Dear Producer is excited to announce the four recipients of the inaugural Dear Producer Award sponsored by Genuine Article Pictures. Liz Cardenas (7 DAYS, NEVER GOIN’ BACK, A GHOST STORY), Megan Gilbride (TOWER, FATHOM, DEAR MR. BRODY), Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (TO THE END, QUEST, DOCUMENTED) and Avril Z. Speaks (JINN, AFRICAN AMERICA, UPROOTED) will each receive an unrestricted grant of $50,000, attend a retreat focused on rest and community building, and commit to mentoring an emerging producer for one year.
The award was established to help lift the financial burden of independent film producers and to help build the independent film community through leadership and mentoring. The award is different from other filmmaking grants in that it supports the producer and is not based on a project or specific work. The award is generously sponsored by Genuine Article Pictures, a producer-focused fund that has awarded grants to both Dear Producer and the Documentary Producers Alliance. For the inaugural year, Dear Producer had over 150 nominations.
“I partnered with Dear Producer to create this award to ‘be the change,’ and to help support the producer, not a specific project,” said Maida Lynn, founder of Genuine Article Pictures. The producers receiving this award have had their films screened at major festivals, distributed around the world, and have received critical acclaim. It is my hope that this award brings these producers the long overdue recognition they deserve.”
Rebecca Green, producer, founder and editor in chief of Dear Producer, also noted it was more than just financial.
“It is to also highlight the invaluable-yet-unrecognized contributions producers make to the industry,” said Green. “Despite the constant shifting of the business, the producers chosen for this award have demonstrated a commitment to championing thought-provoking and original stories with passion and integrity and are developing the next generation of storytellers.”
The exceptional work of the award recipients—as well as their commitment to preserving the future of independent film—made them stand out among a very strong group of nominees. Full bios below.
2022 Award Recipients:
- Liz Cardenas (7 DAYS, NEVER GOIN’ BACK, A GHOST STORY)
- Megan Gilbride (TOWER, FATHOM, DEAR MR. BRODY)
- Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (TO THE END, QUEST, DOCUMENTED)
- Avril Z. Speaks (JINN, AFRICAN AMERICA, UPROOTED)
Dear Producer would also like to recognize the following finalists who have demonstrated an excellence in their field and generosity to their community.
- Jameka Autry (THROUGH THE NIGHT, ERNIE & JOE, CRISIS COPS)
- Diane Becker (NAVALNY, TINA, INVENTING TOMORROW)
- Beth Levison (THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT, STORM LAKE, POSTMORTEM)
- Danielle Varga (BULLETPROOF, THE HOTTEST AUGUST)
“The recipients of the Award are producers with big ideas on how to move the industry forward when it comes to sustainability, equity, and inclusion in the arts,” said Green. “This grant is meant to give them room to breathe and space to build on those ideas.”
Lynn echoed the sentiment. “Even before the pandemic, the majority of producers were treading water — working for years on a project with little to no producing fee and often fronting their own money to get a film off the ground,” she said. “The Dear Producer sustainability survey data solidified it: Producing is not a sustainable career in its current form. This award, and hopefully there will be others like it, is a step in the right direction.”
2022 DEAR PRODUCER AWARD RECIPIENTS
Included in the 2019 LATINXT, a curated list of emerging Latinx creators from an initiative by Zoe Saldana, Robert Rodriguez and Lin-Manuel Miranda, LIZ CARDENAS is a 2022 Independent Spirit Award Winner for Roshan Sethi’s 7 DAYS (Tribeca 2021 | Cinedigm), a Duplass Brothers production, and a 2019 Spirit Award Nominee for Augustine Frizzell’s NEVER GOIN’ BACK (Sundance 2018 | A24).
Other notable producing credits include Alex Lehmann’s ACIDMAN, starring Thomas Haden Church and Dianna Agron (Tribeca 2022); David Lowery’s A GHOST STORY (Sundance 2017 | A24) starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck; JULES OF LIGHT & DARK (Wolfe), 2019 Outfest Best Narrative Feature; MATERNA (Utopia), Best Cinematography and Actress Awards at Tribeca 2020; and BURROS (Tribeca 2021) an Oscar-qualifying Indigenous short film in English, Spanish and Tohono O’odham.
Under her Ten to the Six Pictures, she has a slate of four features, including one she’s written and one developed from BURROS, and a YA series about a bi-racial, trans teen in Texas inspired by her award-winning short, IMAGO.
A Rotterdam and Film Independent Producing Lab Fellow, Liz is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News and is based in Los Angeles & Dallas, where she was raised by her Hispanic father and Irish-American mother.
MEGAN GILBRIDE is a two-time Emmy-winning and Independent Spirit Award-nominated producer of narrative and documentary films. She produced the Emmy award-winning documentary TOWER, which was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Academy Award, was nominated for a Peabody Award, and broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens. She produced LOVERS OF HATE, a Sundance Dramatic Competition premiere, released by IFC and nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. She co-produced WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM, winner of the Film Independent Truer than Fiction Award and a News and Documentary Emmy, which broadcast on PBS’s POV.
Megan’s most recent releases are DEAR MR. BRODY, now streaming on Discovery+, and the Apple TV+ sci-fi documentary feature, FATHOM, which follows two groundbreaking bio-acousticians as they uncover the mysteries of humpback whale communication and culture.
A frequent lab mentor and panel participant, Megan regularly works with students and filmmakers to share her insights on the current state of the industry and approaches to financing, distribution and storytelling. She serves as a Board Member and Treasurer of the Documentary Producers Alliance and is a member of the Producers Guild of America.
SABRINA SCHMIDT GORDON is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and impact strategist from NYC. She is a recipient of the prestigious Women at Sundance Fellowship and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since her Emmy-winning editing debut, she has distinguished herself as a producer, editor, and director.
Sabrina’s latest film, TO THE END, premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, chronicling the fight for a Green New Deal led by four visionary young women of color, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her award-winning film, QUEST, is a New York Times Critic’s Pick and a Rolling Stone Top 10, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. In Quest, a Documentary Disrupts American Narratives About Race, Sabrina is profiled in VOGUE Magazine discussing authorship, collaboration, and authentic storytelling.
Her other credits include Emmy nominated BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez which she co-directed, produced, edited, winning ADIFF’s Best Film Directed by a Woman of Color; DOCUMENTED, about Pulitzer Prize-winning undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, which she also co-produced and edited, receiving record viewership on CNN and an NAACP nomination for Best Documentary.
Sabrina is on the faculty at Columbia University, and is a sought after speaker, co-chair of the Black Documentary Collective, founding member of Beyond Inclusion, and member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia.
AVRIL Z. SPEAKS has been carving out her path as a bold, innovative content creator for several years, not only as a producer and director, but also during her former days as a professor at Howard University.
Avril produced the award-winning film JINN, which premiered at SXSW and won Special Jury Recognition for Writing. JINN gained distribution through MGM/Orion Classics and continues to be seen throughout the world. Avril has also produced several films including HOSEA and the upcoming comedy DOTTY & SOUL, starring Leslie Uggams, Gary Owen and David Koechner.
Her latest projects include the NAACP Image Award nominated film AFRICAN AMERICA, which is available on Netflix, and the docu-series BLACK AMERICA IS…, which has received support from The Blackhouse Producer’s Lab, the CNN/Film Independent Docu-Series Intensive, and the Kettering Foundation. Most recently, Avril was the Showrunner/EP and Director of the docu-series UPROOTED: THE UNTOLD KEITH WARREN STORY, which is available on Discovery+.
Avril has been selected for producing labs with Film Independent, Sundance, IFP, Rotterdam and Cannes, and was a 2020 Sundance Momentum Fellow. She is also a member of Distribution Advocates and serves on the Executive Committee for the newly formed Producers Union.
About Genuine Article Pictures
Genuine Article Pictures, founded by Maida Lynn, embraces creatively ambitious non-fiction filmmaking that pushes the cinematic form and explores universal and timeless themes. Lynn produced the short documentary SKIP DAY, which premiered at Directors’ Fortnight and was released by The Guardian. The feature documentary she produced, PAHOKEE, premiered at Sundance 2019. Her credits as Executive Producer include Sam Green’s live documentary, A THOUSAND THOUGHTS (Sundance ’17), THE HOTTEST AUGUST (True/False ’19), and TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES (Rotterdam ’20).
About Dear Producer
Dear Producer is a digital platform established to amplify the voices of independent producers and help make the industry more sustainable. Producer Rebecca Green founded Dear Producer to challenge archaic business models that stifle diverse and original voices, and to advocate for innovation, transparency, and fiscal responsibility from the industry. In 2021, Dear Producer commissioned and published a survey focused on the question: Is film producing a sustainable career? which has informed and framed the conversation related to the future of film producing in a tangible way. Green is also president of the newly formed Producers Union.
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