Austin Film Society Announces the 2019 AFS Grant Recipients

Brady Dyer, Communications Manager

September 4, 2019

Twelve emerging Texas filmmakers and projects highlight the organization’s commitment to diversity, gender equity, and artistic achievement

September 4, 2019 (Austin, TX) — The Austin Film Society announces 12 recipients for the fall funding cycle of the AFS Grant, the annually renewed production fund for emerging Texas filmmakers. Since its inception in 1996, the AFS Grant has awarded over $1.97 million in cash grants to Texas filmmakers, creating life-changing opportunities for artists working outside traditional industry centers, and facilitating their significant career leaps.

This year’s projects reflect the Austin Film Society’s commitment to funding exceptional artistic voices that often come from backgrounds traditionally under-represented in the film industry. Female-identifying filmmakers made up 50% of this funding cycle’s recipients, and received 66% of funds. 42% of the 2019 recipients identify with a community of color. 42% of this year’s recipients were first-time grantees of the Austin Film Society.

AFS Head of Film Holly Herrick commented on this year’s grantees, “The Austin Film Society is fully committed to elevating Texas’ exceptional filmmakers through the AFS Grant. Our region is a thriving center for visionary independent filmmaking, as these grantees demonstrate. This group of promising artists are telling stories that are both specific and universal, and we’re grateful that this fund will support their artistic leaps.”

Filmmakers David Lowery (Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON, A GHOST STORY) and Kat Candler (13 Reasons Why, Queen Sugar, HELLION) both received early support for their work from the Austin Film Society Grant and are now among the donors to the AFS Grant fund. Lowery’s company, Sailor Bear, partners with the Oak Cliff Film Festival, Dallas Producers Association and Ley Line Entertainment to provide AFS’s North Texas Pioneer Film Grant. The fund awarded $35,000 in cash to emerging filmmakers from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area this year. Candler’s support went to grants for female-identifying filmmakers.

As previously announced, this year AFS split its granting cycle into two seasons. The spring application cycle (April 12-June 7) was opened to filmmakers applying only with feature-length films, or undergraduate students with films of any length applying for the Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund. The fall AFS Grant cycle, open to short films 40 minutes or under, is now open for submissions. Filmmakers can apply for up to $10,000 in cash support, as well as in-kind post-production goods and services from MPS Camera and Lighting and Stuck On On. Short film grants will be awarded in December.

The AFS Grant for short films application can be found at this link.

The full list of 2019 AFS Grantees is below. Headshots and stills can be downloaded here.

The AFS Grant has supported over 400 Texas filmmakers towards significant career leaps. Previous recipients have been nominated for Independent Spirit Awards (examples include Augustine Frizzell’s NEVER GOIN’ BACK; Andrew Bujalski’s COMPUTER CHESS, TW Pittman and Kelly Daniela Norris’ NAKOM, Yen Tan’s PIT STOP and Heather Courtney’s WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM) and won awards at top festivals such as Cannes, Sundance and SXSW (for example, Keith Maitland’s TOWER, Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas’ SKIP DAY, Annie Silverstein’s SKUNK, Renée Zahn’s RENEEPOPTOSIS and Todd Rohal’s RAT PACK RAT).

The AFS Grant selections are made by a panel of industry experts residing outside of the state of Texas. This year’s panelists included documentarian Bernardo Ruiz (KINGDOM OF SHADOWS, REPORTERO, HARVEST SEASON), independent Canadian filmmaker Ingrid Veninger (MODRA, ONLY, PORCUPINE LAKE) and Laura Mehlhaff, Director of the Sun Valley Film Initiative (part of the Sun Valley Film Festival). This year’s grant was administered by AFS Director of Programs Erica Deiparine-Sugars and AFS Program Manager Michael Thielvoldt.

Grantees received a combination of cash and in-kind grants from AFS partners, totaling approximately $100,000. In-kind grants were provided by MPS Studios, Stuck On On and Kodak Motion Picture Film. Cash grant partners included Sailor Bear, Ley Line Entertainment the Oak Cliff Film Festival and Dallas Producers Association on the North Texas Pioneer Film Grant, and the Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund on the undergraduate student award.

The AFS Grant is generously supported by Warbach Lighting and Design, Stuck On On, Sailor Bear, Kodak Motion Picture Film, MPS Camera and Lighting, Ley Line Entertainment, Oak Cliff Film Festival, Art Works, City of Austin Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division and the Texas Commission on the Arts.


North Texas Pioneer Film Grant
Documentary Feature in distribution
Director: Michael Rowley
Hurdle is the story of a new generation of Palestinians using creativity as a form of resistance. Where walls were built to contain and control, Hurdle’s characters lack freedom of movement. Through the sport of parkour and the documentation of daily life, the characters tell an untold story of what it means to strive for freedom in the modern era.

Stuck On On Award
Narrative Feature in post-production
Director and writer: Mei Makino
Teenager Angie Chen finds herself in a cultural and personal identity crisis following her parents’ recent divorce. Caught between her equal-parts Chinese and American upbringing, life is only further complicated when she begins a romance with Liam, a popular jock who wants to keep their relationship a secret. As Angie contends with her burgeoning sexuality, she must face a troubled home life, a confusing romantic relationship, and a growing sense of isolation as she is left alone to determine the ultimate question: Who is the real Angie Chen?

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant
Narrative Feature in production
Director and writer: Maria Padilla
Martinez, a cranky and lonely bureaucrat resisting retirement, receives a surprise gift from a deceased neighbor. He finally begins to enjoy life through a love affair with her through her old belongings.

Warbach Lighting and Design New Texas Voices Grant
Narrative Feature in post-production
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Centered around the Juneteenth holiday (commemorating the day slaves in Texas were freed – two long years after everybody else), Miss Juneteenth tells the story of Turquoise, a former beauty queen turned hard working single mother, as she prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the pageant, hoping to keep her from repeating her same mistakes. The Warbach Lighting and Design New Texas Voices Grant is a $10,000 cash grant for a filmmaker identifying with a community of color who is making his or her first feature length film.

Kodak Motion Picture Film Award
Documentary Feature in production
Director: Jim Hickcox
Names in the Pavement is an unconventional documentary about infrastructure and the history of Austin, Texas.

Stuck On On Award
Documentary Feature in post-production
Director: Zuqiang Peng
Nan follows the last two years of a living situation in which the filmmaker’s uncle Nan shares an apartment with his parents, before the family of three separate and live in different homes. A reflection on time, aging, and the economies of care in contemporary China.

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant
Narrative Feature in production
Director and writer: Dex Decker
Two wayfaring strangers meet in a rest stop bathroom and learn over French fries that they have more in common than the road and need each other more than they’ll ever understand. Sometimes it’s the kindness of a complete stranger that changes the course of one’s life.

Documentary Feature in production
Director: John Fiege
A teenage African-American dancer in Houston must draw on her community and her own resilience when she sets out to choreograph a performance about her experience with Hurricane Harvey and environmental justice.

North Texas Pioneer Film Grant
Narrative Feature in post-production
Director and writer: Morrisa Maltz
An unexpected invitation from her estranged Lakota family sends a young woman on a winding road trip through the Midwest all the way down to the Texas-Mexico border. A doc-drama observational film that takes a look at one less-traveled part of America, the people who live there and the complexity of a Native woman traveling alone in the current cultural climate.

MPS Camera and Lighting Award
Narrative Feature in production
Director: Ryan Darbonne
Told over the course of one day, Austin’s first POC punk festival provides the backdrop for three intersecting stories featuring a failed musician searching for his lost van, two strangers on an awkward road trip, and a Mexican punk band on the verge of a complete breakdown.

Documentary Feature in post-production
Director: John Moore
When We Were Live is a feature documentary about the heyday of Public Access Television in the 1980’s and 90’s, and how it shaped the culture of a pre-internet America.


Harrison McClure Endowed Grant for an undergraduate filmmaker
Documentary Short in production
Director: Annika Horne
Why are we still surprised to see a woman pilot? Hear the stories of female pilots – their highs and lows – and see how they refused to be shut out of the skies, from World War II to the present.

Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, AFS creates life-changing opportunities for filmmakers, catalyzes Austin and Texas as a creative hub, and brings the community together around great film. AFS supports filmmakers towards career leaps, encouraging exceptional artistic projects with grants and support services. AFS operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, to attract and grow the creative media ecosystem. Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse mediamakers to train and collaborate, provides many points of access to filmmaking and film careers. The AFS Cinema is an ambitiously programmed repertory and first run arthouse with broad community engagement. By hosting premieres, special events, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. AFS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.