Past Recipients

The Girl Deep Down Below follows a group of Chicago Muslim girls searching for the missing members of their community and facing off against a supernatural threat with an almost human prejudice.

by Lily Emerson ($8,000) "Adventure Sandwich" is an on-going live action series centered on the power of imagination, creative problem-solving, and collaboration. Made with the help of the audience, kids will complete arts-focused projects that encourage creative teamwork by setting certain parameters and limitations within which each new goal must be completed
Directed by Brittany Douglas/Community Television Network ($3,800) Brittany Douglas, who lost her mother to gun violence on her own front porch, started her documentary, “Bullet,” as an attempt to make some sense of a world in which such violence is possible and to help other teens in communities similar to her own, and the people that care about them, do the same.


"Battle Flag" is a transmedia project that explores the lingering affects of the Civil War by contextualizing recent news content about controversial displays of the confederate flag.

“What is it like to be blind? Is it the same as closing your eyes or wearing a blindfold? And if I meet a blind person, what should I do or say?” Beyond Blind: A Guide for the Sighted is an online instructional tool that helps sighted students to gain a more nuanced understanding of people with visual disabilities. Visitors to the site will explore several interactive multimedia challenges that address common misconceptions and stereotypes about blindness. By providing a safe and informative environment for students to get answers to their basic questions surrounding blindness, Beyond Blind will open up a pathway to positive future interactions between the sighted and the blind.

by Olivia Curry ($4,500) The "Chicago Glove Project" is a series of eight five-minute webisodes profiling Chicago communities - their stories and their challenges - by viewing them through the lens of neighborhood boxing gyms. The series will focus on race, class and poverty in Chicago's neighborhoods through individual stories of empowerment, and aims to break through social barriers and connect communities through these stories.

by Nushmia Khan ($8,200) "Chicago Shareef" is a series of seven documentary webisodes surrounding issues and stories within or connected to the Chicagoland Muslim community that is widely considered to be the most vibrant, storied, and active Muslim community in America.

Manual Cinema is based in Chicago, and CHICAGOLAND was conceived from a question about the invisible ecosystems that coexist with human society in the company's own urban neighborhood. The questions was related to director Ben Kauffman's interest in rewilding, and how a city like Chicago might look in the future as humans redesigned a more sustainable urban environment.

"Citizen Primer" is a series of six two-minute animated infographics explaining government functions that are poorly understood by the public - Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, The Affordable Care Act, the progressive tax code, the deficit/debt, and securities regulation.These short animations will contribute to the public discourse and education around these issues, while also presenting opportunities for civic engagement that are not explicitly partisan.

by Rachel Dickson ($5,000)
"Closed for Good" is a thirty-minute documentary short that will profile three subjects affected by Chicago Public School closings. Through these characters' eyes and voices, we meet families, teachers, relatives, and communities - and learn what it's like to not know where you will go to school or work next year. The film aims to show an inner view into the lives of people affected by public education policy, and thus effect change and political action.

by Alexander Hughes ($4,500) "Detroit Lights" is a seven-minute narrative short centered on gang violence, made in response to recent city ordinances in Detroit that have eliminated power to streetlights in large areas of the city.

From Keokuk, Iowa towards Hannibal, Missouri, lie the towns of the Great River Road, with an Antebellum history embedded with Mark Twain, a home with a canon in the yard, and the Mississippi River. As the diesel barges ply their way south, the river no longer needs the towns or the townspeople. Drifting Towards the Crescent is an experimental documentary on the midsection of the river, where the North meets the South.

"Embodies" (formerly "BODY the IMAGE") is a documentary that seeks to widen our society's perception of the human form. The film profiles three Chicagoans with a variety of professional relationships with the human body: a nude model, a roller derby mom, and an anatomical embalmer. We are proud to be one of Chicago Filmmakers' 2012 Digital Media Production Grants; for more about the project, please like our Facebook page.

For the Records is an interactive documentary about mental health, particularly OCD, ADD, eating and bipolar disorder. Including film clips, interviews, photo essays and games, it aims to increase understanding of these disorders. People with lived experience of the represented mental health issues have been actively involved in the conceptualization and design of the project.

Direced by Aaron Greer ($9,500) “Gettin’ Grown TV” is in an interactive web series, aimed primarily at tweenage boys of color (ages 9 – 14). The series features the exploits of 12-year old Eric and his best friends, and is a spinoff of the independent feature Gettin’ Grown (2004). GGTV builds on the success of the earlier film and provides an opportunity for teenage boys of color to engage with the story by creating content to be uploaded and edited on the website.

by Andre Perez/Trans Oral History Project ($10,000) Filmmaker André Pérez came out as trans at the age of 19.


INVISIBLE CAGE is a short documentary that examines the impacts of prosecuting young people as sex offenders. The requirement to register for juvenile sex offenders is a critical juvenile justice issue. The film introduces us to two young people who were convicted as sex offenders before the age of 16 years old. Derrick was a star athlete in multiple sports who was prevented from participating in his varsity basketball team. He has reconsidered his future in the NBA.


Juke Joint is a short story about the power of the Blues. When Hattie Mae starts out to the store on an errand for mom, little could she know about the adventure that awaits her....just around the corner at JJ's.

Laces explores the complexities of black youth identity with regard to consumerism. It follows Mike, an African-American teen from the more euro-centric north suburbs of Chicago, as he relocates to a more densely-populated African-American neighborhood. His new surroundings differ culturally, so he struggles to fit in socially. After weeks of being teased for the way he speaks and dresses, he concocts a plan to attain the highly coveted "Laces" sneakers as a means for fitting in. Although his plan seems to be warranted, it is heavily flawed and dangerous - costing him more that what he bargained for.

"Les Oiseaux" (working title) is a forty-minute documentary that will profile the socio-economic impact of the Monk Parakeet population that has been introduced into the environment in Chicago and Northern Illinois

McTucky Fried High stands as one of the only openly LGBTQ animated series to date. While popular network cartoons like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and The Legend of Korra can be progressive for LGBTQ media, they still face censorship that limits their discussion on sexuality and gender identity. McTucky Fried High is helping to lead the wave of animated media that affirms LGBTQ experiences. As a web cartoon, McTucky is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Season 1 had 5 episodes that discussed coming out of the closet, bullying, body image, gender identity, and sexting. You can watch Season 1 here! Season 2 of McTucky Fried High will have 7 episodes and will introduce new characters and topics like religion, feminism, race, STD's and intersectionality. We will also have complimentary curriculums for each episode! Our first season accumulated 36,000+ views on Youtube, was screened at numerous film festivals worldwide, and was recently dubbed in Japanese with a collaboration with students at Aoyama Gaukuin University in Tokyo, Japan.
Moving is a new web/video project by filmmaker and artist Lori Felker consisting of 12 video portraits highlighting a dozen Chicago women. Moving wants to meet, capture, and celebrate Chicago women who get things done and create positive change. This change can be very visible, like something you'd see on the news. It might also be something more quiet and subtle, like the power that can come from someone's positive energy. To display the strength of the 12 women's minds and spirits, Moving will show them in situations that reflect their true stories and efforts, while also making them appear telekinetic though special effects and a nod to classic science fiction movie making.


Muslim in the City is a comedy web series about three Muslim women in their 20's living in Chicago. It takes a glimpse into their lives as they navigate their way through life's trials and tribulations with wit and humor. Through all their challenges of work and relationships, their friendship remains their strongest bond.


Natural Life, produced in conjunction with the legal efforts of the Law Offices of Deborah LaBelle (LODL), is a three fold, 80 minutes long, experimental documentary comprised of a single channel video, a gallery installation and an archival website. The piece challenges inequities in the juvenile justice system by depicting, through documentation and reenactment, the stories of five individuals who were incarcerated for life without parole (natural life) for crimes they committed as youth.

Directed by B. Rich and produced by Anuradha Rana ($10,000) What happens when a natural preserve is also an oil reserve? “Preserves” is a 12-minute documentary that explores this question through one of the most biodiverse places on Earth - Yasuní National Park, located in the Amazonian basin of Ecuador.

Directed by Luiz Magana ($1,500) “Rainbow Roots” is an online film and video web series about how seven Chicago LGBT couples were able to form long lasting relationships and establish families of their own. Each episode follows a different couple discussing and revealing the dynamics of their relationship, and provide a window into a side of the gay community that has not often been seen.

Surveillance. Civil liberties. Protests. Arrests. From the rise of the Occupy movement to the outrage over the National Security Agency’s data collection, these words have become familiar to anyone who scans news headlines. But if you take a step behind the scenes, a complex interplay of social power and ever-changing legal precedents are the real drivers behind who is allowed to march and who can be surveilled and how.
by David Granskog ($7,000) "South Chicago: In Progress" (working title) is a forty-minute interactive documentary project that will tell the story of a marginalized former steel-mill community in South Chicago through the eyes of community residents,

“The Grid” is an online web series profiling Chicago businesses, subcultures and landscapes. These short documentaries aspire to be a form of “lyrical journalism” that exposes audiences to overlooked communities in bold new ways. Episode subjects include innovative entrepreneurs and educators, transitioning landscapes, the effects of globalization, and the search for sustainable social and business practices.

Over 30 wars and 1.5 million dead soldiers are memorialized at sites across the United States. How many of us see the radioactive trace of these past conflicts? What is the best way to remember the trauma of war?
In 2013, Chicago Public Schools announced that an unprecedented 49 neighborhood schools would be permanently closed. A team of documentary filmmakers began following affected families and educators, policymakers, and advocates as the closures unfolded and their stories became a jumping-off point for exploring so many urgent questions facing public education today.

The Year I Broke My Voice, is an experimental narrative built from collaged reenactments of three 1980s coming of age films: The Outsiders (1983), Stand By Me (1986), and The Year My Voice Broke (1987), that re-approaches the master narrative of childhood’s transition into adulthood.

by April Wilson ($5,400) "Two-A-Days" is a fifteen-minute narrative short that draws attention to the issue of gender equality in sports
by Sergio Perez/Centro Sin Fronteras ($8,000) This feature length documentary film seeks to preserve and highlight the struggle in which U.S. citizen youth and "Dreamers" with undocumented parents have come through in the last twelve years.
This four-part series will focus on the community of Wolf Lake, previously an industrial dumping ground bordering Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Through the stories of community members, the filmmakers aim to explore the complex and multi-faceted issues surrounding the area.
You're So Talented is a series following Bea, an out of work Chicago artist, as she navigates her twenties and all of its inevitable dramas. The series is focused on highlighting people of color and women, in particular, as multi-dimensional characters in authentic narratives. You're So Talented was honored by this year's Tribeca Film Festival as part of their New Online Work Program and was nominated for a Gotham Award in the Breakthrough Series - Short Form category.