Meet the Inaugural SFFILM Westridge Grant Finalists

SFFILM and the Westridge Foundation have announced the inaugural finalists of the SFFILM Westridge Grant, the newest filmmaker support program offered by SFFILM Makers.

The SFFILM Westridge program is designed specifically to support the screenwriting and development phases of narrative feature projects whose stories focus on the significant social issues and questions of our time. Providing support at these critical early stages protects filmmakers’ creative processes, and allows them to concentrate on properly crafting their stories and building the right strategy and infrastructure to guide them through financing and production.

The SFFILM Westridge Grant is open to US-based filmmakers whose stories take place primarily in the United States. Applications are now being accepted for the Fall 2018 round of grants; the final deadline to apply is July 31. Find out more at sffilm.org/makers.

In addition to the cash grants, recipients will receive various benefits through SFFILM’s comprehensive and dynamic artist development program, as well as support and feedback from SFFILM and Westridge Foundation staff. All grantees will spend one week in the Bay Area attending a programmed retreat geared towards honing their craft, strengthening their scripts, and making connections to other filmmakers and industry professionals.

SPRING 2018 SFFILM WESTRIDGE GRANT FINALISTS

Back Seat
Lana Wilson, writer/director; Shrihari Sathe, producer (screenwriting)
An immigrant woman leaves her young son alone in the back seat of a car, setting off a firestorm of controversy in the liberal community where she lives. As the town’s latent xenophobia bubbles to the surface, and the woman’s parenting abilities are scrutinized in increasingly disturbing ways, she fights to prove that she’s a worthy mother — to the town, to her children, and to herself.

Bait
Jamie Ruddy, writer/director (development)
In a prosperous suburb in 1986, New Jersey, an 11-year-old girl discovers her father is a child molester and has been using her as bait. Will she protect him or tell the truth in this heartbreaking true story?

The Beautiful Ones
Neil Paik, writer/director (screenwriting)
A fateful night in the San Fernando Valley, an illicit affair in Afghanistan, a school shooting, and an activist journalist are all connected by an old Polaroid camera that exchanges hands over the course of 15 years following 9/11.

Mandeville
Russell Nichols, writer (screenwriting)
A traumatized Black boy, whose brother was killed by a cop, volunteers for an experiment that tests his powers of prediction to prevent future murders.

Miss Juneteenth
Channing Godfrey Peoples, writer/director; Neil Creque Williams, producer (development) — $20,000
Turquoise, a former beauty pageant queen turned hardworking single mother, enrolls her rebellious daughter, Kai, in the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant to compete for the grand prize — a college scholarship. Determined to keep Kai from making her same mistakes in life, Turquoise saves her tips from working at a juke joint to buy her daughter the grandest pageant dress of all. However, Kai is more interested in her school’s dance team and chasing her high school crush.

A Night to Remember
Jessiline Berry, writer/director (screenwriting)
Just three hours ago, they were strangers at a party; now Will is stopping Rayna from getting into an Uber so she can spend the night getting into him. The two could-be lovers go on a moonlit LA adventure, falling into mischief and, perhaps, something like love. By morning’s light, Rayna will know Will all too well — for better or for worse.

Stay Awake
Jaime Sisley, writer/director; Kelly Thomas and David Ariniello, producers (development)
For years, teen brothers Ethan and Derek Reynolds have tried to help their mother, Michelle, overcome her prescription drug addiction with little success. When Michelle goes missing after another binge, Ethan and Derek begin to question whether they should continue trying to find and help Michelle, or move on with their lives at the expanse of saving her.

A Storybook Ending
Lanre Olabisi, writer/director; Isaac LeFerve and Gabriel Sedgwick, producers (development)
A “Black” comedy set in Brooklyn, A Storybook Ending is also a highly stylized noir. The film unfolds through shifting time frames as it explores contemporary race relations experienced by multiple characters whose lives intersect thanks to a single, life-changing event.

Taliesin
Maya Perez, writer (screenwriting) — $20,000
Based on actual events, Taliesin tells the story of a young Black couple hired to work at the infamous Taliesin home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The remote location becomes a pressure cooker, and tensions around race and gender boil over with tragic consequences — the most horrific mass murder in Wisconsin history.

They Call Me Stacy
Atsuko Okatsuka, writer/director (development)
They call her Stacy…but that’s not her name. Asuka is an undocumented high school student living in her uncle’s garage with her grandmother and schizophrenic mother. With the help of her mother, she tries out for the school’s cheerleading squad and gets in. Her two best friends Nanette and Sandy act as the comedic relief and support system for Asuka as she navigates family stress, being a new member of the cheerleading squad, and now also going by Stacy, as suggested by her English teacher.

The Vanishing Point
Beth Pielert, writer (development)
On the verge of losing her home, a community-minded Latina is seduced by a group of senior women who offer her a solution to her money troubles — help them rob the pharmaceutical company where she works.

White
A. Sayeeda Moreno, writer/director (screenwriting)
White is a dystopian thriller set in a burning hot near-future where climate change has both devastated the planet and turned melanin into the world’s most valuable commodity. When Nuyorican beauty Luna has her newborn ripped from her arms just moments after giving birth, she is thrust into the merciless world of melanin harvesting to save her daughter, her community and spark a revolution.

For more information about SFFILM Makers artist development programs, visit sffilm.org/makers.

Presenter of the SFFILM Festival, SFFILM is a year-round nonprofit organization delivering screenings & events to 100,000+ film lovers annually. www.sffilm.org