Events, News

The Tribeca Film Institute Pond5 Program Debuts at Exclusive Event


Last night marked the public debut of the Tribeca Film Institute Pond5 Program with an exclusive kickoff event at NYC restaurant Thalassa, located (naturally) in Tribeca. A new comprehensive program designed to provide support to emerging filmmakers through grants, education, and mentorship, the joint initiative is supported by both organizations, as well as tax-deductible donations from the public.

TFI Pond5 Launch
Filmmakers and producers gathered during the TFI Pond5 Program launch Producers Market

The invite-only cocktail reception was preceded by an exclusive Producers Market, where TFI Alumni had the opportunity to pitch their projects directly to producers for potential distribution and guidance. Afterward, they were joined by Pond5 CRO Jeffrey Wilks and Tribeca Film Institute Executive Director Amy Hobby, along with other guests, for the public launch of the program, including the announcement of the first six grant recipients.

Jeffrey Wilks and Amy Hobby with grantee Jess X. Snow and collaborator Layqa Nuna Yawar

Each winner will receive funding to help finish their projects and get closer to achieving their creative visions. Grants are awarded three times a year, with applications for the next round of the program set to open in Spring 2019. Read on for more info on the inaugural grantees and their winning projects — congratulations to all!

Guests mingling during the TFI Pond5 Program launch cocktail reception

The TFI Pond5 Program Inaugural Grantees:

Rodrigo Reyes
499 Años
Creative Documentary

499 Anos
Still from 499 Años, Credit: Alejandro Mejía, AMC

499 Años explores the brutal legacy of colonialism in Mexico nearly five centuries after Cortez arrived in the Aztec Empire. Bold, unique, and strikingly cinematic, the film confronts how past traumas continue to affect contemporary reality, challenging us to seek ways to forgive, heal, and overcome our shared histories of violence.

Rodrigo Reyes“I am a first-generation Mexican-American immigrant born in Mexico, but I’ve lived in California for most of my life. My experience working and telling stories in the Latino community has shown me there is a great need for stories made by us, that reflect our complex identity and the challenges of our heritage. 499 Years aims to do just that. Our film paints a portrait of the devastating effects of colonialism in contemporary Mexico, and is extremely timely upon next year’s 500-year anniversary of the Conquistadors’ arrival to Mexico. We hope to shine an important light on the challenging issues facing contemporary Mexico with this film.”
Valerie Martinez
Death of Nintendo
Narrative Feature

Death of Nintendo
Title Card for Death of Nintendo, Credit: Valerie Castillo Martinez

Set in ’90s suburban Manila, Death of Nintendo takes us into the colorful, pop-culture world of four friends, back in the days when video games were still a novelty. Mimaw and her friends Paolo and Kachi and brother Gilligan go on a journey of self-discovery as they play games and wrestle with new dilemmas — puppy love, circumcision, and other horror stories.

“As a Filipino-American filmmaker, I want to celebrate my background, and contribute to the richness of the American mosaic and even to the immigrant experience — a group craving a representative voice and nostalgic content — while also longing to connect to a universal audience to share a common experience about childhood, youth, boredom, and heartbreak. Filipinos comprise one of the largest Asian American groups in the US, but there is yet to be a widely distributed independent film about them.”
Jess X. Snow
Survivor Love Letter
AR Experience and Installation

Survivor Love Letter
Image from Survivor Love Letter, Photo: Jess X. Snow, Mural Credit: Layqa Nuna Yawar

Through augmented reality murals, Survivor Love Letter presents a universe where survivors of sexual assault are not only believed and honored on a monumental level, but are also loved. Using a phone app, users can watch the mural turn into an animated love letter and listen and read from a library of love letters written by survivors and their allies globally, then be given the invitation to write and upload their own.

Jess X Snow“This year, many courageous survivors in the film industry have stepped forward to shift the culture around sexual assault. To continue their resilient work, we want to build a monumental love letter to all survivors during Sundance, Tribeca Film Festival, and in many public spaces and convenings to come. These murals will feature a growing embrace between three survivor activists and a younger self. Comprised of endangered species of wildflowers that bloom only after forest fires, the murals highlight how the bodies of the survivors can heal from trauma in the same way the Earth heals and is shaped by fire.”
Tchaiko Omawale
Narrative Feature

Still from Solace, Credit: Bruce Francis Cole

After a 17-year-old orphan is shipped off to her estranged grandmother, she plots her escape while navigating a foreign environment, new friendships, and a hidden eating disorder.

Tchaiko Omawale“This film has been building up in me for years, a coming of age story that I was dying to see — one that dealt with the messiness of how we deal with pain. The story was inspired by my journey with an eating disorder and self-harm, which stemmed from the challenges I faced growing up. I left my home country of Jamaica at age seven and was raised in seven different countries around the world. I survived this nomadism by being friendly and charming on the surface while keeping the darker stuff, like my brother dying during the Trinidadian coup, hidden beneath the skin. My circumstances and upbringing were unique, but my angst and desire to escape were universal.”
Myna Joseph
No Fault
Narrative Short

No Fault
Still from No Fault, Credit: Aaron Kovalchik

Following a near-fatal car accident, Lu wrestles with creeping invisibility as she approaches the second half of her life. On this long winter day, she finds her physical identity fractured, ignored, misunderstood, and judged — but with wry humor and stubborn resilience, she’s determined to be seen.

Myna Joseph“Now more than ever, representing and witnessing ordinary women’s lives is vital for audiences. Perspective is contagious and that’s why it matters that I make this film and films like it. Lu is not a character whom we typically see onscreen. Her act of heroism is simply getting by. The grant money will allow me precious time and resources required to elevate her story with the care and visual attention she deserves.”
Pawel Nazaruk
A Hole to Hell

A Hole to Hell
Poster for A Hole to Hell, Credit: Pawel Nazaruk

A Hole to Hell follows retired geologist Yuriy Smirnoff, who worked on the Kola Superdeep
borehole – a project by the then Soviet government to bore deep into the Earth’s crust, and an internal feat of drilling as revolutionary and awe-inspiring as the external race into space. What starts with a myth of Hell as a superficial horror story develops into a study of a man lost in a hell created by the vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Pawel Nazaruk“My motivation has always been to act as a medium to tell people stories that would help them engage, understand, and look at their lives form a different perspective. The main character in the documentary is an 82-year-old former geologist from a most remote corner of Russia (the town of Zapolyarny, behind the Arctic Circle, located in a semi-closed, semi-military zone). Meeting Yuriy has, for both me and (co-director) Tomek been a life-changing experience on many levels. I’d like to give this same opportunity to the viewers now.”

To learn more about the Tribeca Film Institute Pond5 Program — including how you can personally donate to support emerging filmmakers and have your donation doubled with a match from Pond5 — visit

All TFI Pond5 Program launch event photos by Ana Catalá.