2019 Grants Challenge
🎉 Finalist

Black, Indigenous and People of Color Futurisms Screenwriting Lab (Futurisms)

Futurisms is an intensive nine-month sci-fi/fantasy genre screenwriting fellowship for aspiring filmmakers of color. Ten fellows (ages 18-30) will receive advanced screenwriting training, mentorship, and industry exposure as they develop original science-fiction and fantasy short film or TV scripts. Scripts will be read at a series of stage readings with industry professionals in attendance to garner interest and visibility for their projects.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Critical Mass Dance Company

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

The Justice for My Sister Collective was born out of the award-winning documentary film of the same name, directed by Kimberly Bautista. Initially founded in Guatemala in 2011 by survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as a companion project to the documentary, the collective toured Latin America hosting screenings of the film and workshops centered on healthy relationships and violence prevention. From there, Bautista replicated grassroots efforts in Boyle Heights and throughout California with the leadership of volunteers who were inspired to take action upon watching the film. JFMS obtained nonprofit status in 2015 and expanded our programming to include media literacy training, film production, and career preparation. A hallmark of our work at JFMS is our collaboration with the community to tap into the power of art as a means to break the silence, inspire healing, and challenge victim-blaming and patriarchal violence. To date, our workshops have helped activate over 200 students’ creative potential.

Testimonial from a Participant:

My name is Cassie Rubio and I am a 2017 graduate of Justice for My Sister’s signature program, Nuevas Novelas. As a queer working class Latina, I internalized the media’s lack of representation and felt there was no space for someone like me in the film industry. I lacked the self-confidence and formal training to pursue that career path and had all but given up until I found Justice for My Sister. Through their summer workshop, I gained video production skills, was connected to women of color mentors, and found a network of support in my classmates. Most importantly, I gained the self-confidence necessary to assert myself as an artist. At the end of the program, I was selected to write, direct, and produce my first short film.

That film “Tienes Hambre” was later awarded the Best Student Film at the prestigious Imagen Awards. Currently, I am in pre-production for my second short film which will be screened at Outfest, the largest LGBTQ film festival in the country. My success is deeply tied to JFMS and their belief in my talent. This organization truly invests in their students' professional and personal trajectory long after they graduate from their programs.

Which of the CREATE metrics will your submission impact?​​

Employment in the creative industries

Jobs per capita

Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to CREATE?

Futurisms will cater to low-income, aspiring filmmakers of color ages 18-30. We are especially interested in supporting applicants who felt discouraged from pursuing film school. To identify applicants in our open online application (to launch August 2019), we will team up with local service providers to encourage applications from the young adults they serve. Past partners have included: the East LA Women’s Center, Latino Equality Alliance, and the Esperanza Immigration Project. We will also activate other film organizations and online publications to announce our online application of the Lab.

The BIPOC Futurisms Screenwriting Lab is composed of three vital components--skills-training, mentorship, and movement--which culminate in public stage readings of ten participants’ final sci-fi scripts.

Component 1: Skills-training

Participants will meet twice a week for ten weeks to refine their stories and receive feedback from each other, as well as six (6) guest instructors and two lead instructors. Instruction will cover the various aspects of screenwriting, as well as explore Afrofuturism as a genre.

Component 2: Mentorship

Mentorship matches are tailored according to participants’ interests, to ensure dynamic and engaging bonds that can last long after our Lab concludes. Mentors function as “script doctors” who will provide in-depth feedback on different drafts of participants’ scripts.

Component 3: Movement

A trauma-informed dance component in the Lab will serve as a useful practice for participants to boost inspiration and build morale. Critical Mass Dance Company will facilitate this segment for the cohort to establish a practice of wellness and holistic care.

Phase 1 (September - December 2019)

Over the course of 10 weeks, workshops will be held twice a week for participants to write an original 10 - 35 page sci-fi TV or short film script. This professional writing sample will be used to apply for network writing programs, to secure funding to produce their work, TV writing jobs, and freelance work.

Phase 2 (January - May 2020)

After scripts are finalized, public stage readings will be hosted throughout the following neighborhoods: El Sereno, San Gabriel Valley, El Monte, Boyle Heights, and East Los Angeles. We will invite high-profile celebrity actors to read the scripts to an audience of community members, industry professionals and high school students (approx 130 at each event). This heightened visibility of participants’ work will provide them leverage in securing management/representation and identifying potential funders or future collaborators.

Futurisms will create an enriching space for filmmakers of color to develop their craft and career trajectory. Our communities deserve dignified and nuanced media representation, especially in sci-fi and fantasy where sexist tropes are typical devices. We look forward to nurturing future screenwriters committed to uplifting our communities through their work.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Pilot project (testing a new idea on a small scale to prove feasibility)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Through Futurisms:

- Ten sci-fi scripts from fellows will be conceptualized and completed, resulting in 50+ applications for network writing programs and high-profile writing labs.

- We hope to see that 30% greenlight the projects and go on to secure funding to produce their short film or TV pilot within 8 months of the close of the BIPOC Futurisms Lab.

- We anticipate that 50% of our participants will go on to obtain subsequent production, shadowing and training opportunities upon completion of our Lab by virtue of their mentors.

- We foresee that 50% of our participants will receive subsequent employment and/or referrals from our film professional mentors. Many TV staff writer positions are never posted publicly and are only solicited through agents or word of mouth, making mentorship crucial in increasing participants’ exposure to professional opportunities.

- Filmmakers will display improved comprehension of skills and increased confidence in screenwriting for both television and film, in the genres of drama, comedy and sci-fi.

- JFMS will host 5 public stage readings to highlight the work of our BIPOC Futurisms participants. We foresee attendance of 130 people at each of our events.

- Participants will network and cultivate both important professional relationships and a public profile with community members in the audience.

We will measure the impact with a comprehensive evaluation plan, using the following collection methods:

- Facilitate observational evaluations, to be administered by staff.

- Collect evaluations and testimonials from filmmakers during the Lab.

- Track the number of fellows who secure funding with future professional connections made through our program.

- Host biannual networking sessions to ensure the mentorship aspect of the program will lead to long-lasting professional relationships that will span the length of our participants' careers.

- Circulate biannual surveys to filmmakers and other industry professionals to assess relationship longevity and what professional skills are in demand.

- Follow up surveys for fellows 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months after the program.

- Create video recap of the BIPOC Futurisms Lab with interviews to demonstrate impact and elevate our participants’ profiles.