Will and Jada Smith Foundation Writes Tisch $30k Check to Fund Film


Jake Quan

Will and Jada Smith gave NYU Tisch a grant to support writers and female film makers.

Camille Larkins, Contributing Writer

The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has recently given the Undergraduate Film Program in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts a generous grant to support women filmmakers. The grant comes in two parts: a $10,000 donation to the winners of the Fusion Film Festival and $20,000 that will go towards the production of two student-created pilots.

Founded in 2003, the Fusion Film Festival, aims to celebrate women in film, television and new media. The three-day event includes film screenings, Q&A sessions with professional women in film and TV, pitch meetings, networking events and master classes.

One of the festival’s winners and recipient of $2,000 from the grant, Tisch graduate student Jennifer Rudin, said she was thrilled to hear about the Smith Family Foundation commitment and thinks that it will enable women writers everywhere to find their voices and continually tell their stories Her pilot, “Starring Chloe Fischer,” was selected as the Best Graduate Half-Hour Pilot.

The winner for Best Graduate Student Screenplay, graduate student Alik Barsoumian, expressed her gratitude for the grant as well. She plans to use the money from the grant towards a short film that will be a companion piece to her winning screenplay, “Antouni (Homeless).” The grant will allow Barsoumian to showcase her passion for filmmaking and allow her to share her story with others.

“As a teenager I remember going to the cinema and feeling overwhelmed by what films gave me,” Barsoumian said. “The possibility to empathize with people I had never known and the inspiration to share, in turn, my own story with others.”

Tisch senior Madelyn Miller didn’t expect the first pilot she had ever written to make it into Fusion as a finalist, let alone win the award for Best Undergraduate Half-Hour Pilot.

“I was really proud of my pilot even if no one else liked it,” Miller said. “I thought I might as well submit it to Fusion since I already had it written for my Situation & Sketch Comedy class, and I knew I wouldn’t be eligible to submit to Fusion for that many more years. I was honestly surprised when I was nominated as a finalist for Fusion for my pilot — it was the first one I had ever written.”

Miller described her comedy pilot “Right Wing Woman” as a satirical, progressive and cheeky sitcom. She plans to use the $2,000 in grant funds to produce the pilot or create other sketch comedy videos.
There are still two undecided grant recipients, who will receive and share $20,000 from the Smith Family Foundation to produce TV pilots. The remaining $20,000 will go to students developing pilots in a class currently in session,”Writing For Advanced TV Production Workshop.”

Email Camille Larkins at [email protected].