Ask any filmmaker what's the toughest part of making movies, and they say finance. That's why the Austin Film Society Grants are so important, especially in the middle of the cornonavirus pandemic. This year, as the society opens up applications for features in production, it's added a special fund specifically to help keep filmmakers afloat.
The AFS Grants are the nonprofit's biggest single initiative for rising filmmakers, and even though it has had to shutter its cinema, oversee reduced operations at Austin Studios, and lay off staff as a result of the pandemic, the group has remained committed to distributing these grants. Today the team announced that it has assembled the finance for a special AFS Development Fund, whereby filmmakers with a track record can receive $5,000 to help them keep their next project moving.
The main pool of funds remains the AFS Grant: Filmmakers resident in Texas can apply for up to $15,000 in cash for a project in pre-production, production, or post, and up to $3,000 for distribution support. Applications are now open for features over 40 minutes at www.austinfilm.org through 5pm on June 8 (applications for short films will open on July 29).
AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell noted that "we’re in the midst of a historic moment, and our Texas storytellers are uniquely equipped to observe, interpret, and capture it. The AFS Grant ensures that the most promising Texas filmmakers of all backgrounds have the resources they need – and are paid – to work, even when funds for independent media projects are scarce."
The AFS Grants began in 1996 as the Texas Filmmakers Production Fund, and in that time has awarded over $2 million to emerging and rising talents. while it is administrated by AFS it is open to all Texas filmmakers. Previous winners of the grants are a who's who of Lone Star voices, including Kat Candler (Hellion), Timothy Tsai (Seadrift), John Fiege (Anthropocene), Yen Tan (All That We Love), Augustine Frizzell (Never Goin' Back), David Lowery (St. Nick), Andrew Bujalski (Results), Heather Courtney (Where Soldiers Come From), the Zellner Bros. (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter), and Keith Maitland (Tower), but that's just scraping the surface of projects and careers that got that AFS bump. More recently, Austin filmmaker Annie Silverstein (who received a grant for her short film "Skunk") released her debut feature, Bull, while Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas saw their AFS-backed documentary Pahokee arrive in virtual cinema.
In addition to the regular production grants, AFS is also providing several specific awards and in-kind grants, including the new development fund, as well as two funds – the North Texas Pioneer Film Grant and the New Texas Voices Grant – specifically aimed at building new voices. Holly Herrick, Head of Film and Creative Media, said, “While corporate media dominates our virtual spaces, AFS is focused on supporting a pipeline of underrepresented voices in our region so that stories outside of the mainstream are funded, produced, and distributed.”Here's the full list of specific grants available:
• North Texas Pioneer Film Grant: Production/post-production funding ($5,000-$15,000) designated for emerging filmmakers on their first or second film resident in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and surrounding area. Awarded in partnership with the Oak Cliff Film Festival (Dallas) and Sailor Bear film collective.
• New Texas Voices Grant: A special $10,000 production grant set aside for filmmakers with a first film in mid-production who identify with a community of color traditionally underrepresented in independent film. They will also provided with a special mentorship.
• The MPS Camera and Lighting Austin Production Services Grant: Up to $10,000 worth of services, including cameras, lenses, lighting/grip/electric equipment, and more.
• Stuck On On DCP: The post-production house will provide one theatrical digital cinema package (DCP) for two different features.
• AFS Development Fund: One-time cash stipends of $5,000 to help career artists residing in Texas, and must go to the development of a feature-length project. Applicants cannot also apply for a regular AFS grant.
Applications are now open through 5pm on June 8: Find details and forms at www.austinfilm.org.
AFS will be providing assistance in navigating the process through Zoom webinars on May 8, 15, 19 and 22, and June 4 (details here).
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