Austin Film Society announces the recipients of the 2022 AFS Grant for Feature Films

Cecilia Conti

Austin Film Society 2022 grant recipients showcase the power and scope of the Texas filmmaking landscape 11 feature-length film projects by 14 directors reflect the exceptional talent and diversity of Texas’ film community

September 7, 2022 (Austin, TX) — The Austin Film Society announces the 14 recipients of the 2022 AFS Grant for Feature Films, the annually renewed fund for emerging Texas filmmakers. Funding from AFS Grants provides a vital resource to Texas-based independent filmmakers, and acts as a baseline of support for a growing and diversifying independent film scene. The grant is known for creating life-changing opportunities for artists based in Texas, who are often from underrepresented backgrounds, and working outside of the large coastal industry centers. Intended to support career leaps for emerging to mid-career artists in Texas, the AFS Grant often launches the careers of filmmakers who have yet to be recognized by national funders. This year’s group of grantees demonstrates the organization’s ongoing commitment to empowering Texas-based storytellers, and creating more access and equity in the regional independent film sector.

AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell commented on the AFS Grant:

“The AFS Grant is the only film fund of its kind– it supports Texas-based filmmakers to make their own films. For 26 years, this grant has been laying the groundwork for a thriving, inclusive film culture in Texas. The funding provides a baseline of support that filmmakers can depend on, and defines our vision for a Texas film community that is a welcoming, supportive place for independent filmmakers of all backgrounds to bring ambitious creative projects to life.”

11 projects by 14 director applicants were selected for AFS Grant awards: six feature documentaries, four narrative features, and one experimental narrative feature. AFS funded projects in development, production, and post-production. The applicants represent a geographically diverse group, with directors residing in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Laredo, Richardson, Georgetown, and Celina. Eight projects will be debut features for the selected filmmakers.

AFS intends for the AFS Grant program to actively work against the structural racism and sexism in the screen industries. In this grant cycle, female-identifying filmmakers make up 50% of the recipients, and separately, 79% of the recipients identify with a community of color. For the fifth year, AFS is proud to offer the New Texas Voices Award, a cash grant of $10,000 and industry mentorship, for a first-time filmmaker of color making a feature-length film. The 2022 recipients are Estefanía Contreras and Silvia Castaños with their documentary feature Hummingbirds. AFS continues to partner with Ley Line Entertainment, David Lowery, and the Oak Cliff Film Festival to fund three debut feature projects by underrepresented north-Texas based directors through the North Texas Pioneer Film Fund (a special section of the AFS Grant program). More about the program below.

The AFS Grant for Short Films is currently accepting applications through Friday, September 16th. The application is open to all genres of short films (40 minutes or less) and includes a special grant for undergraduate students, the Harrison McClure Endowed Film Fund. The feature-length film AFS Grant cycle will re-open for applications in the spring of 2023.

More about the AFS Grant:

AFS Grant recipients have shown their films at renowned festivals like Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Tribeca, Rotterdam, and SXSW. Past grantees include Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth, Annie Silverstein’s Bull, Augustine Frizzell’s Never Goin’ Back, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess, TW Pittman and Kelly Daniela Norris’ Nakom, Yen Tan’s Pit Stop, Heather Courtney’s Where Soldiers Come From, Keith Maitland’s Tower, Renée Zahn’s Reneepoptosis, and Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas’ Skip Day; all Independent Spirit Award nominees or top award winners at Cannes, Sundance or SXSW. At SXSW and Tribeca 2022, AFS Grant recipients were recognized with top awards. What We Leave Behind, a feature documentary by Iliana Sosa, received both the Fandor New Voices Awards and the Louis Black Lone Star Award at SXSW, and went on to be distributed by Array Releasing and Netflix. It will begin its run at the AFS Cinema on Friday, September 10th. Amy Bench’s AFS Grant-funded short film, More than I Remember, won best animated short film at Tribeca 2022, qualifying it for the 2023 Oscars. Spencer Cook & Parker Smith’s Act of God was a SXSW Audience Award Winner, and Katherine Propper received Special Jury Recognition for Vision for her AFS-supported short Birds.

Filmmakers David Lowery (The Green Knight, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) and Kat Candler (13 Reasons Why, Queen Sugar, Hellion) both received support for their work from the Austin Film Society Grant and are now among the donors to the AFS Grant fund. Candler is committed to amplifying female voices in film and supports female-identifying filmmakers through the AFS Grant. Lowery partners with the Oak Cliff Film Festival and Tim Headington’s Ley Line Entertainment to provide AFS’s North Texas Pioneer Film Award, which awards cash grants to emerging filmmakers from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The grant has an emphasis on underrepresented perspectives. Recipient of a 2020 North Texas Pioneer Film Award, Clint Bentley’s Jockey, made its world premiere and was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

The AFS Grant selections are made by a panel of industry experts. Those who jury the production grant reside outside of the state of Texas. Participants in this year’s panel process included filmmaker and showrunner Xan Aranda (Omnivore and My Love), film programmer Malin Kan (AFI Festivals at the American Film Institute) and filmmaker Carey Williams (Emergency).

A diverse committee of filmmakers, film industry professionals and former AFS Grant recipients from Austin, Dallas, Houston and El Paso act as first round reviewers, providing feedback and recommendations to the panel. Reviewers included:

Film Programmers Jim Kolbar and Josh Martin, Executive Director Sarah Stauder (Aurora Picture Show), writer and film critic Marisa Mirabal, Ph.D Mark D. Cunningham, AFS funded filmmakers Dash Donato and Déjá Bernhardt, Filmmaker and founder Carlos Coral (El Paso Film Festival), Professor Bart Weiss, Producer Neil Creque Williams, and Filmmaker Maximiliano Benitez. This year’s grant was administered by AFS Head of Film & Creative Media Holly Herrick, Director of Programs Erica Deiparine-Sugars, and Filmmaker Support Coordinator Maryan Nagy Captan.

Cash grant partners include David Lowery, Ley Line Entertainment, and the Oak Cliff Film Festival on the North Texas Pioneer Film Grant. In-kind grants were provided by MPS Camera and Lighting and Stuck On On.

The AFS Grant is generously supported by grant partners Oak Cliff Film Festival, Ley Line Entertainment, Kat Candler, MPS Camera and Lighting, and Stuck On On, in addition to the City of Austin Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The full list of 2022 recipients is below. Headshots and film stills can be found here.


Descriptions provided by the filmmakers. 

Director: Lucy Kerr (Austin)
Experimental Narrative in Post
THE CHRISTMAS CARD Follows a sprawling Texas family on a morning when they’ve planned to take a family photo for their annual Christmas Card. As the scheduled photo op approaches, the family begins to lose themselves.

New Texas Voices Award
Director: Estefanía Contreras (Laredo) and Silvia Castaños (Laredo)
Documentary Feature in Post Production
In this late-night summer self portrait, Silvia Castaños and Estefanía Contreras make magic of everyday moments coming of age on the Texas-Mexico border.

Director: Katherine Propper (Austin)
Narrative Feature in post production
A young rapper leaves everything behind and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery, music, and friendship in the heart of Texas.

Director:Huay-Bing Law (Austin) and Sam Mohney (Austin)
Narrative in Development
A mid-30s aspiring parody rapper is performing a set at a music festival with other rising artists and has the chance to achieve his dream of being finally signed to a record label. But in the two hours between sound check and performance, he must put out the fires in his personal and professional relationships, all while writing a new last-second track that will redefine him as a true artist.

North Texas Pioneer Award
Director: Hammad Rizvi (Richardson)
Narrative Feature in Development
After his pregnant wife suddenly disappears, an immigrant student sets out to find the truth but instead unravels deeper secrets.

Director: Don Swaynos (Austin)
Documentary in Development
A possibly fictional true crime documentary about an unemployed billionaire and his 45 ex-wives.

North Texas Pioneer Award and MPS Camera and Lighting Austin Grant
Director: Adriane McCray (Dallas)
Narrative Feature in Production
STATE CHAMPS EAT FREE is a  cultural coming-of-age story set in the competitive club soccer & varsity soccer worlds of Texas. We follow five girls with a shared dream of bringing home a title. Together, they grow into women and work to fight for their wins – both on and off the field. Tensions arise when they discover they may not want the same things in life.

North Texas Pioneer Award
Director: LaTasha Taylor Starr (Dallas) and Ariel Leslie (Celina)
Documentary Feature in Production
From the first slave passage to present day, most of African American history has been lost and/or destroyed and reduced to minimum contributions towards building this country. Due to the purging of an entire ethnic group’s identity, many African Americans identify and assimilate with Native American History or simply to being black in America and nothing more. Fortunately, history stored in DNA isn’t as easily destroyable.

Director: Andrew Richey (Georgetown)
Documentary Feature in Production
With its fiercely unique culture, the Tonkawa tribe that once dominated much of Texas finds its existence hanging by a thread. Those who remain strive to rediscover who they are as a tribe, while preserving their language, culture, and way of life.

Director: PJ Raval (Austin)
Documentary Feature in Production
A new feature documentary by PJ Raval (CALL HER GANDA).

Director: Alexis Franco (Houston)
Documentary in Production
WHERE THE TREES BEAR MEAT tells a parallel story of two families of gauchos and talks about the vulnerability of human life in the immensity of nature.

*Also recipients of Stuck On On DCP Grants

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 is committed to racial equity and inclusion, with an objective to deliver programs that actively dismantle the structural racism, sexism, and other bias in the screen industries. AFS supports filmmakers from all backgrounds 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, 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.

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