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Catapult Film Fund Provides $50,000 in Research Grants to Five Doc Filmmakers (EXCLUSIVE)

Five documentary filmmakers have been chosen to receive Catapult Film Fund’s annual research grant. Each recipient will receive $10,000 in direct support and six months of mentorship from industry advisors to support new nonfiction projects.

The Bay Area-based nonprofit organization launched its latest artist-centered program in 2020 to address issues of career sustainability and diversity in the documentary industry. This year’s selected filmmakers are Hazel Gurland-Pooler, Set Hernandez, Arielle Knight, Tracy Heather Strain, and So Yun Um.

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During the program, which begins in April, grant recipients are paired with an advisor based on their specific project needs and goals. This year’s advisors include Oscar-winning director Steven Bognar (“American Factory”), Oscar nominated helmer Yance Ford (“Strong Island,” “Power”), Emmy award-winning editor and director Geeta Gandhbir (“Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power”), Emmy Award-winning executive producer Simon Kilmurry (“Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy”), and Emmy award-nominated director Michèle Stephenson (“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project”).

“This uniquely special Catapult program truly fosters the independent voice and creates a space for imaginative possibility,”  says Megan Gelstein, Catapult Film Fund’s co-director and chief program officer. “The combination of world-class advisors paired with bold filmmakers whose work is informed by a creative process is so dynamic.”

Now in its fourth year, Catapult’s research grant program expands upon the organization’s mission to provide essential early-stage support when funding is hardest to find and considered riskiest to give. The program was inspired by conversations with U.S.-based filmmakers about significant barriers to launching new work, specifically the lack of funding, time, and sense of community.

“We emphasize taking risks and not being too precious about the form,” says Gelstein. “This is a space where artists’ ideas can range from incredibly expressive, experimental to provocative — and if none of it makes sense when the program is over, we still think that is success. We never want filmmakers to shy away from an idea just because there is uncertainty at the heart.”

To date, the Catapult research grant program has funded 20 film teams from diverse backgrounds: two-thirds of film teams identify as women or gender nonbinary; over 90% identify as BIPOC. Previous grantees include producer Jameka Autry (“Burden of Proof”), director Reid Davenport (“I Didn’t See You There”), director Jon Sesrie-Goff (“After Sherman”), director Sofian Khan (“Sealed in Blood”, and the filmmaking team of Sam Osborn and Alejandra Vasquez (“Going Varsity in Mariachi”).

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