Filmmakers Fund Grant History:
Years 2005-2006

Rooftop Films made our biggest awards ever during this cycle, giving away $7,782 to four films. The films we chose to fund this year are diverse both in terms of subject matter and genre. From a feature-length documentary about the "sex change capital of the world" to an experimental underwater epic narrative, we feel that the films we funded this year reflect Rooftop Films' mission: to promote independent filmmaking of all kinds.

Films Funded:

Long Haul
by Erin Hudson

Erin directed the film Rotation, a lovely documentary about wind farmers, shown at last summer's "Hi-Lo Film Fest" show. Erin is currently shooting Long Haul, a short documentary about three female truck drivers, which offers a unique perspective into the world of trucking. In Erin's words, "Long Haul captures a myriad of survival strategies amidst a culture of girl-silhouetted mud-flaps, trash-talking CB chatter, and prostitute-riddled truck stops." The funds from Rooftop will help Erin travel around the country with her subjects.

Best Kept Secret
by PJ Raval & Jay Hodges

PJ is an Austin filmmaker who screened his film Clean at Rooftop in 2002, and has also worked on numerous other films shown at Rooftop. As PJ described his new film, "Best Kept Secret will explore the many identities of Trinidad, Colorado, a former coal-mining/ranching town that since the early 1970s has been known as the 'sex change capital of the world.' Whereas most transsexual-themed documentaries exploit, even sensationalize, the physical transition of individuals from birth gender to desired gender, by examining the microcosm of Trinidad, it is our intention to reveal the commonalities and tensions that arise between Trinidad's transsexual and non-transsexual communities." Rooftop Films will be helping cover post-production costs.

Padre Francisco
by Fabio Wuytack

Fabio directed Two Hands, a tragic but hopeful documentary about a Palestinian heart surgeon (shown at Rooftop's "Caught in Between" program in 2005), and Made in Italy (shown at Rooftop's "Undocumented" program in 2005), an inventive documentary which tied a long-lost Lumiere Brothers' film to Fabio's family history. Padre Francisco is a documentary about Fabio's father, a Belgian missionary who became deeply involved as a human rights fighter in the slums of Venezuela in the 1970s, before eventually being captured by the government, tortured, and exiled. On his return to Europe, Frans Wuytack became an internationally renowned sculptor and poet. Money from Rooftop Films will help pay for Fabio to travel from his native Belgium to shoot his father's long-awaited return to Venezuela, a country in transformation.

Glory at Sea!
by Benjamin Zeitlin

Ben is the creator of Egg, a dazzlingly bizarre mixture of live-action and animation featuring human chickens and an animated Captain Ahab, shown at Rooftop a few times in 2005, including on Governors Island and on our boat show. His new project is a live-action melee, a naval battle between warring sailboats, mermaids, and "human manatees." Ben will shooting in Ios, Greece, where he has received support from the Athens Film Festival, after which he will be working under the advisement of the staff of legendary Czech animator Jan Svankmajer. The Rooftop Films grant will help Ben build an underwater springboard, among other special effects items, for this visually astonishing film.


The 2004 Rooftop Filmmakers' Fund, whose grants were awarded at the beginning of March 2005, received more applications than ever before, with 20% of all filmmakers applying. We had $3,358 to give away, and chose to spread this amount among five diverse and interesting projects. In years past, we have at times spread smaller amounts to more filmmakers. It's always hard to turn anyone away, but we wanted to try to make a larger dent in some films this year, and ended up funding a few excellent projects on which we could make a significant impact.

We also hope to help out a wide variety of other projects, donating time on our editing systems and donating our staff's skills (editing, sound engineering, advice); matching filmmakers with other filmmakers, editors, and grant-making organizations; lending equipment; and more (see above to find out how you can help).

The films we chose to fund this year are diverse both in terms of subject matter and genre. From a documentary about the highly politicized fight over water rights in Michigan to an experimental personal history, we feel that the films we funded this year reflect Rooftop Films' mission: to promote independent filmmaking of all kinds.

The films we funded are:

Blue Noise
by Yoni Goldstein and Max Sussman

A documentary about racist water rights policies in Detroit. Considered to be one of the fiercest political issues that is currently facing and will face the 21st century, fights over water privatization have been going on in Michigan for years. We are covering the majority of their production costs. In 2004, we screened their film Whatever You Destroy at the Allied Media Conference and a few other touring shows.

I Have the Right
by Paper Tiger TV and Fierce

A documentary and youth education project about copwatching, the act of videotaping police with the hope of stemming police violence. The film will be made in Bushwick, Brooklyn, near Rooftop Films' main venue and the entire project, will be an ongoing effort. Our funds will cover the cost of two new video cameras. This grant is unique for Rooftop Films in that the project is as much about the process of filming and documentation—and using the resultant footage to affect change, and as evidence—as it is about creating a finished work. As part of 2004's night of youth-produced films, we screened Fenced Out, another collaboration between PTTV and Fierce. In past years we have also shown PTTV's Standing with Palestine (in 2003 at our Un-American Film Festival night) and Turning Tragedy into War (in October 2001 as part of our 9-11 to Present show).

Something Other than Other
by Jerry Henry and Andrea Chia

An experimental personal history about the filmmakers as a mixed-race couple with a child. We've seen a rough cut and are very excited to be able to participate in this project which will be funny and moving, and made in a unique and surprising way. Our funds will pay for their graphics and titles, plus super-8 and miniDV stock. We have previously screened Jerry Henry's I Promise Africa at numerous shows, including 2004's Home Movies program.

Launch by Brian Doyle
An artistic impression of the collapse of America's space program, culminating with coverage of the first launch of a space shuttle since the Columbia crash. The stills Brian sent with his proposal made us hungry for more, and excited to see what results from this exploration. We screened Brian Doyle's films Current and The Light as part of 2004's New York Non-Fiction program.

Black February by Vipal Monga
A documentary about the jazz musician Butch Morris and his practice of "Conduction," whereby Morris directs musicians in live, improvised performances. To celebrate 20 years of conduction, Morris played a show every night in February, Black History Month, in different venues with over 100 different musicians. Morris' "conductions" are beautiful, diverse, and surprising, and we hope to see that reflected in this film, which will also celebrate Morris' long and influential career, offering insight into the man himself, who is generally fairly private. As part of our New York Non-Fiction program in 2004, we screened Vipal Monga's film Down.

Habibi Rasak Kharban (My Darling, Something's Wrong With Your Head)
by Susan Youssef

A feature-length narrative to be shot in the Khan Younis Refugee Camp in Gaza. This story is a modern retelling of an Arabo-Islamic oral narrative, a love story that can be found in many different cultures. Youssef wants to use this ancient myth (dating from the 9th century) to help gain an understanding of and create an expression of contemporary conflict in the Middle East. We will be donating one to two months of editing time this May and possibly June, a residency of sorts, in our office so she can edit a short which she will use to gain funding for the feature film, after she returns from Gaza. In 2004, we screened Youssef's Forbidden to Wander at our Un-American Films show on July 4.

Gary and the Romans
By Ted Gesing

Gary B. was once a podiatrist, became a billboard magnate, and now has a dream to make epic Roman gladiator films. Last fall he used Nashville's fake Parthenon as the backdrop for a movie trailer for his first film, The Charioteer. Lured by free hotel rooms and discount togas, 300 Roman re-enactors agreed to populate his spectacle. About 50 of them showed up. Gary and the Romans will follow Gary over the course of year, as he begins production on his $60,000 shoot, through the romance that blossoms with his lead actress, through his efforts to sell the screenplay through "backdoor connections" or even simply complete the trailer. Rooftop Films has agreed to donate editing time and negotiate a deal for an editor. We showed Ted's hilarious documentary Nutria in 2004 at the Rural Route Films show.

At the end of our 7th Annual Summer Series, Rooftop Films was proud to have over $2,600 to give away, plus access to more equipment and resources than ever before. Nearly 1/4th of all our filmmakers applied for funding, a record participation in the Filmmakers' Fund.

We gave $1,255, our largest ever cash grant, to Konrad Aderer (Life or Liberty, 7/4/03) to cover production costs for his ongoing documentary investigation into the detention and deportation of Muslim-Americans and their families since September 11, 2001. (The film is tentatively titled Enemy Aliens.)

In this short film, Konrad will continue talks he began in Life or Liberty with a U.S. citizen named Shokriea, whose husband was suddenly deported after 9/11, as she meets with civil rights lawyers and petitions to raise awareness about her husband's case, and the sad case of many other Muslim-Americans. Konrad will also interview detainees in a Bergen County, NJ, jail, and with David Venturella, an immigration official who will speak for the Department of Homeland Security. As a Japanese-American whose family was interned during WWII, Konrad has long been active in exploring the issue of immigrants' rights. Konrad ultimately plans, with the completion of this film and the help of Rooftop Films, to make a feature film that will raise awareness around the country. He aims to try to change some of the racist policies in action today, and to reunite broken families.

A second cash grant for $1,000 was given to Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (Barely Audible, 08/22/03), for completion funds on his film Home Grown, a documentary about the Hip-Life musical movement in Ghana. Hip-Life fuses Hip-Hop and High-Life, the traditional music of Ghana, in the form of socially aware and culturally unique rap. Eli has spent extensive time with the musical group V.I.P., who have just ascended to the top of the Ghana pop charts, but are still struggling to crack the European and American markets. V.I.P. come from the Muslim ghetto of Niima, the lowest-income area of Accra, the largest city in Ghana. V.I.P.'s music and the film display the traditional culture and customs of Ghana, demonstrate the influence of African music on modern hip-hop, and cover some of the myriad troubles facing all Africans today: HIV/AIDS, poverty, and economic injustice. In February 2003, Eli joined V.I.P. as they make their European debut. "Most people don't know much about Africa," writes Eli, "but through the style, rhythm and lyrics of ¨Hip-Life,' the artists of Ghana tell the world about their lives. It's time we listen."

Rooftop Films also gave a $360 grant to Roger Teich (Stealing Altitude, 09/13/02), to cover equipment costs for his film Devil's Teeth, an experimental documentary about the Farallon Islands, jagged rock outcroppings 27 miles off the coast from San Francisco and home to 200,000 seals and sea lions, and, in the fall, great white sharks. The film focuses primarily on Ron Elliot, a former drug addict afflicted with Hepatitis C and the only sea urchin diver who works the Farallons, even though he regularly encounters the enormous sharks. The film will discuss a Sanctuary Plan which will exclude Ron's dives, and the marketplace in which Ron's urchins go from the bottom of the sea, through the hands of undocumented immigrant shuckers and packers, and into someone's mouth in Japan, all in 72 hours. Roger has constructed an underwater helmet camera using a black and white surveillance video lens and cable so Ron can use his hands freely while the footage records the eerie underwater world. Roger writes: "There is a lot of noise at the bottom„crackling, popping, Ron's own breathing and the compressor on the boat sending air through 120 feet of hookah tubeçbut the white shark arrives silently, peripherally, at the margins of grace and terror."

In 2002, Rooftop films was proud to give away $1,700 in cash grants to a wide range of filmmakers from around the world. A grant went to Sarah and Emily Kunstler (Tulia, TX: Scenes from the Drug War, 8/24/01; A Pattern of Exclusion: The Trial of Thomas Miller-el, 8/26/02), whose work has influenced the overturning and reopening of crucial and unfair drug and capital trials. They are currently in production for The Road to Justice, a new investigative documentary about the wrongful conviction of two black teenagers in murder trial in Louisiana. The film should be ready for screening during the Summer Series 2004.

Down in Austin, TX, Eric Patrick (Ablution, 8/26/02) is using a Rooftop grant to make puppets for his new experimental live-action film, Startle Pattern, a meditation on contemporary consciousness, which will be undoubtedly as stunningly beautiful as his previous work.

Ohio's Michael Stickrod (At the End of the Line, 9/13/02) received a grant for his personal documentary, The Stature of Man in Five Parts, the story of his friend Don "Tub" Law Jr., who was born without arms and legs. Michael is building a special dolly for the production, which aims to show "how machines and modes of transportation play an intricate role in how work and leisure is experienced and accomplished in a present day Mid-Western American farming community."

Across the Atlantic, Holly Klein (Duncan, 6/28/02) converted our grant into pounds sterling to buy the latest animation equipment for her new coming-of-age comedy, Phoebe, which is sure to be as charming and risquï as her earlier animated children's films. The film should be ready for screening during the Summer Series 2004.

And right here in New York, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (Garbage Problems, 7/5/02), a non-profit organization dedicated to producing education projects about the built environment, used Rooftop funds to continue working with public school students to make films that examine the issues that shape their lives. Their new film, City Without a Ghetto, is an examination of public housing, which probes into such questions as "Who makes decisions about housing? Why does it look like that? And why is it being destroyed?" The film should be ready for screening during the Summer Series 2004.

In 2001, Rooftop Films gave away $1,200 in cash grants to numerous filmmakers from around the country. Ohio-to-SF transplant W. Clay (Where's Jim Kim? 08/10/01) received a grant to strike a 16mm print for his lyrical weirdness, Holiday, which screened at Rooftop in 2003. New York City filmmakers Casimir Nozkowski & Matt Elkind (ATM, 9/7/01) received a grant to purchase a blue screen for the production of their comedy, Submarine Follies. The only man to have shown a film at each and every year of Rooftop Films' existence, Austin's Steve Collins (The Plumber, 1997; Homebody, 1998; The Flatnap Prophesies, 8/25/00; The Flatnap Prophesies, Vol 2, 6/29/01, Lonelyland 8/16/02) received a grant to buy tape stock for his coming-of-age comedy Gretchen and the Night Danger, which was screened at Rooftop in 2003.

Many other filmmakers also received grants for tape stock: all the way from South Korea, Jongmin Kim (Face, 9/7/01) for his ongoing Beyond the Body video-movement installations; Rhode Island's Perry Hallinan (Point St. Bridge, 8/25/00) for a documentary about a Hiroshima survivor; Minnesota's Ben Reisman (Command-Shift, 9/7/01; Collateral Damage, 10/5/01) for a documentary about a local looney, Pistol Pete; and Sarah and Emily Kunstler (see above) for their documentary about the unfair Rockefeller drug laws in New York state.

In 2001, Rooftop Films awarded the first-ever Filmmakers' Fund grant, with our 2000 grant money, to San Francisco Filmmaker Jesse Malings (What is Paper Mache?, 8/9/02) to cover editing costs for his post-September 11th series of documentaries, Other Dislocations, which focused on a Muslim-American taxi-driver who compared his plight to that of Frankenstein, and on clashes between pro- and anti-war rallies on SF-area college campuses.

+ + + + +

To return to our most recent Filmmakers Fund page click here.

Rooftop Films also works with all of our filmmakers through the Rooftop Films Production Collective.