NEW YORK, NY (May 17, 2021) -- The Gotham, the nation’s premier member organization of independent storytellers, is proud to announce the opening of the digital and airline seatback distribution windows for the winning projects from the Student Short Film Showcase, an innovative collaboration with Focus Features, JetBlue, and the Westridge Foundation. Five graduate student filmmakers from schools across the country were recognized at the 30th Annual Gotham Awards in January. Today sees the launch of a 12-month simultaneous distribution window on JetBlue’s inflight entertainment and Focus Features’ Digital platforms.
The selected short films and filmmakers include Cousins (Mandy Marcus, Brooklyn College), Anita (Sushma Khadepaun, Columbia University), Mud & Honey (Molly Sorensen, Temple University), No Law, No Heaven (Kristi Hoi, University of California Los Angeles), and Things That Happen in the Bathroom (Edward Hancox, University of Texas, Austin).
In an effort to provide greater awareness and a strong commercial entry point for these short films, each of the five filmmakers will receive a grant of $10,000, nearly doubling last year’s cash offering as a result of the Westridge Foundation’s generous support. The filmmakers are invited to participate in year-round programming and mentorship facilitated by The Gotham. The films will receive distribution on JetBlue’s seatback entertainment systems under a dedicated movie category beginning June 1 and are available on Focus Features digital streaming platforms beginning today. Links to each film can be found above.
“Following last year’s success, we expanded the program to consider projects from 16 schools across the country. We are thrilled, not only by the high quality stories coming from daring and innovative students, but by the strong partnership we found for a second year with Focus Features and JetBlue, and for the first time with the Westridge Foundation,” said Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of The Gotham. “The Gotham exists to champion underrepresented voices and this program does just that in bringing together forward thinking creators and industry partners.”
Focus Features Chairman Peter Kujawski echoed those sentiments, “We’re beyond thrilled to be partnering with The Gotham, JetBlue, and the Westridge Foundation on this incredibly innovative partnership to support these vital, emerging and diverse filmmakers.”
“As the only US airline with seatback screens at every seat, JetBlue understands the importance of delivering a superior inflight entertainment experience,” said JetBlue VP of Marketing, Elizabeth Windram. “By utilizing our seatback screens as a discovery platform, our Customers have the option to watch everything from the latest blockbusters, up-and-coming student filmmakers, and everything in between. JetBlue has been a longstanding supporter of the arts, especially within our own backyard of New York, and is excited to be partnering with The Gotham, Focus Features, and the Westridge Foundation to help pave the way for the next generation of student filmmakers.”
“The quality of the submitted projects was incredibly high – these are stories that represent the type of incredible voice and value many people may not think of with student films,” said Shelby Rachleff, Westridge Foundation’s Program Manager. “These filmmakers are going to continue making bold and original work, and we are thrilled to be able to support them in this way at the beginning of their careers.”
Films were submitted by each student’s respective school, and winners were selected by a jury, consisting of Caroline von Kühn (Director of Catalyst, Sundance), Ina Pira (Curator, Vimeo), and Ron Simons (Independent Producer of Film and Theater).
Opal H. Bennett (Co-Producer, American Documentary | POV) served as the project lead for the initiative. Shelby Rachleff (Program Manager, Westridge Foundation) co-led the jury selection and development of the project selection process.
ABOUT THE GOTHAM
The Gotham champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. The organization, under the leadership of Executive Director and award-winning producer Jeffrey Sharp, fosters a vibrant and sustainable independent storytelling community through its year-round programs, which include Gotham Week, Filmmaker Magazine, the Gotham Awards.
ABOUT THE GOTHAM AWARDS
The Gotham Awards, selected by distinguished juries and presented in New York City, the home of independent film, are the first honors of the film awards season. This public showcase honors the filmmaking community, expands the audience for independent films, and supports the work that The Gotham does behind the scenes throughout the year to bring such films to fruition.
ABOUT FOCUS FEATURES
Focus Features acquires and produces specialty films for the global market and holds a library of iconic movies from fearless filmmakers. Our mission: to make a lasting impact on global audiences by creating the home for artists to share diverse, distinctive stories that inspire human connection.
JetBlue is New York's Hometown Airline®, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles (Long Beach), Orlando, and San Juan. JetBlue carries more than 42 million customers a year to 100+ cities in the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America with an average of more than 1,000 daily flights. For more information please visit the website.
ABOUT THE WESTRIDGE FOUNDATION
The Westridge Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization headquartered in Portola Valley, CA, seeks to support individuals, organizations, institutions, and programs dedicated to promoting community and/or national social good.