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Programs Mon 2.5.2024

Fiscal Spotlight: Three Valentine Tales Of Love Gone Weird

Please consider this edition of Fiscal Spotlight a public service announcement warning you that there are a mere eight days remaining before Valentine’s Day. Cutting it close for any truly bigass plans, but still plenty of time to pick up chalky Russell Stovers and mass-manufactured fluffy teddy bear squishies from CVS. And yes, you’ll need to buy a card and figure out yet another way to poeticize and artfully obfuscate the same basic premise: “Thank you for not valuing your autonomous personhood enough to leave me, which would thus double the cost of many of my critical domestic financial obligations.”

Just kidding! We love love. We’re nice people who love our partners and pets, of course, but as connoisseurs of the arts we also love love as the animating dramatic element in our favorite stories, songs and celebrity TikTok meltdowns. Which is why for this most amorous of months we’re taking a look at three film projects built around the chaos and complication love creates–from queer road trips, to divorzio all’zombie, to extraterrestrial infatuations.

The other thing these three 2024 movies have in common? Each one is being supported by Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship program. What’s that, you say? Here’s a quick explainer:

December’s featured projects are Houston, We Have a Crush, followed by Ride or Die, and finally Earl’s Gotta Die Learn more about the films, their creators and how to support both below…



Project type: Fiction Short

Project status: Production

Writer: Jen Kim

Director/Co-Writer: Omer Ben Shachar

Producers: Jason Eisner, Bara Kim

About the project: Ditto is a lonely alien, living on an unspecified planet. One day, an astronaut who has come to explore Ditto’s planet accidentally forgets his phone before taking off back to Earth. Ditto finds it and takes it back to his small cave-dwelling home, curious about what it is. Over time, Ditto explores the phone. He opens up Spotify and listens to the same crooning love songs the astronaut listens to. He scrolls through his pictures, able to build a visual of him, and hears his voice through his voice notes. Ditto becomes more and more consumed by the idea of who he thinks this astronaut is until, finally, he is faced with the challenge of reconciling his fantasy with the person when the real astronaut returns. Houston, We Have a Crush is about our very human tendency to fall for the idea of someone rather than face the truth of who they actually are. We want to explore the feeling of loneliness, but also celebrate the creative ways in which our minds make up stories to fill the emptiness in our lives.

Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about Houston, We Have a Crush, including how to support the project, click here. Jen Kim has written for Netflix series The Chair, starring Sandra Oh, and Seasons One and Two of Amazon’s forthcoming Sausage Party with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Most recently, she wrote for Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part II. Director/co-writer Omer Ben Shachar’s short Tree #3 won a 2019 Student Academy Award, was nominated for a Student Emmy, and received top prizes at UrbanWorld, HollyShorts and Palm Springs. His video Down Here for composer Claudio Olachea is a 2023 Webby Award Winner, a 2022 Vimeo Staff Pick and was nominated for a Cannes Lions Young Directors Award.



Project type: Fiction Feature

Project status: Development

Writer/Director: Josalynn Smith

Producer: Matthew Keene Smith

About the project: After college, Paula’s California dreams intertwine with a reunion with her crush Jamie. A casual errand becomes a cathartic journey through the Midwest, where a budding romance is transformed by a plot for vengeance. PAULA reconnects with her high school crush, JAMIE, during an errand to Kohl’s. The encounter escalates into a rescue mission when Jamie faces false accusations of theft from her manager. Paula steps in to defend Jamie and provides a getaway vehicle. Jamie, with no ride home, invites herself to Paula’s house. Paula’s mother reluctantly allows Jamie to stay the night. In bed, Jamie discloses troubling details of childhood abuse at the hands of her father. Late at night, Paula’s stepfather arrives home, leading to an altercation. Convinced by Jamie that her home isn’t safe, Paula and Jamie make a pact to run away together. On the road, Paula’s tire blows, and they encounter ANTHONY, a predatory mechanic. They hide out at a drive-in theater. Anthony catches up to them, resulting in a struggle. Paula stabs him, and the two escape to a nearby motel. Eventually, hippies offer them a ride, but Jamie wants to find her father. When they arrive at Jamie’s father’s house, Paula waits outside. Gunshots are heard. Jamie asks Paula to stay until the cops come. Paula agrees, but as they approach, she leaves Jamie alone and rides away on the bike, long before the cops arrive.

Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about Ride or Die, including how to support the project, click here. Filmmaker Josalynn Smith is a queer black American filmmaker based in Los Angeles. They were honored with the Sundance Uprise Grant in 2021, awarded a residency at SFFILM as Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellow for their feature screenplay Something in the Water and, most recently, Josalynn was part of the 2022 Athena Film Festival Writers Lab for their pilot script L’Amazone. A graduate of Columbia University’s Film MFA program, their thesis short, Something in the Water, received the Sloan Foundation’s Production Grant. Additionally, Josalynn is the recipient of the Jesse Thompkins III Screenwriting Award from Columbia and spent time as an artist-in-residence at the Catwalk Institute. They are represented by Matt Leipzig at Modern Literary Arts.



Project type: Fiction Short

Project status: Production

Writer/Director: Heather Shapiro

Producer: Faoileán Cosgrove

About the project: After having her bright and spunky spirit beaten down one too many times by her abusive husband Earl, Frankie accidentally kills him. Her best friend Ava Mae helms the escape, and in their police-chased mad dash to ditch the body, Earl transforms into a loveable zombie. Breaking up really IS hard to do… But one way or another, EARL’S GOTTA DIE. Intended as a proof-of-concept for a feature project of the same name.

Meet the filmmaker: To learn more about Earl’s Gotta Die, including how to support the project, click here. Filmmaker Heather Shapiro is a swiss-army-knife creative who makes dark comedies about big issues told in small snatches of time. She wrote, directed and starred in the semi-scripted series El Kimberley Proyect (Funny or Die) filmed in Montevideo, Uruguay. In 2017, she moved to Chicago and completed the Second City Film program with her short Sitting Shiva (Fargo Film Festival). She now works as a story producer for docuseries like De La Calle (MTV, Tribeca 2023). In 2023, her feature script Earl’s Gotta Die was selected for the second round of the Sundance Development Lab.


Learn more about Fiscal Sponsorship, including its benefits and eligibility requirements, by visiting our website. Check out our Sponsored Projects page to see the projects that are currently being supported.

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