Continuing their commitment to creating new inclusive opportunities for a new generation of diverse women filmmakers and writers, Tribeca Enterprises and CHANEL concluded the third annual THROUGH HER LENS: The Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program, announcing the recipient who will receive full production funding for their original film: Nikyatu Jusu and R. Shanea Williams for Suicide by Sunlight were selected by the jury to receive the production grant, along with production support from Tribeca Studios.
The film follows Valentina, a day-walking Black vampire protected from the sun by her melanin, who finds it difficult to suppress her bloodlust when a new woman is brought around her estranged twin daughters.
Following an intensive, three-day workshop, the filmmakers from the five projects selected pitched their projects to a jury comprised of: director/producer Mira Nair, producer Paula Weinstein, and actor/producer Rachel Weisz.
In addition, the other four writer/directors in the program each received a development grant to support continued work on their respective films to bring them closer to production. A total of $100,000 in filmmaker grants was awarded amongst the five projects.
“At Tribeca we are always looking for ways to empower and support women in our industry. It’s not enough to talk about what needs to be done. We need to actually do it,” said Paula Weinstein, EVP of Tribeca Enterprises. “We have had an inspiring three days with these remarkable women working to hone their projects and pitches. We congratulate director/writer Nikyatu Jusu and her co-writer R. Shanea Williams and thank all the filmmakers and women in the industry who came together to support THROUGH HER LENS: The Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program.”
“The caliber of all five scripts was hugely impressive as was each presentation. We feel certain that each will be made as the confidence and vision of the filmmakers was apparent and inspiring. We look forward to this full female creative assault to come on the industry,” said Mira Nair and Rachel Weisz. “We selected a project that turned a familiar genre on its head in a unique way, filling it with emotion, drama and mystery.”
“We are so thankful that Tribeca and CHANEL are supporting urgent and much needed voices,” said Nikyatu Jusu and R. Shanea Williams. “We are excited to explore the intersectionality of social issues and genre through the lens of black vampires daywalking in NYC.”
Nikyatu Jusu is an award-winning Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker. Her screenplay Free the Town participated in the Sundance Institute’s inaugural Diverse Writers Workshop and was selected for both the 2013 Durban Film Mart and Film Independent’s Fast Track. Her short film, Flowers, won the HBO short film award and is her third film acquired by HBO.
Filmmaker R. Shanea Williams attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program and earned her MFA in 2008. Upon graduation, she was honored with the Venable Herndon Graduate Screenwriting Award for Excellence. Partnering with producer Anthony Davis, she wrote and directed two award-winning short films Contamination (2013) and Paralysis (2015, which was covered on this blog). Williams currently resides in Queens, New York.
The program was created to provide a balance of industry support, artistic development and funding for new and emerging, U.S.-based female writers and directors of short-form narrative films.
The main recipient of last year’s THROUGH HER LENS grant, Feathers, directed by A.V. Rockwell (a black filmmaker, also covered on this blog as well), is currently in post-production on her film.