Been There, Done That

This year's TFPF panelists still remember the trenches

Sam Green, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2003 documentary, <i>The Weather Underground</i> (above), is one of three jurists determining this year's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund recipients.
Sam Green, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2003 documentary, The Weather Underground (above), is one of three jurists determining this year's Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund recipients.

When doling out a hundred thousand in cash, it's preferable if the purse-keepers know what they're doing. That's why the Austin Film Society, in its 14 years of providing grants via its Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, makes a point of bringing in a seasoned and impartial jury of filmmakers and indie industry vets to judge submissions. And this year, the jury is especially impressive.

Documentarian Sam Green was nominated for an Oscar for his 2003 film, The Weather Underground (which premiered at South by Southwest Film 2003). So Yong Kim followed her much-buzzed narrative feature debut, In Between Days, which won prizes at Sundance and Berlin, with this spring's well-reviewed Treeless Mountain. And Mike Plante, who has worked in programming and print and Web film appreciation (, has been the director of programming at the CineVegas Film Festival since 2002. While in Austin next week for judging, all three will screen their films and do Q&As afterward.

According to AFS Director of Artist Services Bryan Poyser, AFS was looking for a panel of jurists that "have familiarity with the low-to-no-budget level at which a lot of our applying filmmakers are working – folks who maybe have applied for small grants exactly like this." And those jurists will be wading through a lot of submissions: A record-breaking 244 applications for grants came in this year. Poyser speculates on the reason for the surge: "Certainly the sorry state of the economy has something to do with it. Folks are panicked, their rich uncles maybe aren't so rich anymore, and they figure if someone's giving money out for film projects, they better try to get in line."

But just as significant have been AFS' efforts to outreach and educate about TFPF, which to date has provided $850,000 in cash and approximately $80,000 in goods and services to 250 film and video projects.

"The outreach I did over the spring definitely saw an upsurge in attendance," says Poyser. "About 400 people attended the workshops, a 25 percent jump from last year. We got pretty healthy audiences in places like El Paso, McAllen, Corpus Christi – places that you wouldn't necessarily think have much of a film scene. In some ways, it's really inspiring to see this much activity across the state, even if it's all folks who are desperate for cash. The cumulative amount of requests add up to $2.3 million, so obviously the need is strong."

Grant recipients for the 2009 TFPF will be announced Monday, Aug. 17. For more info, see

TFPF Panel Screenings

Treeless Mountain (D: So Yong Kim): Aug. 12, 7pm, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar

The Weather Underground (D: Sam Green): Aug. 12, 9:25pm, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar

Be Like an Ant (work-in-progress) (D: Mike Plante): Aug. 13, 7pm, Austin Studios Screening Room

Admission is free for members and nonmembers, but reservations are suggested. Tickets may be reserved online at

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More Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund
TFPF Announces Grant Recipients
TFPF Announces Grant Recipients
Two Austinites nab $10,000 grants

Kimberley Jones, Aug. 21, 2009

Screening Process
Screening Process
The Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund Panelists

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Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, Austin Film Society, TFPF, Bryan Poyser, Sam Green, The Weather Underground, So Yong Kim, Treeless Mountain, Mike Plante, Be Like an Ant

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