“We’ve only seen women for the past three days,” said the screenwriter Tamara Jenkins on Thursday night at the Smyth Hotel, where Chanel and Tribeca Enterprises announced the winner of their second annual "Through Her Lens: The Tribeca Chanel Women's Filmmaker Program."
“I was just thinking that!” echoed the 22-year-old actress Dakota Fanning. "It's amazing."
The two had been holed up in a hotel room for the past several hours with the rest of the program's all-female jury, including actress Jennifer Westfeldt, producer Anne Carey, and filmmaker So Yong Kim. They had the difficult task of selecting one of five emerging female filmmakers, who would receive full production funding for their short film, with the help of Chanel, Tribeca Enterprises, and Pulse Films.
The "Through Her Lens" program kicked off on Tuesday with a star-studded luncheon of Hollywood leading ladies including Rashida Jones, Girls producer/writer/director Jenni Konner, actresses Katie Holmes, Diane Lane, Mamie Gummer, Zosia Mamet, and Jennifer Westfeldt, plus the brit-pack: Sienna Miller, Emily Mortimer, Ruth Wilson, and Gillian Anderson.
This was followed by an intensive, three-day workshop for the five directors/screenwriters and their producers, which included master classes with casting director Avy Kaufman (The Bourne Ultimatum, Life Of Pi); costume designer Arianne Phillips (Nocturnal Animals, Walk The Line), and director Shari Springer Berman (American Splendor, The Nanny Diaries).
In the end, the panel chose "Feathers" by A.V. Rockwell, a twenty-something from Queens whose short film tells the story of Eli, an inner-city youth who attempts to re-escape from a juvenile detention center known as “The Mill.” The jury described it as being both "brutal" and "poetic." Rockwell's most recent work, The Gospel, was commissioned by singer/songwriter Alicia Keys and premiered at a special event during the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year.
“It was a really, really hard decision," said Fanning. "There were so many stories that were super original.”
"One of the key messages in "Feathers" is this dream I have of seeing people have the freedom to live," said Rockwell. "And to live life for real. Liberty and freedom are two different things. This film is about what you have to deal with daily when you only have access to one. If this film speaks to you, I wanted to create a space for people to heal, and I also wanted to allow people to walk in the shoes of the character, and to understand what it's like to be a black man in America. As a filmmaker, I want to bring people together. Life is hard enough, so films should make our lives richer."
When it was announced that she would receive full funding for "Feathers," a prize of $80,000, Rockwell burst into tears. "This was a story that needed to be told," she said.
The other four filmmakers joined Rockwell, Fanning, Westfeldt, and the rest of the jury in a group hug.
"Call us any time," said Jenkins in earnest. And then she made sure Rockwell had a drink.