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 premieres 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 of the winning films 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). Films are available above and on the Focus Feature YouTube channel.
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.
“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.”
“The arts are critical to the fabric of our New York hometown and will pave the way to the recovery of tourism, business and the hearts of New Yorkers, which is why JetBlue is thrilled to partner with The Gotham, Focus Features, and the Westridge Foundation for the second year in a row,” said Elizabeth Windram, vice president of marketing, JetBlue. “We are excited to continue to offer a runway for the next generation of student filmmakers, and provide our customers with a discovery platform for inflight entertainment that includes not only the latest blockbusters but also up-and-coming student films that make our entertainment curated and something you won’t find anywhere else.”
“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.