Meet the 2021 SFFILM FilmHouse Residents

7 min readJan 8, 2021


We are thrilled to to welcome a new group of Bay Area–based storytellers to take up residence at FilmHouse, SFFILM’s dynamic shared workspace for independent filmmakers. FilmHouse residencies, made possible by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation with additional funding from the San Francisco Film Commission, supports both narrative and documentary projects (including features, shorts, and series) by providing 12-month residencies to filmmakers actively engaged in various stages of production.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FilmHouse residency moved to a virtual workspace in 2020. For 2021, the size of the cohort was intentionally reduced to better support the filmmakers throughout their residency period. FilmHouse is the only year-round artist residency program of its kind. FilmHouse residents will be provided special access to established industry professionals offering artistic guidance and support from their various areas of expertise. Other resident benefits will include a robust guest speaker series, featuring lectures and presentations by leading industry professionals; workshops led by prominent filmmakers and other members of the independent film industry; peer-to-peer support; work-in-progress screenings; bi-weekly production meetings; access to meaningful networking opportunities; and numerous other community-building programs.

The 2021 FilmHouse residents were selected by a jury including Sofia Alicastro, SFFILM Artist Development Manager: Filmmaker Programs; Manijeh Fata, Film SF Manager; Sophie Gunther, SFFILM Artist Development Manager: Film Funds; A-lan Holt, Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, Director; Lauren McBride, SFFILM Artist Development Director; and Rosa Morales, SFFILM Senior Artist Development Coordinator.

“Assembling this strong cohort of filmmakers was an extremely challenging and rewarding process for us, and we are in awe of the abundant talent in the Bay Area. We are excited by the diversity of identities represented in this group and noted that what these unique filmmakers have in common are their innovative and urgent stories that ponder where we are going and consider where we have been. This contemplation of current social and political issues alongside so many bold visions of the future was greatly inspiring and engaging to us. We are excited to provide support and guidance to these promising local filmmakers as they craft their stories and look forward to helping share their work with the world.”

Now let’s meet the residents that will be taking their projects to the next stage — whether it be screenwriting or post-production — at FilmHouse in 2021!

Charlotte Gutierrez

John Juan — Narrative Feature
At 15, brainiac John Lopez is harassed by students and teachers for being ‘too Mexican’ at his old private school, and too ‘white’ in his Latino community at his new public high school. When he meets Sandra, a militant Chicana activist, he struggles to impress her. Frustrated by the expectations and assumptions from family, friends, and community while challenging racism in the wider world, John becomes Juan, super Latino.

Christopher Cole

Rolling Stone — Narrative Feature
Doug is a disaffected music journalist with ambitions of being an influential writer. Butcher is an egocentric superstar rapper. They look exactly alike. After Doug interviews Butcher, he haphazardly agrees to play his double in a music video. When one gig as Butcher turns into too many, Doug struggles to find his own voice while reckoning his relationship with the public, substances, and a budding romance with his new editor Ana.

Ellie Wen

On the Line (working title) — Documentary Short
Every night, the teenage volunteers at Teen Line respond to calls, texts, and emails from their anonymous peers who are struggling with abuse, depression, bullying, gender identity, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other issues. By closely following two volunteers, we discover how the work connects to their personal lives and what it means to share the trauma of strangers.

Jonathan Kiefer

So Fast They Follow — Narrative Feature
In a fictive Central California town, at a regional Shakespeare-festival production of “Hamlet,” two leading ladies playing Gertrude and Ophelia grapple with ageism, sexism, mortality, queerphobia, and creative gratification, taking hard-won solace from the surprising bond that’s grown between them.

Lucas Guilkey & JoeBill Muñoz

Untitled Prison Hunger Strike Film — Documentary Feature

In 2013, Michael, Jack, and Paul had each been trapped in solitary confinement cells for decades in Pelican Bay State Prison. They had never met or spoken a word to one another, but they all arrived at the same decision: a hunger strike. This is the story of how 30,000 people pulled off the extraordinary feat of abolishing the practice of indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons.

Luke Lorentzen

Southern Ice (working title) — Documentary Feature
Cape Town has a water shortage that marine engineer Nick Sloane believes he can solve. With a team of oceanographers, Nick plans to tow a 125 million ton iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town’s harbor. Once moored, this block of ice will provide 20% of the city’s annual potable water needs. Extending the limits of observational cinema with immersive camerawork, we will follow Nick as he takes on one of the world’s most urgent challenges.

Marjolaine Grappe

The Only Game in Town — Documentary Feature

Morgan Mathews

Black Butterflies — Documentary Feature
Black Butterflies is an experimental documentary centered around the subculture of durags and its connections to Black culture, self-care, and preservation. Aesthetically cosmic and poetic in tone, it is an affirmation of identity, beauty, and confidence.

Natalie Baszile

Good People — Narrative Feature
Babs Holloway and Nora Lachman can talk about anything: their long-time marriages, sex, even race. Babs is African-American, Nora is white, and their children, having grown up together in one of SF’s wealthiest neighborhoods, also are best friends. But when a neighbor calls the police on their kids, Babs and Nora struggle to preserve their friendship as they discover they’ve made very different assumptions about race, class and the limits of their privilege.

Patricia Lee

Hannah’s Biography — Narrative Short
Hannah, an elderly, first-generation immigrant, finds her life reset after divorce at age seventy-five. With her newfound freedom she decides to take a personal risk and try stand-up comedy.

Reaa Puri

K For Kashmir — Documentary Feature
Filmmaker Reaa Puri travels to her homeland of Kashmir to reconnect with her 90-year-old great grandmother. What she finds sparks a quest for answers about this contested land and her place in it.

Sephora Woldu

Aliens in Eritrea — Narrative Feature
Everyone is an alien in the newly independent nation of Eritrea — the diaspora moving back home, the citizens who never left, and the visitors from outer space.

Theo Schear & Ruth Gebreyesus

Hard To Swallow — Documentary TV Series
Hard to Swallow follows Nigerian immigrant, chef, and writer Tunde Wey as he explores the social and political implications of the production and consumption of food across the globe.

Tsanavi Spoonhunter

Holder of the Sky — Documentary Feature
Holder of the Sky is a documentary film that tells the story of one tribe’s pursuit to take back their treaty territory in the face of longstanding racism and a lingering lust for their land — a story of colonization’s continuum in modern-day America.

Yvan Iturriaga

Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? — Documentary Feature
Xavier Dphrepaulezz is a 51-year-old survivor living his “third rebirth” as Fantastic Negrito, a two-time Grammy-winning bluesman making an album about the mental health crisis devastating his family and community in Oakland, CA. Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? follows his creative process, unraveling his personal journey and that of his loved ones as he searches for truth, reconciliation, and ultimately, healing.

For more information about SFFILM’s artist development programs, visit




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