IF/Then American Midwest 2020

The 2020 IF/Then American Midwest pitch was previously supposed to take place at the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), but given the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, TFI and CIFF were excited to host it's first ever virtual IF/Then Shorts pitch on Thursday, April 16th. 

The winner was selected by a professional jury consisting of:

  • Chloe Gbai, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Lucas Harger, Bruton/Stroube Studios
  • Sheila Nevins, MTV Documentary Films 
  • Mridu Chandra, Independent Filmmaker

The jury chose TO BE RECONCILED directed by James Christenson and produced by Brennan Vance as the competition winner to receive $25,000 in project funding and the opportunity to participate in TFI's IF/Then Shorts Program, which provides year-round mentorship and career development opportunities. 

Additional Awards:

Bruton Stroube is a proud returning partner of Tribeca Film Institute and will provide a festival finishing package for this year's IF/Then Shorts American Midwest pitch competition winner. The short film package is comprised of picture, sound, and deliverables from their award-winning talent. 


Director: James Christenson 
Producer: Brennan Vance 
Location of Production: Minnesota 
As Carlos fights a zero-tolerance immigration system and the relentless threat of deportation, he reflects upon faith, recovery, redemption and the possibility of being indefinitely separated from his family.

Director & Producer: Paul Szynol 
Producer: Risé Sanders-Weir 
Location of Production: Michigan 
A Marine Corps veteran struggles with PTSD and the American judicial system.

Director: Hao Zhou 
Producer: Tyler Hill 
Location of Production: Iowa 
The American Midwest is home to more than 30,000 Chinese international students, among them hundreds of LGBTQ+ individuals. Coming from a society that suppresses their true identities, they are challenged, but optimistic, as they adapt to a new environment that celebrates who they are.


Directors: Naeema Torres and Amber Love 
Location of Production: Illinois 
Oral histories are woven together to examine the legacy and unresolved future of the decaying Crenshaw House - also known as The Old Slave House - in Equality, Illinois, a place of haunting and mystery surrounding its role in the slave trade.


Director: Suzanne Jurva 
Producer: Daniela Cortes 
Location of Production: Wisconsin 
Memory Camp is a cinema verite short film that follows the story of families attending America’s first overnight wilderness camp for people with memory loss and dementia. By “inspiring awe” through nature, creativity and spirituality, Memory Camp is the story of how people overcome the limits of their diagnosis to thrive with the help of a supportive, caring community.


Director: Elizabeth Scheltens 
Producer: Anita Kwan 
Location of Production: Ohio 
When a group of Toledo, Ohio residents gets fed up with their polluted drinking water, they get a crash course in political organizing and learn just how difficult it can be to change the status quo in a state where industrial agriculture is king. This film brings together activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians to ask a fundamental question: in an age of global climate change and economic uncertainty, who has the right to flourish?


  • Online registration opens: November 18, 2019
  • Project application deadline: January 20, 2019 at 11:59PM ET
  • Notification of project selection: Mid-February, 2020
  • IF/Then virtual pitch: April 16, 2020


Stories from and storytellers living/working in the American Midwest. These 12 states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

These projects must be completed within 6 months of receiving funding, be factually accurate, follow best practices in documentary ethics, and be presented in English or subtitled in English.

Please make sure your project fits our general eligibility requirements presented on our Pitches & Eligibility page.