The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund Class of '97

The TFPF has awarded $403,000 to more than 140 film and video projects helmed by Texans since its inauguration in 1997. Along with Greg Pak, the following filmmakers received grants that year and have found more success since.

Kyle Henry

The three-time TFPF grant recipient is up in New York City at the moment working on his feature filmmaking debut – Room – but recalls his initial 1997 win, for the documentary American Cowboy (see Cowboys and Controversy, May 8, 1998), with enthusiasm, noting that "not only the money, but the contacts with TFPF panelists have helped big-time. My first TFPF award was given by John Pierson, Judith Helfand, and Jim McKay, and since then I've done a segment for Pierson's Split Screen with Spencer Parsons, Judith helped promote my film University Inc. during our self-distributed McCollege Tour through her Working Films initiative, and Jim is now serving with Michael Stipe as one of the executive producers on Room. Viva TFPF!"

Don Howard

"The '97 TFPF grant for me was to help me do a trailer for grant-raising for my film Nuclear Family," says Austin filmmaker and UT professor Howard, "which finally played this year's SXSW. These days I'm helping Laura Dunn edit her film about Barton Springs; I just won a 2004 Rockefeller Fellowship for the writing and preproduction phases of a narrative film called Police and Thieves. The TFPF grant really helped me get through the void that hits after doing a project like Letter From Waco, and I appreciated it very much, then and now."

David and Nathan Zellner

Sibling duo the Zellner brothers picked up the 1997 TFPF grant for the wildly popular feature comedy Plastic Utopia. Says Nathan, "The distribution grant we got for Plastic Utopia really helped out a lot with getting tapes and dubs made, which is pretty important for that sort of thing." More currently, the Zellners are awaiting the release of the film on DVD later this summer from perpetual iconoclasts Film Threat, which Nathan promises will be loaded with assorted extras. Currently, the pair have just completed two shorts, "Quasar Hernandez" (a TFPF winner last year), which will premiere at CineVegas in June, and "The Virile Man," which picked up the Spirit of Slamdance Award at this year's Park City fest. Check 'em out online at

Bryan Poyser and Jacob Vaughan

Directing/producing team Poyser and Vaughan are currently cresting atop the rising popularity of their feature debut, Dear Pillow (funded in 2003 and 2004), which has played everywhere from SXSW to Slamdance and beyond. Says Poyser of his 1997 grant, "I got a $2,000 grant in 1997 to do a short film called "Hollow," this dark, West Texas ghost story kind of thing, but because the budget for that particular film was a lot more than $2,000, I managed to hold on to that money until 2000, when I shot a completely different short film called "Pleasureland," which ended up playing 25 festivals or so. Getting that money back in '97 was just a huge boost to me. Even though, you know, I kind of broke the rules a little bit."

  • More of the Story

  • Money Changes Everything

    Greg Pak's 'Robot Stories' is ap-pealing to just about everyone, seven years after his appeal to the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund launched his career.

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