Sundance and Disney Launch Project Advancement, Completion Fund For Underrepresented Directors - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Sundance and Disney Launch Project Advancement, Completion Fund For Underrepresented Directors

Photo courtesy: Sundance Institute

Film Industry Leaders Unite to Champion Inclusivity in Filmmaking

The Sundance Institute and The Walt Disney Studios are collaborating on an initiative called The Project Advancement and Completion Fund, designed to provide grants to fiction directors from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. This fund aims to empower and uplift filmmakers from diverse backgrounds and genres, fostering a more inclusive cinema landscape.

The Project Advancement and Completion Fund will support nine directors currently engaged in fiction features through Sundance Institute's esteemed artist programs. These talented filmmakers, hailing from a range of traditionally underrepresented communities, including women, AAPI, Black, Indigenous/Native, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, disability-identifying, and religiously marginalized individuals, will be granted the resources needed to bring their unique visions to life.

"After working with several Sundance filmmakers, we know how important it is for directors to develop their first independent feature films in order to take on larger projects at the studio level and we couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with Sundance Institute in an effort to help them do just that,” said Mahin Ibrahim, Director, Creative Talent Pathways, Representation & Inclusion Strategies. “At Disney, we believe in the power of diverse voices and storytelling, and this initiative reaffirms our commitment to empowering underrepresented talent in the industry.”

As part of this initiative, each selected director will receive a $25,000 unrestricted grant, providing vital financial support to advance their projects. In addition to the grant, directors will benefit from a customized continuum of support, ensuring they have access to the necessary resources, mentorship, and industry connections to navigate the filmmaking process successfully.

As a Sundance Institute grantee, the selected directors will also enjoy festival benefits and be part of Sundance ELEVATE, which includes professional development and specific learning opportunities during their year of primary programmatic activity. They will also benefit from learning and community opportunities through Sundance Collab, the Institute’s digital space for artists, granting them unlimited access to the esteemed Master Classes and other live event recordings in the expansive video library.

“Diverse communities often encounter formidable barriers when striving to break into the industry. We are thrilled to join forces with The Walt Disney Studios to champion the essential work of nurturing underrepresented voices," said Michelle Satter, the Founding Senior Director of Artist Programs at Sundance Institute. "We're honored to create this pioneering program in support of nine exceptional filmmakers during the inaugural year of this initiative.”

The directors selected for the inaugural cohort are:
Syrian-American filmmaker Ramzi Bashour, Lebanese-Canadian filmmaker Dania Bdeir, Caledonia Curry, Caribbean-American filmmaker Rashad Frett, Masami Kawai -an LA-born filmmaker of Ryukyuan descent, Walter Thompson-Hernandez -LA-based writer and director, filmmaker Sean Wang from Fremont, CA, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, a Miami-born writer/director, and Chinese-American writer-director, Yuan Yuan. 

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