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Cate Blanchett program announces first 11 women, trans, and nonbinary filmmakers to support

Proof of Concept program next generation talented filmmakers Nicole Taylor Roberts Nate Gualtieri Laura Moss
Courtesy Proof of Concept

From left: Nicole Taylor-Roberts, Nate Gualtieri, and Laura Moss

Each will receive $50,000 to help them make a short film that will serve as "proof of concept" for a larger project.

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The Proof of Concept accelerator program, designed to support women, transgender, and nonbinary filmmakers, has announced its first 11 grantees.

The program is spearheaded by Cate Blanchett, along with her producing partner, Coco Francini, and Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. Additional support comes from the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.

“We have been astonished by the artistry of all 1,200 filmmakers who applied to Proof of Concept, which proves that there are so many voices out there who deserve to find their audience,” said a joint statement from Blanchett, Francini, and Smith. “Our final selection represents filmmakers who we felt had the experience and vision to take their careers to the next level and make creative and compelling film and television that may transform the landscape of storytelling. We are grateful to the applicants, our incredible selection committee, and the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity for their unwavering support and guidance as we take another step towards creating an ecosystem that supports inclusion of gender-marginalized directors at the highest levels of the entertainment business.”

Proof of Concept is designed to address long standing gaps in the inclusion of women, trans, and nonbinary people in film. According to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s most recent report, 6 percent of directors across 1,600 top-grossing movies were women and less than one-third of all speaking characters on-screen in those movies were girls, women, trans or nonbinary people.

The selection committee included Chloé Zhao, Emma Corrin, Eva Longoria, Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion, Janicza Bravo, Lily Gladstone, and Lilly Wachowski as well as Blanchett, Francini, and Smith.

Each grantee will receive $50,000 to support the creation of a short film that will serve as a “proof of concept” for a larger-scale project. Each will also be mentored by industry experts, and their films will be screened at a showcase. Eight are making narrative films and three are making documentaries.

The recipients, first for narrative films:

Courtney E. Hoffman is making Sisters of Scott County, about siblings pulling a moonshine heist to save their family farm. She has been a costume designer on films including The Hateful Eight and Baby Driver. She has written extensively for film and TV, and she wrote and directed the short film The Good Time Girls, starring Laura Dern. She appeared as a costume designer in a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

Ellie Foumbi is directing Raw Sun, dealing with an African nanny’s last day with the Texan family she’s been living with for over a decade. Foumbi, who is Cameroonian American, saw her debut film, Our Father, the Devil, premiere at the Venice Film Festival. It went on to screen at over 50 international film festivals, where it won several prizes.

Gabriela Garcia Medina’s Skrrt! is about a teen girl with muscular dystrophy who rallies a group of frenemies to pull off an impossible heist to save their Miami neighborhood from a predatory real estate tycoon. Medina, who is a Cuban American, has made short films such as Little Con Lili, The 90 Day Plan, and Bertie the Brilliant.

Laura Moss is making Over and Over, in which a young historian starts to suspect they may be humanity’s savior from climate change after experiencing recurring nightmares and sudden hallucinations. Moss was named one of Variety’s 10 LGBTQ Creators on the Rise in 2023. Their narrative feature debut, Birth/Rebirth, premiered in the Midnight section at Sundance last year and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.

Mahnoor Euceph’s Brown Girls deals with a seventh-grader, wishing for popularity, who one day wakes up white instead of Pakistani. Euceph, who is Pakistani American, made her directorial debut with the short film Eid Mubarak, which won 15 awards and played at more than 40 festivals internationally.

Nate Gualtieri is making Queerbait, about a precocious college student being mentored by an accomplished professor who has an ulterior sexual motive. Gualtieri is a transmasculine writer-director who has been a staff writer on Gotham Knights and wrote the narrative documentary Desire Lines, which won the Sundance 2024 Special Jury Award. His latest short film, Wrong Bathroom, will premiere at festivals this summer.

Nicole Taylor-Roberts’s selected film, Ella, portrays Ella Fitzgerald transported back to her tumultuous adolescence, revealing the life-altering bet that launched her into stardom and her pursuit to be loved. Taylor-Roberts is a screenwriter, director, and Emmy-nominated producer who recently made her TV directing debut with an episode of Chicago Med.

Rebecca Halfon’s Hags has the feuding costars of a hit TV show flung back in time to the Salem witch trials. Halfon’s short films have played film festivals across the country, and she has directed and produced much editorial and branded content.

The documentary recipients:

Barbara Jean Hall’s Faithful Defenders reclaims the “good news” about Christianity and reproductive rights. The overturning of Roe v. Wade led her to find a way to tell the stories of faithful Christians who don’t share the same opinions as those who have co-opted the narrative on abortion. She has been an executive producer, producer, and director on feature documentaries, series, specials, and concerts for more than 20 years.

Gilly Barnes is making The Search for Magic, following magician Michael Carbonaro on a quest to recapture his sense of wonder by exploring the physics and metaphysics of the illusions he performs. Barnes is an Emmy-winning commercial and narrative director.

Yoo Lee’s A Man Who Takes Pictures of Flowers tells the story of Jung Myung Kim, a photographer who has dedicated over 40 years to capturing wildflowers in Korea and is now battling cancer.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.