The Catapult Film Fund has announced the recipients of its annual research grant. Five filmmakers, including Hazel Gurland-Pooler, Set Hernandez, Arielle Knight, Tracy Heather Strain, and So Yun Um, have been chosen to receive $10,000 in direct support and six months of mentorship from industry advisors to develop new nonfiction projects. The program, which begins in April, pairs grant recipients with advisors based on their specific project needs and goals. This year’s advisors include Oscar-winning director Steven Bognar, Oscar-nominated helmer Yance Ford, Emmy award-winning editor and director Geeta Gandhbir, Emmy Award-winning executive producer Simon Kilmurry, and Emmy award-nominated director Michèle Stephenson.

The program aims to address issues of career sustainability and diversity in the documentary industry. According to Megan Gelstein, Catapult Film Fund’s co-director and chief program officer, the program fosters independent voices and creates a space for imaginative possibility. By providing early-stage support when funding is hardest to find, Catapult’s research grant program aims to empower filmmakers to take risks and explore new ideas without being constrained by traditional expectations.

Inspired by conversations with U.S.-based filmmakers about the barriers to launching new work, the research grant program emphasizes the importance of not being too precious about the form and encouraging artists to explore creative and experimental ideas. The goal is to create a supportive community where filmmakers can feel free to push boundaries and take risks without fear of failure. The organization believes that success can be found in the process of exploration and creativity, even if the final result is uncertain.

Now in its fourth year, Catapult’s research grant program has supported 20 film teams from diverse backgrounds, with two-thirds of the teams identifying as women or gender nonbinary and over 90% as BIPOC. Previous grantees include producer Jameka Autry, director Reid Davenport, director Jon Sesrie-Goff, director Sofian Khan, and the filmmaking team of Sam Osborn and Alejandra Vasquez. By providing essential early-stage support to filmmakers who face significant barriers to funding, time, and community, Catapult’s research grant program aims to empower artists to explore bold and innovative ideas that might not otherwise have the opportunity to come to fruition.

The combination of world-class advisors and bold filmmakers promises to create a dynamic and inspiring program that encourages risk-taking and experimentation in nonfiction filmmaking. By supporting artists whose work is informed by a creative process and a willingness to explore new ideas, the Catapult research grant program aims to foster a diverse and inclusive documentary industry that values innovation and originality. Through mentorship and financial support, Catapult aims to empower filmmakers to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling and create impactful and thought-provoking documentaries that challenge and inspire audiences.

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