EXCLUSIVE: The AXS Film Fund is being launched to support an underserved group—creators of color with disabilities who are engaged in documentary work.
The newly-announced program will offer up to five documentary filmmakers and nonfiction new media artists grants of up to $10,000 each, designed “to assist them finishing their projects in any stage of production.” Applications will be accepted at the AXS Film Fund portal beginning June 1, with a submissions deadline of September 3.
“AXS Film Fund seeks to bring visibility to this underrepresented community of creators by intervening and providing opportunities that they may not otherwise have with mainstream funding structures,” leaders of the fund noted. “Grantees will be supported in their endeavors to tell stories, make films, and create content.”
Filmmaker and disability rights activist Jason DaSilva, director-producer of the Emmy-winning documentary When I Walk, is founder and president of the fund. He will lead the initiative, along with program director Naomi Middleton. Financial support is provided by the Bertha Foundation.
“We are thrilled to launch this new fund with the mission of changing,” DaSilva said. “It is time to defeat the negative stereotypes and portrayals of disability. It is time to raise and support people of color with disabilities on their journeys to becoming nonfiction filmmakers and creators.”
The Bertha Foundation’s creative director, Adrian Kawaley-Lathan, commented, “The Bertha Foundation is proud to support AXS Lab in the creation of the AXS Film Fund! It is essential that marginalized voices are empowered to tell their own stories, shape their own narratives and share them with the world.”
Among the goals of the fund is to “Help more ethnic minorities with disabilities get recognition and job opportunities in the film industry,” and to “help create more diversity amongst creators and the stories told.” Additional support for the AXS Film Fund comes from the Center for Asian American Media, the Perspective Fund, and Firelight Media.
“The past twelve months made clear the need for compassion and serious change,” stated a release from the AXS Film Fund. “Between violence targeted at people of color, a fearful divided nation, and the global pandemic, it is more important now than ever to raise and support a body of more culturally diverse voices.”
The statement continued, “Filmmakers of color have fought hard to win equality and move beyond the racial barriers of a historically white industry. Meanwhile, people of color with disabilities are rarely seen in media and film. The majority of the time, they are not even in control of the creation of projects or tools, thus eliminating the voices of an entire community.”
Grant applications will initially be reviewed by internal staff at the AXS Film Fund to ensure eligibility requirements are met. Successful applicants will then move on to a next round where their submissions will be reviewed by a “committee of expert panelists.”
“While we ask that a person of color with a disability is a key contributor to the project,” AXS noted, “we welcome diverse teams to apply.”
AXS plans to seek additional funding “to allow the organization to expand the number of grants it offers each year.”