Docu to receive funding from Film Independent

Film Independent has awarded filmmakers of the documentary “Marwencol” a pair of grants totaling $75,000.

“For a tiny indpendent film like ours, this is like having a mulitmillion dollar budget,” said “Marwencol” producer Chris Shellen on Saturday after receiving the inaugural $50,000 Jameson FIND Your Audience Award at informal ceremonies at Boa in West Hollywood during a mid-day brunch.

Film Independent touted the award as designed to meet independent filmmakers’ biggest challenge today: How to get their films out into the marketplace.

“Marwencol” producer-director Jeff Malmberg won the $25,000 Aveeno Truer than Ficton award, presented to an emerging director who has not received significant recognition. The other finalists were Ilisa Barbash & Lucien Castaing-Taylor for “Sweetgrass” and Lynn Ture & Nelson Walker for “Summer Pasture.”

“Marwencoll” details the life of Mark Hogancamp, a man who’s the victim of an attack that leaves him brain-damaged and broke. He seeks to recover by building a World War II era Belgian town, Marwencol, on a one-sixth scale in his backyard.

Malmberg credited spouse and producer Shellen with the vision and persistence to see the project through.

“We began working on this in our bedroom five years ago,” he added. “The money means that we’ll be able to make another film. We’re going to take some time to decide.”

“Marwencol” won the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award at the Intl. Documentary Assn. Awards last month.

The grants, aimed at aiding filmmakers who have already done significant work on limited funds, were presented by Terrence Howard and Sandra Oh. Film Independent has previously presented the grants during the Spirit Awards ceremonies — set this year for Feb. 26 at the usual beachside location in Santa Monica.

Mike Ott won a $25,000 grant for directing “Littlerock” for the Acura Someone to Watch Award. The drama focuses on a Japanese brother and sister visiting the U.S. for the first time when their rental car breaks down in the California desert town of Littlerock.

“I’m totally freaked out — this is more money than I’ve ever seen,” Ott quipped.

The other finalists for the Acura award were Hossein Keshavarz for “Dog Sweat” and Laurel Nakadate for “The Wolf Knife.”

“Meek’s Cutoff” producer Anish Savjani won the $25,000 Piaget Producers Award. Drama centers on settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 who find themselves stranded.

“I just want to say you work for years and years so this is just a reminder of the support that the independent community gives each other,” he said.

The grants have been given out for 18 years and have helped 47 emerging artists “share their work with a larger audience, pay bills for their film, or get them started on their next project,” said Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson said in a statement.

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