Women In Film Portland (WIF-PDX) recently announced that local filmmakers Fran Bittakis and Betty Alcaraz are the recipients of the WIF-PDX 2023 Vision Grant, a signature program that supports production of a film by a local female or nonbinary storyteller every year. Over four dozen people applied for the 2023 funds. A committee made up of WIF-PDX board members and two award winning filmmakers, Alicia J. Rose and Dawn Jones Redstone, then reviewed applicants and narrowed it down to four finalists. Finalists presented their pitches to a selection committee, after which Bittakis and Alcaraz’s short film Yo No Soy Mi Mama was selected as the winner and announced at the WIF-PDX Annual Year-End Party.
“Receiving the WIF-PDX Vision Grant marks a pivotal step in our journey to create Yo No Soy Mi Mama,” Bittakis said. “It validates our commitment and motivates us to bring vital Latino narratives to the forefront, challenging Hollywood’s historical underrepresentation of these stories. This grant represents a shift towards decolonized storytelling, enabling us to reclaim marginalized voices and disrupt industry stereotypes.”
After winning, Alcaraz said, “After spending 11 years working in the film industry in the sound department, I’m ready to continue to push out more diverse storytelling into the world as an up and coming Chicana director. I’m dedicated to representing and uplifting the rebellious Brown girl who just wants to be heard and accepted for who she is, in a society that has already made their mind up about their existence. I want to show a different side to our diverse culture that isn’t really seen on the big screen. This short film is dedicated to young women of color. This one is for my cultura Mexicana. This Story will be made for us, by us.”
“We are honored to be part of the community supporting Fran and Betty’s important work. The grant review panel were collectively moved by their unique approach to storytelling and passion for un-doing generational traumas through art,” said WIF-PDX president, Stephanie Hough. “We are equally thrilled to support Fran on her producing journey, and Betty as she moves from below the line as an audio recordist to above the line as a director. This team demonstrates the value and importance of mentorship and community, as they will also be crewing with diversity and inclusion as a priority. All four finalists had tremendously powerful stories to tell and we are eager to find more ways to support and uplift the ever-growing creative community in portland.
Yo No Soy Mi Mama, the winning short film, is a coming-of-age dramedy. Set in a traditional immigrant household in suburban Portland, Oregon, during the early 2000s, it follows a teenager named Ale as she navigates a delicate balance between tradition and forging her own path. Fran Bittakis is the film’s producer and its writer and director is Betty Alcaraz. A requirement of the grant is that the production be crewed by at least 50% women and BIPOC individuals, and be produced primarily in Oregon.
This year’s grant was generously supported by Oregon Film, the state film office, through its Creative Opportunity Program and Film Science (on behalf of Anish Savjani), an esteemed local independent film production company. These partner filmmaking entities matched the WIF-PDX initial funds of $7,500 and brought the total grant available in 2023 to $10,000.
In 2024, Bittakis and Alcaraz plan to supplement the WIF-PDX Vision Grant with a constellation of other funding sources, including a crowdfunding campaign, and leveraging their memberships in other local filmmaking organizations like Catalyst Film Collective, Open Signal, the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA), and Desert Island Studios, which they hope will amplify their campaign to additional potential backers.
Courtney Hermann, Julianne Sato-Parker, and Roxy De La Torre were the WIF-PDX 2023 Vision Grant finalists. Hermann’s project Outliers and Outlaws is a feature documentary uncovering the history of the large, vibrant lesbian community of Eugene, Oregon. Sato-Parker’s project Symphony of Silence is the story of a man who spent years recording soundscapes of the world’s quietest places in an effort to conserve their natural silence, but who himself now confronts going deaf. De La Torre’s project Yemayá, Yemayá, Sebastian explores the intricate dynamics of Latino families in the USA, diverse spiritual beliefs, and the enduring power of love.