Tribeca Film Institute® Announces IF/Then Short Documentary Program

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TFI Secures $600,000 Grant from the MacArthur Foundation to Support Short Docs Targeting American Audiences

[New York, NY – February 23, 2017] – Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) today announced the IF/Then short documentary program, a new filmmaking initiative developed with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to award monetary grants and year-round distribution mentoring to short documentaries aimed at American audiences. Following a yearlong planning grant, the MacArthur Foundation has awarded TFI a two-year $600,000 grant to implement the program. It commences today with a pitch competition for six selected filmmakers at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.

The program has two main goals: first, to discover and empower an inclusive and representative group of voices in short film to produce and distribute content that will resonate with audiences across the country and globally; second, to introduce a new model of financial sustainability for short documentary filmmakers through a multi-platform distribution plan. This is a critical support in the midst of an increasingly complex and financially challenging marketplace for short filmmakers.

Veteran documentary producer Mridu Chandra (ASK THE SEXPERT, OUT IN THE NIGHT, BROTHER OUTSIDER) has been tapped to run the program as Project Director. Seasoned journalist and digital media producer Alice Rhee (NBC News, The Washington Post) will serve as Project Advisor.

In 2017, participants will be culled from pitch competitions at three festivals – Big Sky, CPH:DOX and New Orleans Film Festival – as well alumni grantees from across TFI’s filmmaker funds. One filmmaker selected from each competition, and one TFI alumnus, each will receive up to $20,000 in completion funding for his/her short film, along with participation in the IF/Then Distribution Initiative. At Big Sky, one additional winner will receive special recognition as an audience favorite through a partnership with feedback-tallying platform The Audience Awards.

The Distribution Initiative will place control of the rights and revenue potential of filmmakers’ content in their hands by enabling TFI to serve as a guide for distribution for a year.

“At  TFI we believe that the current expectation of essentially free content from short film producers not only disempowers the documentary space, but also prevents many emerging, underrepresented and under-resourced storytellers from thriving and sharing new perspectives,” said TFI Executive Director, Amy Hobby. “With IF/Then, thanks in large part to the long-term and strategic investment of the MacArthur Foundation, TFI is uniquely situated to serve as an agent for multi-platform release, to ensure standards are upheld, to negotiate terms for documentary filmmakers, and to reset the current low standards of payment and terms in both the film and journalism industries.”

Selected projects will be no more than 40 minutes in length and must be completed within 3-6 months of receiving the award. Participants in the first pitch competition, which will take place at Big Sky on February 23, are:

  • Border Nation: Directed by Jason Jaacks
  • El Valle: Directed and Produced by Jared Jakins and Carly Jakins
  • Star Stories: Directed and Edited by Tenzin Phuntsog
  • The Attachment Project: Written, Directed and Produced by Joy Dietrich
  • The New Neighbors Project: Self-Directed Stories from the New American West: Directed and Produced by Bryan Bello; Associate Produced by Saif Alsaegh
  • Tuvaq: Edge of the Ice: Directed by Kiliii Yuyan and Lou Carson

Participants in the second pitch competition, which will take place at CPH:DOX on March 22, are:

  • Andrey Suleyman: Directed by Alina Gorlova; Executive Produced by Maksym Nakonechnyi
  • ANTI RODINA: Directed and Produced by Tatjana Moutchnik and Diana Zolotarova
  • Nudar: Directed by Rand Beiruty
  • S/He: Directed by Chloe White; Produced by Helen Jack
  • The End of All: Directed by Sun Hee Engelstoft and Piotr Rafal Winiewicz
  • We Shall Never Part: Written and Directed by Martina Melilli; Written by Lidia Savioli; Executive Produced by Marta Bianchi

To learn more about IF/Then, please visit:​

About Tribeca Film Institute (  Tribeca Film Institute champions storytellers to be catalysts for change in their communities and around the world. Each year, we identify a diverse group of exceptional filmmakers and media artists and empower them with funding and resources to fully realize their stories and connect with audiences. Further, our education programs empower students through hands-on training and exposure to socially relevant films, offering young people the media skills necessary to be creative and productive global citizens. We are a year-round nonprofit organization founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in the wake of September 11, 2001.

23 Feb 2017

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