audrey Chang, Programmer at SFFilm’s San Francisco International Film Festival and manager of the organization’s Golden Gate Awards. This year’s grant was administered by AFS Director of Programs Erica Deiparine-Sugars.

Grantees received a combination of cash and in-kind grants from AFS partners, totalling approximately $110,000. In-kind grants were provided by MPS Studios, Stuck On On and Kodak Motion Picture Film. Cash grant partners included Sailor Bear and Ley Line Entertainment on the North Texas Pioneer Film Grant and the Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund for an undergraduate student.

The AFS Grant is generously supported by Amazon Studios, Warbach Lighting and Design, Stuck On On, Sailor Bear, Kodak Motion Picture Film, MPS Camera and Lighting, Ley Line Entertainment, Oak Cliff Film Festival, Art Works, City of Austin Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division and the Texas Commission on the Arts.



In Front Of The Lens Instead of Behind At The Austin Film Festival Grant Party

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Yen Tan

Narrative Feature in distribution
Director and writer: Yen Tan
Inspired by the award-winning short film of the same name, 1985 follows Adrian (Cory Michael Smith), a closeted young man returning to his Texas hometown for Christmas during the first wave of the AIDS crisis. Burdened with an unspeakable tragedy in New York, Adrian reconnects with his brother (Aidan Langford) and estranged childhood friend (Jamie Chung), as he struggles to divulge his dire circumstances to his religious parents (Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis).


Li Lu

New Texas Voices Grant
Documentary Feature in production
Director: Li Lu
Hours after the first travel ban takes effect, a mosque in Victoria, Texas erupts in flames. As details of the arson emerge and a suspect goes to trial, this quiet community must reckon with the deep rifts that drove a man to hate.


Chelsea Hernandez

Documentary Feature in post-production
Director: Chelsea Hernandez
In the shadow of a lucrative building boom in Texas, more construction workers die on the job than any other state. BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM follows the intimate stories of hard-working immigrant families fighting for their livelihood.


North Texas Pioneer Film Grant

Michael Rowley

Documentary Feature in post-production
Director: Michael Rowley
In the shadow of a wall stands a new generation of Palestinian. With defiant creativity, they prove that no matter the height of the obstacle, one can always climb.


Jasmin Diaz, Photo by Rachel Zein

Narrative Feature in production
Director and writer: Jazmin Diaz
Two decades after immigrating with her family from Mexico, an aging Dalia’s previously buried struggles are laid bare before her granddaughter Sofia, an overwrought ten-year old with intentions of making it to an audition out of town.



Bo and Ben Powell

Documentary Feature in post-production
Directors: Ben Powell and Bo Powell
The people of Rosedale – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – invite you to peek into their lives in this fading Mississippi Delta town. A gently composed and subtly humorous portrait of the many personalities that make up a quintessential American community, still hanging on despite a painful past and an uncertain future.


Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan

Documentary Feature in post-production
Directors: Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas
In an isolated Florida town where hardship has afflicted generations, hopes for the future are concentrated on the young. PAHOKEE is a poetic observation that follows four youth ascending heartbreak and relishing in the joyous rituals and rites of passage that serve as their send-off from home.
PAHOKEE is also the recipient of a Stuck On On in-kind grant.


Caleb Johnson

Narrative Feature in post-production
Director and writer: Caleb Johnson
Alice and Bret’s dog Harvey is dying, and he’s ruining everything. What had been a bright little family is quickly getting consumed by clouds of self-doubt, suspicion and a disturbing amount of ground beef.
THE CARNIVORES is also the recipient of a Stuck On On in-kind grant.


Morrisa Maltz

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant
Narrative Feature in production
Director and writer: Morrisa Maltz
Spurred by the discovery of a forgotten family photograph, a young Lakota woman embarks on an epic journey that will take her from her home in Minneapolis all the way to the Texas border. This narrative/doc hybrid is an exploration of the American Midwest and the people and places found within it.


Maisie Crow

Documentary Feature in production
Director: Maisie Crow
Project description not available.



Carlo Nasisse

Documentary Feature in production
Directors: Carlo Nasisse and Geronimo Barrera
In “Xa-lyu K’ya” (World of Mountains), the Oaxacan Chatino people, international

Geronimo Barrera

corporations, and environmental NGOs become entangled in the debate over the fate of Mexico’s rapidly disappearing rainforest. What begins as a story of man’s relationship to the land quickly evolves into something much more as the mist, jaguars, carbon, hallucinogenic mushrooms and dreams announce themselves as crucial actors in an environmental and epistemic conflict.


Ryan Darbonne

Narrative Short in post-production
Director and writer: Ryan Darbonne
On their last day of tour, a black punk band find themselves in awkward, surreal and life-threatening situations with an ignorant cast of characters.



Ramon Villa

Narrative Short in post-production
Director and writer: Ramon Villa
A forensic anthropologist discovers her supernatural abilities when working with unidentifiable skeletal remains of migrants.

Narrative Short in production
Director and writer: Miguel Alvarez
In the near future, a struggling, single father discovers the terrible consequences of his actions when he’s caught stealing medicine for his sick son.

Kodak Film Award and MPS Camera and Lighting Award

Vanessa Pia

Narrative Short in production
Director: Vanessa Pla
A timely and resonant short narrative exposing the cruelty of immigration policy while spotlighting the resiliency and rebellious spirit of one Tejana punk girl



Haley Anderson

Narrative Short in post-production
Director: Haley Anderson
Summer. Texas. Fifteen year old Tommy is tired of living in and out of motels with her family. She just wants to be a normal teen and escape the summer heat, but instead has to take care of her two younger siblings while her single mother, Lane, works as a housekeeper trying to secure a down payment on an apartment. When the family gets thrown out of a motel, Tommy, driven by her longing for freedom, risks Lane’s reputation by breaking into the pool of her wealthy employer.


Amy Bench

Documentary Short in post-production
Director: Amy Bench
THINGS WE LEFT BEHIND is a visual diary film of an immigrant’s experience, recounting objects and memories that connect her to her former life. It is a series vignettes told by a young woman who came to the US as an unaccompanied minor, with nothing save for a plastic bag to protect her from the cold. The film is a story of survival and how the unfolding of memory can propel one beyond insufferable trauma and loss.


Shelby Hadden

Animated Short in distribution
Director and writer: Shelby Hadden
A woman recounts her experience living with chronic pelvic pain – how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and how shame, anger and hatred have plagued her body.



Emma Rappold

Harrison McClure endowed grant for an undergraduate filmmaker
Narrative Feature in Post-Production
Filmmaker: Emma Rappold
When a witty, anxiety-prone teenager finally responds to her cousin’s letters from the past six months, she’s forced to relive the changes she’s experienced since graduating high school—and come to terms with the people she’s lost.



Through the AFS Grant, AFS makes funds available for filmmakers to travel to prestigious international festivals and events to present their work. AFS’s committee of dedicated volunteers, the INDIEpendents, makes the AFS Travel Grant possible.

Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas, ROADSIDE ATTRACTION
Toronto Film Festival

Robert Byington, INFINITY BABY
Thessaloniki Film Festival

David Fenster, OPUNTIA

Shelby Hadden, TIGHTLY WOUND
Annecy International Animated Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival

Anna Margaret Hollyman, MAUDE
Sundance Film Festival

Venice Biennale Cinema College

Huay-Bing Law, JUNE

IFP No Borders

Hot Docs
Tribeca All-Access

Seattle International Film Festival

Iliana Sosa, JULIAN
Berlinale Talent Campus


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