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Nine female filmmakers with Baltimore ties awarded $400,000 in grants

Nine female filmmakers with Baltimore ties awarded $400,000 in grants
Tedra Wilson, aka TT The Artist, is one of nine female filmmakers to receive a grant from the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

The idea wasn’t to focus entirely on women, but Annette Porter is happy it worked out that way.

Nine Baltimore-based filmmakers, all women, and their projects will share $400,000 in grant money from the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media at the Johns Hopkins University.

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“I had no idea until we started posting the winners on our Facebook page” that they were all women, said Porter, the fund’s interim director.

The fund, in its second year and handing out grants for the third time, works with Baltimore filmmakers — including those working with people from outside the city — to turn their ideas into films through mentoring, grants and other assistance.

“They’re really looking for innovative ideas, they’re looking for new voices, fresh voices, projects that are well-shaped and have a good chance of success,” Porter said. “They really love things that push the envelope.”

Among the awarded projects is the developing screenplay for “Living History,” a comedy centering on what the foundation calls a “kitschy roadside tourist-trap — think low-rent Colonial Williamsburg, but with a ‘Cowboys & Indians’ theme.” Freelance writer Maria Adelmann, who lives near Station North and was a finalist for a 2017 Baker Artist Award in literature, has been working on the script for about five years. Her writing partner, Jenna Krumminga, is in Germany studying for her Ph.D.

“The idea that someone believes in our script has been very important,” said Adelmann, 33. “”You kind of feel a little alone when you’re writing on the side, and you don’t know if what you’re doing is any good. It’s nice to feel respected and supported — you don’t get a lot of that as a writer.”

Adelmann said they will be getting $7,000 — projects were awarded varying amounts, based on their scope and how far along they are — which they plan on putting toward a “total re-wrire” of the script, with an eye toward developing characters and increasing their diversity.

“We need to restructure the script and deepen some things,” said Adelmann, who recently completed a screenplay workshop featuring Oscar-nominated screenwriters and sponsored by the Zaentz Foundation.

The list of awarded projects also includes “The Movement of the Universe,” an animated short from Laurence Arcadias, chair of the animation department at the Maryland Institute College of Art; “Curvy Ballerina,” a documentary from Barbara K. Asare-Bediako; “Strength to Love,” a documentary on the urban farming movement and efforts to help released prisoners re-enter the workforce from Jessica Baroody, events manager for the Maryland Film Festival; and “Chasing the Light: The Paintings of Raoul Middleman,” from Madeline Becker, a freelance videographer, editor and sculptor.

Also included are “As of Now,” a 3-D mapping projection from transplanted New Yorker and former executive director of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District Elissa Blount Moorhead; “Row Home,” a look at people living in the 1000 block of W. Saratoga St. from Matisse Rifai, a Johns Hopkins undergrad studying film & media and psychology; “Finding Phoebe,” the story of a 17-year-old West Baltimore girl struggling to rise above the streets from Baltimore native Krenee A. Tolson; and “Dark City Beneath the Beat,” an immersion into Baltimore club music from musician and filmmaker Tedra Wilson, aka TT the Artist.

Baltimore screenwriter Laura Wexler's "The Dinner Party," which received funding from the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media at Johns Hopkins University in an earlier round of funding, will have its world premiere at January's Sundance Film Festival.
Baltimore screenwriter Laura Wexler's "The Dinner Party," which received funding from the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media at Johns Hopkins University in an earlier round of funding, will have its world premiere at January's Sundance Film Festival. (Handout)

Although only two years old, the Zaentz fund is starting to make its mark on the film world. One of the early projects it funded — writer Laura Wexler’s “Dinner Party,” a virtual reality thriller centering on a UFO abduction — will have its premiere at January’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Baltimore-based fund was created through a grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation. Zaentz, who died in 2014, was a movie producer whose career included best picture Oscar wins for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus” and “The English Patient.”

Christmas at the Bengies

One of the Baltimore area’s cinematic crown jewels and most determined survivors, the Bengies Drive-In, closes out its 2017 season Saturday with a double feature of 1949’s “Holiday Affair,” starring 22-year-old Janet Leigh as an undercover department store mole who inadvertently gets clerk Robert Mitchum fired (but don’t worry, romance ensues), and 1989’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” with Chevy Chase as the hapless, but all-in for the holidays, Clark Griswold.

The show starts at 5 p.m., with the second feature beginning at 7 p.m. (and the box office closing at 7:30 p.m.). Admission is $10 per car. And don’t worry if the evening turns out to be a bit frosty; the Bengies has car heaters.

The Bengies is located at 3417 Eastern Blvd. in Middle River. Information: bengies.com.

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