We’ve been busy here at The Film Fund in the past year, and we’re finally ramping up to produce even more films to help independent filmmakers get their passion projects off the ground. With our newly-launched funding network, filmmakers will be able to submit to ongoing funding opportunities after entering one of our main contests.

See the first five films produced in association with The Film Fund below. Stay tuned for the embedded video links as we wait for the shorts to finish their festival runs. Some festivals still care about premiere status for some reason, so we allow filmmakers to delay their online premiere if they choose to. See our FAQ for more information.

1. Treehouse — 2018

Treehouse, written and directed by Matthew Greenberg, takes the myth of Sisyphus and morphs it with a relatable modern day scenario, turning Sisyphus into a suburban dad grasping for validation from his family. Greenberg turns the boulder from the original myth into, you guessed it, a treehouse for the father’s kids. 

He toils away at the treehouse day after day, but the next morning—always—it’s gone. He searches for meaning in this work, but fruition doesn’t come until he finally asks his wife the question “but what if they don’t like it?”

In this premise, Greenberg presents both humor as well as conflict: in a single sentence he places external conflict between the man and the treehouse, and he places internal conflict in the form of the man’s inherent frustration with himself. Greenberg pitches all this in one sentence under two-hundred characters.

One of the most interesting things Greenberg notes in his entry is his use of funding. Coupled with the conflict-driven humorous concept, he states that the funding would be used for treehouse supplies. There are a few reasons this caught our eye. First, it highlights the importance of the treehouse to the story, directly relating the funding use to the film’s premise. I have to admit, I laughed when I saw How to Build a Treehouse for Dummies on Greenberg’s expense report. But while funny, it showed me how important to the story the treehouse is. While it may not have been the biggest expense in the report, it surely represents a creative use of funds that bolsters the initial concept, proving the director’s attention to detail.

Some interesting things to note about Greenberg’s direction once we publish the film on our website (some spoilers):

He effectively tells his story with cinematography (specifically, his camera movement), score, and minimal dialogue. In one of the early scenes when he reveals the mother, Greenberg tilts the frame into a disorienting canted angle without cutting or tracking around the father, a move that amplifies the disorientation and confusion of the father after he realizes his construction work has disappeared. The score creates anticipation, tension, and humor at times, providing a grandiose seriousness to what initially seems like a comedic plot. Greenberg’s use of dialogue via the conversation between husband and wife—which doesn’t happen until halfway through the film, with the exception of a hilarious almost-expletive—gives existential meaning to an otherwise lighthearted story. He asks “what if they don’t like it,” doubting the meaning of his own work and wondering whether his kids will appreciate his toils. But the wife’s response—that they’ll like whatever he creates—gives him the confidence to attribute meaning to his work, a key facet of existentialism and the point of choosing to live one’s life. All of these aspects transform what could have been a lighthearted and silly tale into a serious film about life and the importance of family.

2. AMERICANO — 2018

AMERICANO’s entry puts forth more of an external conflict than Treehouse’s does, although both types of conflict exist within the story (they usually do, just at different levels of intensity). Viola pitched a political thriller about a Syrian refugee hacker used as a political pawn in a local election, and his entry states that the funds would be used for post-production, including effects and sound design. Given the VFX requirements associated with a modern hacker story, our judges felt this directly tied to an already incredibly creative and conflict-driven premise.

A man wants freedom, what he considers the American Dream, “what this place promises.” But a corrupt politician manipulates him into political espionage in exchange for his freedom. So, can you see what the stakes are here? Deportation by ICE.

With a brief mention of the words “Syrian political hacker” in his pitch, Viola communicates the potential for several different conflicts, without needing to explain any of them. Given current events in the past several years, anything to do with Syria has potential for a good conflict-driven story. Politics? Look at our current political ecosystem and the media frenzy we’re experiencing. Emails, cryptocurrency, the dark web, refugees, building walls, dictators… pick one and combine it with hacking, and there exists potential for a myriad of good conflict-driven stories. And as explained above, Viola’s use of funds earmarked for post-production bolsters the “hacker” component of his pitch.

But even without current events, Viola strengthens his story through the use of beautiful cinematography, award-winning editing, and a hint of patriotic magical realism. These facets contribute to tell a story not about the American dream and the firestorm of politics we’re currently amid, but a story about family, loyalty, and love.

3. A project from our community network, written and directed by Mark Freudian— 2019

Still in development from our funding network. Stay tuned for a poignant story about the sadness associated with slowly and unconsciously losing one’s hearing.

4. Documentary Film, written and directed by Elia Urquiza — 2019

Still in development. Stay tuned!

5. Narrative Film, written and directed by David Oster — 2019

Still in development. Stay tuned!

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