Australian journalist and filmmaker Karl Malakunas has been awarded with the second annual SFFILM environmental fellowship for his feature-length documentary Paradise.
The SFFILM Vulcan Productions Environmental Fellowship aims to provide support in the form of a US$25,000 grant to mid-career filmmakers with an environmentally- or conservation-focused feature documentary in development or early production. Those selected also receive services to support the development, production, and impact campaign for their film.
In addition to the funding, the Paradise team – which consists of director Malakunas and producers Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins (all pictured) – will travel to San Francisco and Seattle to participate in filmmaking and environmental workshops to further cultivate industry relationships.
The fellowship program, which runs from September 2019 through March 2020, consists of three key components, including a residency at SFFILM’s FilmHouse for artistic support and mentorship, guidance from a dedicated environmental advisor and development of a community outreach campaign and educational plan.
Paradise follows a group of environmental activists in the Philippines and their efforts to save an island paradise’s natural resources from government corruption and corporate greed in the face of murder and betrayal.
The film was selected from an open call for submissions by a committee of film and environmental experts. Decision makers included Jannat Gargi, head of documentary films at Vulcan Productions; Marjon Javadi, senior manager of film funds and partnership at Doc Society; Lauren Kushner, interim director of artist development at SFFILM; Katie O’Reilly, adventure and lifestyle editor at Sierra Magazine; and Caroline von Kühn, former director of artist development at SFFILM.
“Our collaboration with SFFILM is designed to showcase rising filmmakers to tell crucial stories about our natural world, including the threats and solutions to save it,” said Ruth Johnston, GM of Vulcan Productions, in a statement. “We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Paradise and the filmmaking team.”
“We feel very fortunate that we will be working with passionate mentors and advisors who are focused on making compelling films about the environment,” added Malakunas. “The fellowship is a timely boost to the making of our film, as we move forward with urgency to tell the world a story about incredibly brave people performing heroic acts to save a beautiful part of our planet. Their battles are emblematic of a global struggle, with land defenders being killed in record numbers around the world as they strive to protect our ever-diminishing natural resources.”