Disrupting Hollywood

by Sheree L. Ross

Over a hundred thousand scripts will be written in 2017, as well as tens of thousands of independent films made. Hundreds of contests will be entered and most filmmakers will not move very far towards their goal of a distribution deal or theatrical release.
What once seemed like the “impossible dream” has now almost become a thing of the past.  Yet, so many filmmakers go forward as they make their films like the magical payday myths of the industry still, if ever existed.
Most distribution deals and all of Hollywood have created an accounting system where only they get paid and the creative winds up with accolades (hopefully) but empty pockets. Crowdfunding has been a big move forward to help mitigate the ever shrinking traditional access to funds but after a film is made the blue print to a sustainable business model is rarely understood. It is especially hard for women and women filmmakers of color, where financing a film can be a Herculean event – as well as finding access to, and building an audience large enough to not only pay cast, crew, and themselves but make enough to distribute it and then do it all over again.
The industry has changed even for Hollywood. This change began decades ago but was solidified when the markets crashed in 2008, and demystified with access unprecedented with digital cameras, the internet, and streaming platforms. This is a new and ever more inclusive frontier yet so many indie filmmakers still structure their business model like it’s the 1970’s – still believing in the big payoff yet never realizing that filmmakers getting paid on the net receipts has been an inside myth perpetuated by industry media to entertain the public and string along hopeful filmmakers since time began.
The power of the industry is shifting but the new paradigm must be created by the independent filmmakers themselves. Big business has always had too much of a say and taken all of the profits. We, as creatives, are the reason they have built fortunes, mostly because we have wanted others to take care of the business while we concentrate on the creative. The other truth of many creatives is we haven’t developed the emotional and mental stamina for the business side of our filmmaking and have often blindly handed the responsibility over to others. This is a wake up call to build that muscle and take full control of our careers and creations. Owning our IP and figuring out how to distribute in a way that puts the rewards back into our own business is key to growing and maintaining a healthy and striving independent film ecosystem for all of us.

Black Panther Footage Reveals the Ferocious Female Warriors

…of Wakanda

April 18, 2017 12:13 pm

Update 7:35 E.T.: A Marvel representative reached out to say that the nature of the relationship between Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Florence Kasumba‘s Ayo in Black Panther is not a romantic one and that specific love storyline from the comic World of Wakanda was not used as a source.

Whether or not he had the approval of Disney when he did so, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon caused quite a stir in the April issue of Attitude—both of hopeful expectations and of conservative pushback—when he touted Josh Gad’s character LeFou and his “exclusively gay moment.” Though Condon surely had his heart in the right place, the phrase overpromised on what the film ultimately underdelivered: the moment comes when LeFou ends the movie by dancing, briefly with a man. O.K. However, early footage of Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther screened for journalists Monday night movie promises much more.

The scene in question features Walking Dead star Danai Gurira dancing on a boat with her fellow Dora Milaje, i.e., Black Panther’s personal female bodyguards. These women—first introduced to moviegoers in Captain America: Civil War— are the warriors who watch over Chadwick Boseman’s royal family. In Civil War, Uganda-born actress Florence Kasumba made an instant impression on audiences as one member of the select group when she curtly ordered Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to “move” aside for T’Challa.

In the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, we see Gurira’s Okoye and Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, “You look good.” Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, “I know.”

This quick moment between two warrior women on their way to T’Challa’s coronation leans into a current very popular run of the Black Panther comic. A 2016 spin-off called World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and Yona Harvey is all about the relationship between two members of the Dora Milaje. The official description:

A Wakandan love story—its tenderness matched only by its brutality.

You know them now as The Midnight Angels, but in this story they are

just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an

elite task force trained to protect the crown at all costs. What happens when your nation needs your hearts

and minds, but you already gave them to each other?

Other footage from the film screened early for reporters centers more closely on T’Challa, including scenes of a traditional and elaborate Wakandan ceremony, and a shoot-out in a South Korea casino featuring Andy Serkis’s Claw and Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross. For fans of Lupita Nyong’o, there was also a pair of scenes showing her character dancing (she gets her own boat) and taking out several armed guards.

The costumes in Black Panther—especially the ones worn by the Dora Milaje—are truly dazzling, with a lot of bright colors and elaborate patterns. Angela Bassett, as T’Challa’s mother and Queen of Wakanda, sports a jaw-dropping coiffure of snow-white dreadlocks. According to the production team, director Ryan Coogler was interested in giving Black Panther—the star of which debuted in Civil War—an updated look that was more faithful to the current run of comics. And though Marvel didn’t screen any footage of Michael B. Jordan in costume—he’s playing villainous Erik Killmonger—concept art tacked to the Marvel office walls revealed a fearsome mask compete with horns and mane.

In other words: even if Marvel and superhero fatigue is setting in, rest assured that Black Panther isn’t going to look like anything you’ve seen from them before.

Full Screen


See the Tony-Nominated Costumes from Eclipsed and the Sketches that Inspired Them

Photo: Left, courtesy of Clint Ramos; Right, courtesy of Joan Marcus.

Will ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Be the Last Racially Insensitive Blockbuster?

Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out” and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” might Hollywood finally wise up?

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

“Ghost in the Shell”

Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out,” the imminent next chapter of the emphatically diverse “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and the recent failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” (among other examples), is there genuine reason to hope that racially insensitive blockbusters might soon become a thing of the past?

Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine

I think a lot about Bilge Ebiri’s 2013 piece on how the “Fast & Furious” franchise blew up by self-consciously becoming “diverse.” The short takeaway: Universal execs didn’t throw together a super-diverse cast out of the goodness of their progressive hearts, but out of a keen awareness that targeting multipole, oft-underserved demographics was a key, underexploited pathway to making much more money. It’s long been reported that there’s a big gap between onscreen representation and the audiences showing up: Latinos are the biggest moviegoers in the US, which you wouldn’t guess from the number (or lack thereof) of prominently cast Latinos onscreen.

So the examples cited are, sure, apposite, but what we’re really talking about here are two examples of black filmmakers breaking through plus one self-consciously “inclusive” blockbuster — hardly a monster wave, and anyone with a memory of how the late ’80s wave of black filmmakers ground to a halt after a while should be wary that non-white filmmakers are now, finally, about to become an integral part of the Hollywood apparatus, with attendant changes in onscreen diversity to follow; all it takes is one flop for the machine to change its mind (which is admittedly very stupid). So I’m sadly wary that we’re on the way to a more inclusive onscreen future.

READ MORE: ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Anime Director Defends Scarlett Johansson’s Casting

Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Vulture, Nylon, the Guardian

While it would certainly be nice if Hollywood got its shit together and stopped casting white people in nonwhite roles, and while I agree that there have been tiny incremental decreases in that practice year by year, I fear it’ll be a long time until it become a complete thing of the past. You trace a positive trend through “Get Out,” “Moonlight,” and “Fastly Furious 8: Fambly Matters,” but we could just as easily draw a less heartening conclusion from a glance at the next few months. By the end of June, we’ll have a film in which Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac plays Armenian, something called “How to Be a Latin Lover” (gulp) from my beloved Ken Marino, and loads of all-white studio projects.

Things are definitely better now than they were as recently as 2014, but until people of color have been installed in key decision making positions, I fear a meaningful step forward will be impossible.

The Fate of the Furious Fast 8 Vin Diesel

Manuela Lazic (@ManiLazic), Freelance for Little White Lies, The Film Stage

In our frequent tearful and angry comments against the big monster that is Hollywood, we critics often fail to recognise this industry’s undeniable complexity. Somewhat simultaneously, progress seems always on the cusp of realisation, while signs of Hollywood’s backward ideas about race and identity continue to surface in countless new films, especially blockbusters. In theatres this weekend, a brave spectator — or one into cognitive dissonance — can have herself a double-bill of the ground-breaking “Get Out” and the whitewashed “Ghost in the Shell” remake. Hollywood is a messy place.

Nevertheless, “Moonlight”’s exhilarating critical triumph (with a gobsmacking twist ending on Oscars night) and “Get Out”’s massive commercial success recently may make “Ghost in the Shell” seem like an anomaly, a last misjudged attempt by Hollywood to pursue its long-held tradition of reappropriation and flattening out of racial difference in favour of the majority. It almost feels like real change is taking place, which can explain the vigorousness of the outcry against “Ghost.” Yet while evidently justified, this violent dismissal also risks making us forget about the similar and in fact not so distant scandal of “Doctor Strange,” which followed many others. Despite all the anger that these previous films generated, such attitudes evidently persist.

Hollywood nonetheless always tries to give its audience what it wants, if only because this strategy makes economical sense. And this explains the very existence of a “Ghost in the Shell” remake: the original regained popularity in recent years by becoming more available to Occidental spectators and thanks to the surge of interest in anime. But as the casting of Scarlett Johansson blatantly reveals, Hollywood is a clumsy pleaser. It is willing to tap into different stories, but cannot fully commit to their specificity. In some cases, as with the casting of Tilda Swinton as “the Ancient One” in “Doctor Strange,” traces of Orientalism even emerge, where Asian cultures are not only populated with white people, but also made to look inaccessible, exotic, magical and even dangerous.

Perhaps the solution to Hollywood’s racial problem lies in this very desire to please: critics, and social media users in general, might have the power to guide the big studios on their tedious path to sensitive representation. Through trial and error — that is, unsatisfying attempts at diversity in films, then virulent attacks by spectators in the press and the media- the industry might eventually understand what is so wrong about itself, and finally deliver consistently racially conscious movies. Until then, we shall stay mad.

Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/Nerdist/CBR

Man, I wish. And not just because I’m an alleged and unrepentant SJW, but also because wouldn’t it be amazing if films as original, challenging, and riveting as “Moonlight” and “Get Out” became the standard and not the exception?

Personally, I’m hopeful that the success of these films — as well as the box office success of “Hidden Figures”— will prove to Hollywood once and for all that white-straight-male need not be the default setting for any given story. And I expect we’ll start to see a shift toward more Black actors getting lead roles, instead of the parade of blandsome white ingendudes of which Hollywood seems to have an endless supply. But I’m doubtful the success of these movies will impact Hollywood’s loathsome tradition of Asian erasure, as Asians and Asian-Americans are all too often left out of the race and representation conversation.

It all comes from Hollywood believing only white heroes (often white men) sell movies globally (which is bunk). Yet, this year alone we saw examples of Asian erasure in “The Great Wall,” “Iron Fist,” and “Ghost in the Shell.” While not all are clear examples of white washing, each is a story that relishes in an Asian culture, while centering on a White protagonist. And that reduces Asian people to set dressing, even within their own stories. What needs to happen for this kind to change is not only the failure of such properties, but also the success of ones that dare to recognize Asian and Asian-American stars as more than cameos that’ll help bolster overseas sales. We’ll know a sea change is actually happening there when Asian/Asian-American women can front a story that doesn’t involve martial arts, or when an Asian/Asian-American man can be cast as the lead in a romantic-comedy. Because — as Jack Choi pointed out last year — allowing an actor to be seen as a sex symbol is a crucial step in making him a star.

Here’s hoping someone soon will finally realize the untapped potential of the internet’s crush John Cho, or that some clever producer will run with the swoons Dev Patel has stirred from his surfer-bro “Lion” look. Because here is the rare case where objectification could actually help in representation.

Jordan Peele Get Out

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has a diverse cast; so do the most recent “Star Wars” entries, and so does “Captain America: Civil War”; and these films’ successes have hardly ushered in a new era in empathy and justice. Or, rather, unfortunately, not at all. Big-budget, mass-market films are effects, not causes. The commercial success of these movies with diverse casts and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell” may give studio executives the hint they need. On the other hand, “Life” was a failure, too (the capital letter matters). On the third hand, one of the things that makes “Get Out” a great movie is its depiction of racial identity as a matter of historical consciousness and personal experience.

Tentpole movies don’t offer much of either — for people of any ethnicity; the amount of human experience that filters into these films is pretty slender overall. That’s why the diversity of casts needs to be joined by diversity behind the camera — executives, producers, directors, screenwriters; otherwise, the diverse casts (though important in themselves, as opportunities for the actors) will have little effect on the films’ substance.

Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Nonfics, Film School Rejects

The sad thing is that “Ghost in the Shell”s disappointing box office may not be seen as the result of the casting controversy, and maybe it is not entirely. But we’ve seen so many movies that have had similar issues, including “Gods of Egypt” and “The Great Wall,” unable to financially back up the offenses in terms of being what audiences want, that it has to be getting to Hollywood. Unless they see the success of films like “Get Out” and “Fast and the Furious” being enough to counter the films deemed insensitive, like “Ghost in the Shell,” which is a box office failure, and Doctor Strange, which is not. And they may be doing well enough outside America where the controversies don’t alway carry over, that they don’t care. Maybe the only way to tell if anything was learned with “Ghost in the Shell” is to see what happens with “Akira.”

Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson), The Verge

I don’t think we’re ever likely to be entirely rid of tone-deaf adaptations, for the same reason we’ll never be rid of bloated blockbuster sequels or dumbed-down copycats of hit movies: at least half of Hollywood is always chasing what looks like the safest payday, by trying to plug “bankable” stars into everything, regardless of appropriateness or optics. What the success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” gets us that I find heartening is a new set of profitable stars. There’s always going to be some clueless money-minded Hollywood exec pushing Tom Cruise or Matt Damon for the lead role in a President Obama biopic, because “Their films make money, and making money is what’s important.” But as actors like Michael B. Jordan, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Mahershala Ali gain more cachet as Hollywood moneymakers, we’re more likely to see their names come up in conversation. The success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” — or, on another scale entirely, the admirably diversity-minded “Star Wars: Rogue One” — isn’t just a boon for people who want to see themselves reflected onscreen, and it isn’t just a boon for people who want to point to “diverse” films and say they make money and have an audience. It’s also a boon for producers and directors and casting agents who want to widen their net, and need to be able to point to past successes when they’re pitching future projects. The more “bankable” stars of color we have, the less likely we are to live in a world where Scarlett Johansson is seen as the only possible star for an action film about a tough woman, regardless of that woman’s race.



‘Girl Trip’

Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith Joining Regina Hall in ‘Girl Trip’



Queen Latifah (left), Jada Pinkett Smith
Latifah: Noam Galai/WireImage. Todd Williamson/Getty Images for CinemaCon.

Will Packer will produce the feature, written by ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and ‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’ scribe Tracy Oliver.

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith are ready for a Girl Trip.

The actresses are in final negotiations to join Regina Hall in super producer Will Packer’s next feature for Universal.

Girl Trip follows four best friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, where friendships are rekindled and wild sides are revealed.

Best Man Holiday helmer Malcolm D. Lee will direct from a screenplay by Barbershop: The Next Cut scribe Tracy Oliver and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.

James Lopez, head of motion pictures for Will Packer Productions, will executive produce, while Sara Scott will oversee the project on behalf of Universal.

Girl Trip has been dated for a July 21, 2017, release.


Freida Pinto on Roles for Women in Film

Freida Pinto Reveals the Reality Behind Roles for Women in Hollywood

By: Nicole Charky@NicoleCharky

You know the hot babe. You’ve watched her on-screen as she inches her way out of a crystal blue pool, slowly shimmying to some sexy tune in the background.

Pool scene from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"BuzzfeedSports.Tumblr/Giphy –

But if you ask actress Freida Pinto, and a growing group of voices in Hollywood, there simply has to be more powerful roles for ladies.

freida pinto

The actress and producer, in collaboration with her partners at We Do It Together, wants to change the way female voices are presented both on and off-screen.

The nonprofit film production company is creating more women-driven projects with a group of actors, filmmakers, and producers, whose collective goal is to introduce bold stories and feature powerful female characters to help inform and develop our culture as a whole.

And Pinto and Chiara Tilesi, founder of the nonprofit, say there’s a serious demand for these roles off-screen, too.

You might hear jokes about the “celluloid ceiling,” but according to a recent report, there are as many women directing films in 2016 as there were in 1998.

This year, just 19 percent of the big decision-making jobs in film were held by women in the top 250 domestic grossing movies, including director, writer, editor, executive producer, and cinematographer.

kathryn bigelow zero dark thirty

In the coming months, you can expect to see Pinto attempt to shatter many outdated clichês in her upcoming films, as she and the organization work to write new narratives for women. They’re thinking about the future. They picture the children, both boys and girls of today, looking for heroes like they did. ATTN: sat down with Pinto and Tilesi to talk about why they want to break these stereotypes and help inspire women. They want to show that women are sexy, smart, and much more than just objects.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.


ATTN: Why are there limited opportunities for women in entertainment?

Freida Pinto: I don’t think there is the lack of wanting to go out there and creating more roles and opportunities, but I feel there’s been a lack of doing so far. We’ve been hearing for a very long time, studio heads, and producers, and agents, and actors themselves saying that there should be more women roles, but I feel it takes a lot of doing to actually make it happen. And I think that is the harder part, and it’s a longer part, it’s a longer commitment. And of course it’s mindsets. There’s a certain way that women have been viewed in film for years. To break that stereotype, you have to go out there really, really hard. I feel like there is an opportunity now, more than ever before, with all this conversation about equal pay and women standing up, saying that we want more roles that are not just the mother or the girlfriend or the hot babe, and I feel with all this chat now, the next thing for us to actually do is to do it.

ATTN: What do you think are the most typical or standard portrayals of women in films?

FP: I’ve played a few of them. I’ve played a few of those stereotypical roles: the girlfriend, who usually is a useless sidekick.

i made a tom cullen desert dancer reece ritchie freida pinto

The hot babe. There has to be a hot babe. How can you sell a film without a hot babe?

L'Oréal Paris USA celebs hair beauty loreal

The mother, and usually as they get older, women are stuck in roles that are devoid of any sexuality or sensuality, like they don’t feel the need for being sexual or sensual after the age of 40, and that’s really sad. And not to say there aren’t women who aren’t defying that.

The other one that I feel is the other extreme of it, is when you want to sell a woman as a strong person, she almost has to wear male pants, or else it’s [almost] impossible for a woman to be wearing a normal dress, or jeans and t-shirt, and still be powerful. I feel there is a sense of lack of understanding, that women can be women and still be powerful.

ATTN: And for minority women, what does that standard portrayal look like for you?

FP: Doctors and nurses. There is an overpopulation of them in the film world, and the TV world. There is also this constant need, in my opinion, for studio heads to make minority women exotic. Unfortunately, I have played one of those as well. I learned from my mistake, because I kind of feel in a way, ‘That’s great, that’s great to do that. But what more am I giving my character, and what is the impression that I’m giving a whole population that looks up to me as their representation?’ I feel like the exotic, or the nerd, or the doctor, the nurse — [these stereotypical roles] need to stop.

ATTN: Can you describe some of the ageism that some women in film are facing right now?

FP: I feel like because there are so few women who go out there and defy ageism, I end up watching a lot of their films. There’s Meryl Streep, there’s Helen Mirren, there is Sally Field.

the devil wears prada that is all devil wears prada indigo nope smh

I think it’s absolutely admirable to see what they are doing, because the opposite is the larger chunk: Women who are not given the power of being in their bodies, whether they’re sexual or sensual, within their bodies — and powerful, just because they’ve crossed a certain mark. Whereas with men there isn’t such a problem. Tom Cruise is still Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible.”

business insider mission mission impossible trailers

He can age and age and age and he’ll still be a super hero of sorts, and I feel that is definitely lacking in women’s roles. Women automatically become the wise mothers or the wise grandmothers, imparting all this amazing knowledge, funnily enough, in one move. And for me, that does not make any sense.

ATTN: What roles are we seeing that are positive examples of movies doing things the right way with women?

FP: The positive examples, and they have to be mentioned, otherwise it just seems like we’re out there being negative about the change that is actually taking place as well, as slow as it may be. In recent times, “Blue Jasmine” definitely empowered Cate Blanchett’s character, and she did not need to be the perfect, beautiful woman playing that. She was empowered in her own way, with her own dysfunctionality, and it was a thrill to watch a performance like that. She kept it very organic and real.

cate blanchett drinking blue jasmine

I loved Helen Hunt in “The Sessions.” It was nice, for a change, to see a fully sexually liberated woman. There was not a sense of objectification. That was the main thing about that film. There was no objectification of her naked body. It was serving a purpose that was graceful and almost noble, in a way. There were so many emotions running deep, it wasn’t just ‘Helen Hunt’s naked body, look at it.’ And I think that was definitely another brilliant example of a film in recent times.

Of course, everyone will go back to Erin Brockovich, everyone will talk about “Blindside,” because those are amazing films and role models, as well, for us younger actors to look up and say, ‘These are the roles we need to aspire to, the roles we need to be in.”

julia roberts erin brockovich

ATTN: There’s a lot of conversation about the pay gap, what do you think can be done to solve these problems?

FP: I don’t have necessarily the answer to the pay gap problem in Hollywood, because I’m not an expert on how to solve this problem, but I feel women need to band together as well. Female actors need to make sure their voices are being heard right at the level of negotiation. I feel there’s a sense of fear, in a way, that ‘You know what, I have a job, I might as well take it and just be quiet about it, because at least I have a job.’

But I feel we need to start changing that attitude. And I feel changing that attitude is going to meet a lot of resistance at first, hence, changing the attitude with a little bit of bravery will be very, very important for this actual shift to happen. All I can hope is that agents and producers and studio heads don’t shun this as women rising up for no rhyme or reason, but actually pay attention to what they’re saying.

ATTN: For the young people out there, including our audience, how does it affect them when they don’t see somebody on the screen who looks like them?

FP: I will give you my example when it comes to not having enough role models or enough people who they can actually look up to and say ‘I relate to that person.’ There were hardly any strong, female, brown, Indian characters in films before. It was always the nurse, the doctor, the teacher, the social worker, and it was always in these roles that if you pulled them out of the script they would hardly change the course of the film. And I felt that was nerve-wracking at first, when I did my first film, when I did “Slumdog Millionaire,” and I was like, ‘Here I am, thrust onto this international platform, with not many women in the past who’ve come from India or South Asia who’ve done it before, how am I going to change the game? How am I going to make it known that I am not willing to play these roles that don’t do anything to the film?

Freida Pinto in a scene from "Slumdog Millionaire"Giphy/ –

It’s not about just wanting to play the lead roles, but even in a supporting role, to make sure that it is truly supporting the crux of the film. It was really difficult at first, and I did have to play some of the stereotypical roles, to be honest. But now, having done all that, I feel it is my responsibility, in a way, to make sure that the next generation of boys and girls, whether they are from India, South Asia, brown, not brown — doesn’t matter — that they just see strong female characters from now on. Especially for boys as well, because you can really shape the way they think about girls and women, their future wives and girlfriends in general, if the representation in film is not just objectification, and if it is someone who is powerful.

ATTN: What important stories are you fighting for right now?

FP: At the moment, with the films that I’m producing, I am kind of hell-bent on doing the first three films of South Asian women. I think it’s very important, as someone who comes from that part of the world, that I tell a few stories about women from my part of the world, and in making sure that when I tell the stories of these women, that there is no demonizing of men, because that is something I’m strongly opposed to.

Freida  PintoJessica Lea/Department for International Development –

In order to tell a strong woman’s story you don’t have to make the man look bad. There are always gray characters, there are always the characters in the middle, but no one needs to look like a bad person, just keeping the humanity intact while telling the stories.

ATTN: What’s it like to work with women, on women-driven projects? Is there a big difference?

FP: You know, the truth is, I have never worked with a woman. And I am working with one right now, but I’ve never gone on floors with a female director, and I’m yearning so very badly to do that, just because I want to experience a different perspective. I’ve not had trouble communicating what I really want, because I’m not the kind of person to have trouble communicating my perspective even with a male director, but I just want the experience of working with someone who I will not have to spend a lot of time explaining a lot of things, where I can just go out there and go with the flow.

What I love about the women that I’m working with right now, with We Do It Together, with Chiara, with my director Kátia Lund, who is producing the next film with me as well, which we’re working on, the working relationship with them is we complement each other. There is no sense of competition. Every time you think about women in a work field together, for some reason, there is, again, this stereotype of them being competitive. But I love the fact that we complement each other because of our different upbringing and backgrounds and experiences, we bring so much richness and flavor to what we’re doing right now, it almost feels like we’re unstoppable, and I can’t wait to actually go out there and film the things that we’re planning on doing!

2016 Spring Filmmaker Grants

Oakley Anderson-Moore
March 2, 2016
A Massive List of Spring 2016 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About

The No Film School list of Spring grants is back for 2016, with new deadlines, program changes, and more opportunities than ever.

Spring is a great time to dust the cobwebs off unfinished scripts, log that documentary footage, and get some of those green dollar bills for your next film.

The following opportunities are organized by Documentary, Narrative, or Screenwriting, and are in order of deadline from March to May. An asterisk next to the grant title means there is an equivalent grant for both doc and narrative. To find out more specifics on a grant, click on the title and get started.

Christopher LaMarca Boone
Credit: “Boone,” dir. Christopher LaMarca, IFP Doc Lab alumni, premiering at SXSW ’16
IFP Independent Documentary Lab*

If you have a rough cut, apply to be a part of the illustrious IFP lab for a year-long mentorship program that supports first-time filmmakers, this year brought to you by the Time Warner Foundation. From IFP:

Focusing exclusively on low-budget features, this highly immersive program provides filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films – and their careers.

Deadline: March 1

Vision Maker Media – Public Media Content Fund

A grant that funds part of the budget for Native American stories that appeal to broad audiences. From VMM:

We’re particularly looking for stories that advance CPB’s initiatives — The American Graduate, and Women & Girls Lead. Awards for research and development range from $5,000 to $20,000; awards for production or completion can be up to $100,000; and, new media awards range from $5,000 to $35,000. Projects should be accessible to a broad audience, have the potential for a national broadcast, and be used for effective outreach/community engagement activities to reach audiences beyond a Public Television broadcast.

Deadline: March 1

Independent Lens

This well-curated PBS series offers a handsome sum for broadcast distribution of films each season. From PBS:

Independent Lens is seeking submissions of completed or near completed programs for broadcast during the October 2016 – June 2017 season. Independent Lens films are often character driven stories, and are known for compelling storytelling, innovation, and diversity. Independent Lens welcomes individual expression and is committed to presenting diverse points of view on topics suited for a national audience.

Deadline: March 25

Channel 4 First Cut Pitch

If you can pitch an idea for a First Cut doc, you could be one of five filmmakers at the Sheffield Doc/Fest who is commissioned to make the doc. From Channel 4:

An opportunity for UK filmmakers to get a First Cut commission offer, plus mentorship and training. Once again we’ll be offering five new directors the chance to pitch at Sheffield Doc/Fest and one winner will walk away with a commission from Channel 4 for their first 60’ film.

Deadline: March 27

Good Pitch New York 2016

A popular pitch session that is returning to the flagship event in New York this year, comprised of two parts: in June and November. Selected films get to pitch their projects in front of an array of big funding agencies. From Good Pitch:

Good Pitch brings together documentary filmmakers with foundations, NGOs, campaigners, philanthropists, policymakers, brands and media around leading social and environmental issues — to forge coalitions and campaigns that are good for all these partners, good for the films and good for society. Over a year, the selected filmmaking teams receive sustained mentorship and professional development. This includes two campaign development workshops, taking place right after project selection and again on the eve of the live event.

Deadline: March 29

Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film

If you have a short documentary from 10 – 30 minutes in length that highlights human unrest, forgotten communities, over-exploited people and environments impacted by war, poverty, famine, disease, exploitation and global distress, you could get $5k from the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation. From MROF:

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film will award a US$5,000 grant to a single completed “Short Short” documentary film project. Our grant is open to up-and-coming, independent film makers and directors in all countries. Participant must be committed to the field of reportage and documentary film making.

Deadline: March 31

Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund

This joint initiative between Bertha Foundation and BRITDOC is the first European-based fund between £5,000 – £50,000 open to filmmakers from anywhere with outreach campaigns. From BRITDOC:

The fund is looking to support smart, strategic outreach campaigns for ambitious independent documentary films with a social issue at their core; films which have the ability to achieve real change on a local, regional or global level.

Deadline: April 18

ITVS Digital Open Call

If you have a web series of any length, fiction or non-fiction, linear or transmedia, episodic or anthology, consider the ITVS Digital Open Call. From ITVS:

The Digital Open Call provides up to $50,000 in R&D funding to develop and pilot digital series concepts on any subject, and from any viewpoint, for public media’s digital platforms. Projects must be in development, and cannot have begun principal production.

Deadline: May 2

Miller / Packan Film Fund

This brand-new grant from the Rogovy Foundation will award doc filmmakers between $5,000 to $25,000 for work that address social issues and inspires others. From the Rogovy Foundation:

The Miller / Packan Film Fund supports documentaries that Educate, Inspire and Enrich. The Fund is financed through the Rogovy Foundation. We believe in the transformational power that comes from enlightening narratives and inspiring characters. The Fund begins granting in 2016. In its first year, grants totaling $150,000 will be awarded to between six and ten filmmakers. The fund operates an open rolling submission process, and awards will be announced bi-annually.

Deadline: May 15

welcome to leith
Credit: “Welcome to Leith,” dir. Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker, PBS Independent Lens alumni
IDFA Bertha Fund

A grant from the largest and most prestigious doc-only film festival IDFA is worth looking into if you have an international film. From IDFA:

The IDFA Bertha Fund is the only fund in the world dedicated solely to stimulating and empowering the creative documentary sector in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe…The fund is looking for new creative documentary projects which can be submitted in project development, production, and post production.

Deadline: May 15 (for projects outside of Europe)

Sundance Documentary Fund

Providing up to $20,000 for a documentary in development or up to $50,000 for a documentary in production/post-production with 10+ minutes of edited footage, the Sundance Doc Fund can be a huge score for docs. From Sundance:

The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund supports cinematic feature documentaries with contemporary relevance from filmmakers in the U.S. and internationally. Proposals are evaluated on artful and innovative storytelling, originality, contemporary relevance, and potential to reach its intended audience. First time directors are eligible and no prior work is required. Films may be in any language (with English subtitles or an English dialogue transcript).

Deadline: Rolling

Catapult Film Fund

If you’re just starting out on a documentary, you know how hard it is to raise money for it in the beginning — especially when you have nothing to show for it yet (because, hey, you need money to shoot!). The Catapult Film Fund will give you $5,000 to $20,000 to shoot enough footage so you can fundraise for the rest of the project. From Catapult:

Catapult Film Fund provides development funding to documentary filmmakers who have a compelling story to tell, have secured access to their story and are ready to shoot and edit a piece for production fundraising purposes. Our mission is to enable filmmakers to develop their film projects to the next level at a moment where funding is hard to find. We support powerful stories, and moving storytelling, across a broad spectrum of issues and perspectives.

Deadline: Rolling

The Fledgling Fund

If your documentary has the potential to make a difference when it comes to an important issue, the Fledgling Fund will support outreach and audience engagement strategies to an average $10-$25k. From the Fledgling Fund:

Grants support outreach and engagement for social issue documentary film and other storytelling projects that have the potential to inspire positive social change around issues that affect the most vulnerable.

Deadline: Rolling

The Bertha BRITDOC Documentary Journalism Fund

This new fund offers £10,000 – 50,000 to doc filmmakers from any country in a mix of grants and investments. From BRITDOC:

The fund supports projects at the intersection of film and investigative journalism that break the important stories of our time, expose injustice, bring attention to unreported issues, and cameras into regions previously unseen.

Deadline: Rolling

The Scottish Documentary Institute Consultancies

The Scottish Documentary Institute is rapidly becoming a renowned force behind interesting documentaries coming out of the region, so if you’re based in Scotland, the Consultancies are a good way to get your foot in the door. From SDI:

Scottish Documentary Institute is offering year-round submissions of Scottish documentary projects in development (shorts and features) to our Docscene project pool. The projects will then be steered towards forthcoming training programmes or other funding opportunities, depending on theme and scope: Seed Funding, Interdoc, the Edinburgh Pitch and prepared for other submissions to funders, meet markets or pitching forums. The aim is to improve quality of project development and increase the talent pool.

Deadline: Rolling

Ford Foundation: JustFilms

After year of restructuring, it’s a little unclear how many grants JustFilms will be giving out to individuals for 2016. Check out the requirements to see if you fit. Here are a few topics of docs that are not eligible: health, sports, early childhood, advocacy, educational, scientific. From the Ford Foundation:

JustFilms accepts letters of inquiry for grants year round, averaging between 800 and 1,000 inquiries. Our funds are limited, and we are able to support only a small percentage of these projects through direct grants. JustFilms strongly advises that you use the priorities and guiding application questions below to determine whether your project might be competitive in this process.

Deadline: Rolling (if you advance, you’ll hear within 30 days of submission)

I Believe in Unicorns
Credit: “I Believe in Unicorns,” dir. Leah Meyerhoff, IFP Independent Narrative Lab alum
IFP Independent Narrative Lab*

Apply with your rough cut to IFP’s prestigious year-long mentorship program that supports first-time narrative filmmakers whose projects are being made for under $1 million. Past narrative films that participated in the Lab range from I Believe in Unicorns to Go Down Death. From IFP:

Through the Labs, IFP works to ensure that talented emerging voices receive the support, resources, and industry exposure necessary to reach audiences. Open to all first time feature documentary and narrative directors with films in post-production.

Deadline: March 1

Film Independent’s Fast Track

If you’re a directing and producing team with a full-length narrative or documentary film seeking financing, the Los Angeles Fast Track market could be a great place to find it. From FIND:

Fast Track is a three day film financing market, held during the Los Angeles Film Festival and designed to help producer-director teams “fast track” their projects forward through sixty meetings with top executives, financiers, agents, managers, distributors, granting organizations, and production companies. During three days of intensive meetings, participants gain valuable exposure and build vital relationships as they propel their films towards completion.

Deadline: March 7 (FIND members)

The David Ross Fetzer Foundation for Emerging Artists Short Film Grants

To honor the late David Ross, this year the DRFF will offer a National Short Film Grant, a National Short Film Gear Incentive Grant, and a Utah Short Film Grant. From the Davey Foundation:

The film grants consist of either dollar grants ($5000), or gear grants (valued at $10,000) donated by Film Xchange. Grantees also receive mentorship from experienced filmmakers, including in past years Sundance film festival participants Dustin Guy Defa (Person to Person) and Kenny Riches (The Strongest Man).

Deadline: March 22 (regular), April 12 (late)

National Film Board of Canada Filmmaker Assistance Program*

If you’re a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, the Film Board of Canada has ten provinces that offer emerging filmmakers $3,000 – $5,000 grants a year in technical services to complete your film. Deadlines depend on the province, so be sure to check them out individually. From NFBC:

The National Film Board’s mandate is to reflect Canadian values and perspectives through the production and distribution of innovative Canadian audiovisual works accessible in relevant media of today. The Filmmaker Assistance Program (FAP) is designed to help developing independent filmmakers complete their films/videos by providing technical services and support.

Deadline: April 1 (depending on FAP region)

HBOAccess Directing Fellowship

This fellowship is for emerging, diverse voices who would like to make a short film with HBO. From HBO:

Last year, HBOACCESS® invited budding filmmakers to submit previous work that demonstrated their talent, skills, and — most important — growth potential. Out of hundreds of submissions rose four exceptionally talented fellow and four outstanding short films.

Deadline: Opens April 6

Screen Australia’s Feature Film Production Program*

If you’re an Australia-based filmmaker, you have got to get in touch with Screen Australia. The government film agency throws down major funds for low-budget features, documentaries, and large format programs. From Screen Australia:

Screen Australia’s Feature Film Production Program aims to assist in the creation of a diverse range of successful Australian films that resonate with their audiences – films that entertain, enlighten and reflect an Australian sense of identity both domestically and internationally.

Deadline: April 15

Credit: “Experimenter,” dir. Michael Almereyda, Film Independent Sloan Grant recipient
Liberty Lab for Film

If you liberty-minded filmmakers could use 100 days and $10K to make your next short film under the guidance of Taliesin Nexus, check this Lab out. From Taliesin Nexus:

If you and your treatment are selected, you will receive a grant for $10,000 to make your short film or web-series and be paired with an established industry professional who will mentor you through a 100-day process. At the conclusion, we will host a gala showcase screening where your film will premiere along with your fellow LLF participants’ projects.

Deadline: April 15

The Roy Dean Grant/From the Heart Productions*

The Roy Dean Grant includes over $30k of in-kind services and products is open for shorts, docs, and features films with a budget under $500k. From FTHP:

We fund compelling stories about little known subjects, historical films, and films that touch hearts. We like films that expose, and bring, important information to light; as well as films about little known people when there is a good story.

Deadline: April 30

2016 Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Are you a student looking to jumpstart your career? ADAA can offer the chance for mentorship, detailed feedback, career bootcamps, internships, and a trip to San Diego to attend Adobe MAX 2016. From ADAA:

The ADAA is a global digital media competition for student creators. Connected to industry professionals, academic leaders, and top brands, the ADAA aims to launch the next generation of student careers.

Deadline: Open now, closes June 19

Big Vision Empty Wallet Kickstart Diversity Program

If you have a project, particularly one in the early stages, in which the writer, director, or producer is a woman, person of color, or member of the LGBTQ community, consider applying for this new BVEW opportunity. From BVEW:

Selected projects will receive significant discounts (15%-75%) from vendors and service providers nationwide to create savings in all stages of production, including AbelCine, Hive Lighting, Gotham Stages, and Nice Shoes. Recipients will be granted access to an exclusive Distribution Lab, presented in both NY and LA, focusing on audience building and distribution strategies. Participating companies include Lionsgate Films, FilmRise, Seed & Spark, VHX, Zeitgeist Films, and Cinetic. In addition, our sister company Big Vision Creative will choose several projects per year to co-produce and/or represent for distribution.

Deadline: Rolling

Digital Bolex Grant for Women Cinematographers​

If you’ve got a short film, music video, or feature with a woman helming the DP role, Digital Bolex might loan you $10k worth of gear and accessories. From Digital Bolex:

The relationship between a director and cinematographer is the most important on any film set, and the most famous director/cinematographer pairs have collaborative relationships spanning decades. We would like to see women cinematographers and directors involved in that kind of intimate collaborative process, and hope that we can start to help move our industry in that direction.

Deadline: Rolling

Film Independent Sloan Distribution Grant

If you have a nearly completed (or finished) a narrative film with a leading character that is a scientist, engineer or mathematician, this grant could be for you. From FIND:

The Sloan Distribution Grant will be a $50,000 grant awarded by Film Independent to a film that is entering its distribution phase…Eligible films must depict themes, stories, and characters grounded in real science, technology or economics.

Deadline: Rolling

The Jerome Foundation’s New York City Film, Video, and Digital Production Grant Program

The Jerome Foundation has a good track record of supporting filmmakers in New York and Minnesota with innovative artistic sensibilities. From JF:

The Jerome Foundation’s Film, Video, and Digital Production Grant Program is a program for individual film, video, and digital artists who work in the genres of experimental, narrative, animation, and documentary production. Applicants must live within the five boroughs of New York City at the time of application and have lived there at least one year prior to the application deadline. Applicants must be individual emerging filmmakers.

Deadline: Rolling, allow 5 months for review

Nextpix/Firstpix Crowdfunding Grant

Nextpix/Firstpix will fund films with a budget under $250k that are the first or second film by a director, have a humanitarian element, and are crowdfunding part of that budget. From N/FCG:

We have recently changed our approach to the firstPix grant. Rather than fund on a pre-determined cycle, we will accept queries from any film that is being crowd funded at any point during the year. Once we’ve received your query please give us 30 days to respond.

Deadline: Rolling

Panavision’s New Filmmaker Program

If you are a student or a low-budget indie, Panavision might supply you with free camera packages. From Panavision:

The New Filmmaker Program loans film or digital camera packages (based on availability) to filmmakers for student thesis films, “low-budget” independent features, showcase reels, Public Service Announcements, or any other type of short not-for-profit project.

Deadline: Rolling
Credit: “Stockholm, Pennsylvania,” dir. Nikole Beckwith, Academy Nichol Fellow, premiered at Sundance ’15

Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenplay Competition

This screenplay competition from Nantucket Film Festival gives cash prizes and VIP festival access to winners with scripts for short films, feature films, 30-minute TV Pilots and hour-long TV pilots. From Nantucket:

Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenplay Competitions recognize emerging screenplays as the best from the pool of submissions each year. The competitions gives writers the opportunity to have their scripts read by a prestigious jury, receive top industry recognition, participate in a Festival focused specifically on screenwriting (including a Mentors Brunch), and win over $7,000 in total cash prizes.

Deadline: March 1 (WAB extended)

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts an international screenwriting competition established to identify new talent in screenwriting. From the Academy:

Each year, the Academy Nicholl screenwriting competition awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters. To enter, submit a feature length screenplay and entry fee via the online application when the competition is open for submissions. Fellowship winners are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars and expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year.

Deadline: March 7 (Early deadline), April 18 (regular)

Slamdance Writing Competition

This competition program has four categories and gives awards to the top three of each, plus a grand prize. Also, every entry gets feedback. From Slamdance:

The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world.

Deadline: April 11 (Early deadline)

Film Independent Screenwriters Lab

If you’re looking to develop your voice as a writer, this five-week program in autumn in Los Angeles might be a great opportunity. From FIND:

An intensive four-week workshop that meets two to three evenings a week in Los Angeles every September, the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab is designed to facilitate each writer’s unique voice through the development of a single feature project. Through personalized feedback from experienced industry professionals and other writers in the program, Screenwriting Fellows will gain the tools to revise and refine their scripts for production.

Deadline: April 18 (May 2 for FIND members)

Sundance Screenwriters Lab

The Sundance Screenwriters Lab is more than a five-day screenwriting workshop. It’s the gateway for all films chosen to be in the Director’s Lab, as well as eligibility to many of the Sundance grants. From the Sundance Institute:

Through one-on-one story sessions with Creative Advisors, Fellows engage in an artistically rigorous process that offers them indispensable lessons in craft, as well as the means to do the deep exploration needed to fully realize their material.

Deadline: May 1 (opens March 15)

CBS Writer’s Mentoring Program

In this 6-month mentorship program, writers get to build relationships to further their careers. From CBS:

The focus of this six month program is on opening doors: providing opportunities to build relationships with network executives and show runners; to support new and emerging writers in their efforts to improve their craft; and to develop the interpersonal skills necessary to break in and succeed.

Deadline: May 2

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