AFS Announces 2021 Short Film Grant Recipients

Ten projects get an important boost from the filmmaker fund

"The Last Hawaiian Sugar," one of the recipients of the 2021 AFS Grants for Short Films

Austin Film Society's filmmaker grants have played a key role in the careers of dozens of filmmakers, from Kat Candler (Queen Sugar) to David Lowery (The Green Knight) and the Zellners (Damsel). Moreover, their first grants were for short films, and today AFS announced the recipients of the 2021 AFS Grants for Short Films.

The society announced the list of 2021 feature recipients back in September. This year's roster of short titles includes ten winners in total, eight of which (seven narratives and one documentary) will recieve a cash grant, while two more are beneficiaries of specific awards from partners. Sharon Arteaga has been awarded a multi-day camera rental package from MPS Camera and Lighting Austin for new project "In Tow," while Edwon Oliva is this year's winner of support from the Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund for undergraduate filmmakers, for new short "A Haunting Across the Galaxy."

AFS Director of Programs Erica Deiparine-Sugars said, “With our awards, we champion the short film form and are honored to be able to support these projects each year. It is beyond gratifying to know that several of the filmmakers in this funding cycle will be receiving grants from AFS for the very first time. It underscores the very purpose of our grant program – to support and elevate the incredibly diverse voices of our region’s emerging filmmakers and help them share their stories with Texas and the world.”

The recipients were selected from a pool of 125 applicants by a panel that included Tribeca Film Festival programmer José Rodriguez, documentarian Amanda McBaine (Boys State, Mayor Pete, The Overnighters), and and producer Cecilia Mejia (i>Yellow Rose, Call Her Ganda).

Explaining the selection process, Mejia said, “It was really incredible to see the depth of stories and content that came through. It was difficult to really narrow down the list because there was so much talent and everyone deserved to be recognized in some way. I'm inspired by these storytellers and really in awe of how supportive AFS is of independent film."

Here's the full list of 2021 shorts grants recipients: congratulations to all.


D: Paloma Martinez (Humble), Abby Ellis (Park City, Utah)

When 26-year-old Jovany Mercado was shot and killed during a mental health crisis on his own driveway by Ogden, Utah police, his family’s life was forever transformed. Reeling from the pain of his son's death and fearing for the safety of his remaining family, Juan, Jovany’s father, turns their home into a digital fortress against the police.


D: Dèjá Cresencia Bernhardt (Austin)

12-year-old Nua makes peace with the mixed emotions she has about the land she lives on when she learns the sugar plantation she calls home will be closed forever.

"little trumpet"
D: Megan "Megz" Trufant Tillman (Austin)

A nine-year-old loner wants his brother to teach him how to play the trumpet. In the 7th Ward of New Orleans, that’s not so simple.

D: Tay Mansmann (Austin)

After discovering a surreal camera obscura built into an abandoned crop house, two queers at a crossroads in their relationship must overcome projections of their deepest desires and fears made manifest by their perverted scarecrow doppelgangers.

D: Iris Diaz (El Paso), Alejandra Aragón (Juaréz, Mexico)

Two friends search for a place to skate in a city that is not designed for skateboard wheels nor their bodies or dreams.

D: Katy McCarthy (Austin)

A conservative Texas state senator struggles with his anti-abortion stance after being kidnapped and surgically connected to a violinist whom he must keep alive with his own body for nine months.


D: Edwin Oliva (Austin)

Arkie, an alien archeologist, is on a quest to retrieve a living souvenir from Earth but has trouble capturing an uncooperative ghost.


D: Sharon Arteaga (Austin)

A self-involved teen and her overworked, single mom come to a head with their differences as their mobile home is repossessed ... with them inside of it!

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