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Ian Olds and Paul Felten with Advisor John Lee Hancock at Sundance (Image via Sundance)

Ian Olds and Paul Felten have been selected to receive this year’s $15,000 San Francisco Film Society/Hearst Screenwriting Grant for the continuing development of their script The Western Habit. Additionally, Jason Cortland received an honorable mention commendation for his script Lumberjunkies.

“The SFFS/Hearst Screenwriting Grant comes at a crucial moment in the life of our script The Western Habit,” noted cowriter Olds. “The film is at a tipping point and this grant will allow us the crucial time to develop and craft the best possible version of this story. Making independent films is such a slog at times, but the Film Society’s financial and moral support will galvanize us to finish the script and move it toward production.”

Ian Olds is a director of both narrative and documentary work. Most recently he directed Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshband, which was acquired by HBO and nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. His credits include the Iraq war documentary Occupation: Dreamland, which was short-listed for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and won a 2006 Independent Spirit Award. Olds’ narrative short films have played numerous festivals around the world including Sundance and Rotterdam. He has received a Princess Grace Award and a Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts Fellowship, and was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker magazine in 2009. Olds received his MFA from Columbia University’s film department and was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in 2011. Olds began his career as the editor and cowriter of Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story. Olds is currently codirecting an experimental feature film with James Franco.

Paul Felten received his MFA from Columbia University’s film department and is a 2011 Sundance Screenwriting Fellow. His prose has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and the anthology Before and After: Stories from New York. Felten and Olds have cowritten several scripts including the script for Olds’ short film Bomb, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007.

The Western Habit
An Afghan journalist is exiled from his war-torn home to a small, bohemian community in Northern California. He struggles to find a new life for himself while juggling a low-paying job on the local police blotter, a meddling avant-garde theater director and a sexually charged relationship with his roommate, who is also the town sheriff. For information visit

Jason Cortland studied writing and film at the University of Oregon and earned a Master’s degree in screenwriting at the University of Texas. In 1998 he was a postgraduate fellow at the James Michener Center for Writers. Since 1996, he has collaborated on writing and directing films, videos, and multi-channel installations with Julia Halperin. Their feature film Now, Forager has been profiled in the Village Voice and Indiewire, and will premiere in early 2012. Their short video Interstate (part one) screened at the Berlin Director’s Lounge and was featured in the Journal of Short Film, Volume 6. Cortlund’s work has been honored by Texas Commission on the Arts, Texas Filmmaker’s Production Fund, Austin Film Fund, Houston Film Commission, Hershey Foundation, City of Austin Cultural Contracts, Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association and Centrum Institute.

In a small logging town in Northern Oregon, two brothers circumvent the decline of the timber industry by stealing trees off public lands at night. Following a series of accidents, they have a falling out. The youngest goes to work for their estranged father on a legitimate salvage logging crew. With loyalties shifted, a history of family betrayal leads to an explosion of violence.

The 2010 SFFS/Hearst Screenwriting Grant was awarded to Eric Escobar for East County, a drama set in the economic downturn in which a deputy sheriff who is drowning in debt moonlights for his brother’s eviction agency.

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