New SFFILM Makers programs select inaugural recipients

Two of the newest programs developed by the SFFILM Makers team have selected their first winners this week! Championing international voices and filmmakers telling stories about women and peace, these new initiatives broaden and diversify the SFFILM Makers family in exciting ways.


First up, the inaugural New American Producer Fellowship was awarded to filmmaker Carlo Velayo. The first of its kind in the US film industry — this fellowship is made possible thanks to SFFILM’s collaboration with the Flora Family Foundation. It includes a $25,000 cash grant and a FilmHouse artist residency in San Francisco to an independent producer who has recently immigrated to the United States. Envisioned to provide a stage for the voices of international filmmakers and to support their work in the US, the New American Producer Fellowship seeks to support films by new American artists, ultimately providing meaningful and challenging experiences to public audiences.
The panelists who reviewed the applicants’ submissions are Abhi Singh, Flora Family Foundation, Board of Directors; Jihan Robinson, Vice President of Nonfiction Programming at First Look Media; Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM’s Director of Artist Development; and Lauren Kushner, SFFILM’s Senior Manager of Artist Development.
The jury noted in a statement: “We are thrilled to have chosen Carlo Velayo for SFFILM’s inaugural New American Producer Fellowship. In his work with directors to date, Carlo has explored challenging subjects with compassion and nuance, and his and Isabel Sandoval’s current narrative feature project Lingua Franca — in its moody intimacy, sensitivity and romanticism — is no exception. Carlo’s contribution to independent film in the US is the type of work we look forward to championing through this program.”

Carlo Velayo is a Philippine-born, Australian-raised, NYC-based producer at Stedfast Productions. He was an Associate Producer on Cheryl Furjanic’s Emmy-nominated film, Back on Board: Greg Louganis, and recently made his debut as a PGA Producer with Jessica M. Thompson’s The Light of The Moon, receiving the 2017 SXSW Audience Award for Narrative Feature. In 2016, Velayo spent two months at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), working on Emmy Award-winning Filipina-American filmmaker Michele Josue’s forthcoming documentary project Happy Jail, which participated in the 2017 IFP Week. Velayo is currently a producer on Isabel Sandoval’s third independent narrative feature, Lingua Franca, which tells the story of an undocumented, transgender Filipina woman who falls in love with the grandson of the elderly Russian Jewish woman she cares for in Brooklyn. Velayo is also developing an Australian-US co-production, Take Me to Paris, Johnny, with writer/director Alan Brown (Five Dances, Private Romeo). This narrative feature is about a gay, Black, Cuban refugee dancer who dreams of performing in Paris and falls in love with an Australian writer in 1970s NYC just before the AIDS epidemic.

The first ever Women, Peace, and Security Fellowships, created with support from the Compton Foundation to elevate stories of women’s efforts to end conflict and advance peace, were awarded to Molly Stuart for her documentary Objector and to Deann Borshay Liem for her documentary Crossings. In addition to financial support, fellows will receive a residency and benefit from mentorships and meaningful networking opportunities.

The Women, Peace, and Security Fellowship is open to both documentary and narrative filmmakers who are telling stories of women’s efforts to end conflict and advance peace. Fellowships include a $25,000 grant and a FilmHouse residency, connections to advisors with expertise in the subject matter of each film, networking opportunities, and active support from SFFILM staff and mentors within the Bay Area creative community. This program seeks to inspire filmmakers to tell stories of courageous women leaders, to generate conversation across public audiences, and to encourage policymakers to invest in women as essential actors in effective peace-building and violence prevention.
The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions are Ellen Friedman, Compton Foundation’s Executive Director; Carrie Lozano, Director of IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund; Elizabeth Weingarten, Director of Global Gender Parity Initiative at New America; Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM’s Director of Artist Development; and Lauren Kushner, SFFILM’s Senior Manager of Artist Development.
The jury noted in a statement: “We are delighted to support Objector and Crossings — two projects that offer nuanced portrayals of women’s brave efforts to counteract violence and advance peace. We believe that these films will generate important conversations among audiences and strengthen peace-building movements that recognize women as essential actors in the prevention of violence and extremism.”
Like all Israeli teenagers, Atalya is obligated to become a soldier. Unlike most, she questions the role of the military and becomes determined to challenge this compulsory rite of passage. Despite her family’s wishes, she joins a movement of conscientious objectors, is imprisoned for her dissent, and launches an unexpected life as activist for justice in Palestine.

Molly Stuart is an emerging filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up on a small commune in the Santa Cruz mountains, she developed a critical lens on society and a drive to tell stories that can transform it. From a young age, she became an avid home video producer, documenting the many eclectic personalities that appeared in her living room. As Stuart began to see the limits of communal idealism in affecting broad-scale change, she became a community organizer and worked on numerous grassroots documentary shorts. After studying sociology and film studies at Middlebury College, she went on to pursue an MFA at San Francisco State University. Stuart’s film work has won awards at film festivals around the US and has been published in outlets including the Nation and In These Times. She is the 2016 recipient of the Bill Nichols Excellence in Cinema Award from San Francisco State University.
In Crossings, a group of internationally renowned women peacemakers, organized by intrepid Korean American activist Christine Ahn, attempts the impossible: crossing the DMZ from North to South Korea to call for peace on the Korean peninsula. This documentary feature follows 30 women leaders, including Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Laureates Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire, on this historic journey. Through their story, Crossings explores enduring questions about war’s legacies and the role women play in resolving the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Deann Borshay Liem is producer and director of the Emmy Award-nominated documentary First Person Plural, and the award-winning films In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee and Memory of Forgotten War. She has produced, executive produced, and consulted on a variety of award-winning documentaries, including AKA Don Bonus, Kelly Loves Tony, The Apology, Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story, Mimi & Dona, Ishi’s Return, and others. In May 2015, as a member of an international delegation of women, Liem took a film crew to North Korea and covered the delegation’s journey from Beijing to Pyongyang and their crossing of the DMZ into South Korea. This footage is the basis of the work-in-progress documentary Crossings.
As always, for more info on SFFILM’s filmmaker services programs, visit