Bookmark (0)

No account yet? Register

2019 SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowships: Ilse Fernandez, Allison Otto, and Yusef Srouji.
2019 SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowships: Ilse Fernandez, Allison Otto, and Yusef Srouji.

SFFILM and the Catapult Film Fund have announced the three filmmaking teams that have been awarded 2019 SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowships: Ilse Fernandez, Allison Otto, andYusef Srouji. These fellowships are awarded to filmmakers working in the early stages of developing compelling, story-driven documentary features, and run August through December of this year.Also, in keeping with SFFILM’s broader commitment to the Bay Area’s documentary filmmaking community, SFFILM’s popular Doc Talks series of nonfiction filmmaking workshops will continue at the organization’s FilmHouse residency space through a renewed grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In a rare approach to project funding, the SFFILM Catapult Documentary Fellowship supports documentary filmmakers working in the early development stage by providing financial support, mentorship, and continued artistic and industry guidance through the completion of their films. This fellowship seeks to provide direct assistance at the point in the filmmaking process when finding funding is critical, yet few funding opportunities from traditional granting programs exist. By providing support before the fundraising process even begins, this opportunity will facilitate the creation of strong grant proposals and fundraising trailers that will allow these projects to evolve through development and into production.

The panelists who reviewed the applicants’ submissions were Paula Arrigoni, Executive Director of the Bay Area Video Coalition; Lisa Kleiner Chanoff and Bonni Cohen, co-founders of Catapult Film Fund; Lauren Kushner, SFFILM Senior Manager of Artist Development; Caroline von Kühn, SFFILM Director of Artist Development; and Debra White, Grants Manager for California Humanities.

In a statement, the jury said, “We are honored to be able to support these three projects, which are all vastly different in terms of their artistic approach, point of access, and story, but united in their dedication to unearthing deeper truths and dismantling widely held assumptions. SFFILM and Catapult Film Fund are thrilled to be able to continue supporting filmmakers in early development, and advancing conversations about what development is and when it can happen in a film’s lifecycle. This important, foundational work is such a critical part of the process and one that is often not afforded to directors given the lack of funding and resources available for independent filmmakers.”


Ilse Fernandez
Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan

Ilse Fernandez has produced and directed over 200 hours of documentary programming and unscripted series for networks including ABC, NBC, VICE, MTV, Netflix, Univision, Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic, History Channel, and TLC. She worked as a director and field producer on five seasons of the A&E series Intervention, including the 2009 Outstanding Reality Program Emmy Award winning season; and was the showrunner on Viceland’s cutting-edge eight-part documentary series Cyberwar. Recently, she both directed and executive produced Spotify’s first documentary series about locations pivotal in music history called Music Happens Here, which won three Clio awards.

Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan

A mass exodus where a 2,600 mile journey to the US border by foot or hitching rides separates Central American nightmare from American Dream. Exodus Stories is a feature-length documentary that intimately weaves together the harrowing experiences of three Central American immigrants who flee violence to join the migrant caravan, only to face their last but most decisive battle: making their case for asylum in the United States.

Allison Otto
The Heist

Allison Otto is an Emmy nominated, award-winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and visual journalist. Her clients have included National Geographic, the BBC, NBC, the Sierra Club, Atlas Obscura, and Lonely Planet. She was a 2019 Heartland Emmy finalist, a 2018 Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment grant recipient and a 2018 Roy W. Dean grant winner for her documentary short, The Love Bugs. In 2013, Otto released her first film, Keeper of the Mountains, which was awarded a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, won 15 awards, screened in more than 30 countries and was named “One of the Best Adventure Films of 2013” by Outside magazine.

The Heist

It was one of the most audacious and puzzling crimes of a generation. In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s seminal work, “Woman-Ochre,” was sliced from its frame and stolen from the walls of an Arizona art museum, disappearing into the desert. Over 30 years later, in a remote town in New Mexico, the $160 million painting was rediscovered hanging behind the bedroom door of Jerry and Rita Alter—two mild-mannered schoolteachers who had recently passed away. The Heist is a quirky whodunnit that unravels the decades old mystery of who really stole “Woman-Ochre.”

Yusef Srouji

Yusef Srouji is a first-time documentary filmmaker and longtime storyteller. His work centers around understanding the dynamics of occupation in Palestine, and community resilience in conflict zones. He recently completed a Master of Development Practice at UC Berkeley and hopes to use his skills to aid and empower marginalized communities in the Middle East through self-sustainable practice. Srouji spent the first part of his childhood in Palestine, then relocated to Qatar with his family at the end of the Second Intifada. He attended the University of British Columbia, where he earned a BA in Economics.


Suha is the product of a young man’s journey rediscovering the time of civil and political conflict that changed the trajectory of his life and identity. Through home footage captured by his mother, Suha, Yusef Srouji sheds light on the daily impacts of war and the resilience of a family living in the midst of Palestine’s Second Intifada.

All SFFILM Catapult Documentary Fellows will receive:

  • A $10,000 cash grant
  • Time spent developing their project at FilmHouse, SFFILM’s artist community space. Residency at FilmHouse includes access to its robust series of presentations and workshops with leading industry professionals, peer reviews, and networking opportunities
  • Strategic consultation from SFFILM and Catapult Film Fund staff, as well as a dedicated mentor, guiding them artistically and with industry support to successfully enter fundraising and production
Share ...

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.

Please follow us to get updates online.