The production grant will fund student thesis films and create mentorship opportunities for aspiring filmmakers

Cary Fukunaga

NYU Tisch School of the Arts today announced the creation of a new production grant from NYU alumnus, director, writer, and cinematographer Cary Joji Fukunaga. The grant has been created to support historically underrepresented voices and to promote BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or people of color) stories in the film industry. It will be awarded to a student in the Graduate Film program to fund their thesis film—a vehicle that often helps graduating students launch their filmmaking careers—and includes a mentorship component.

The $20,000 production grant will be awarded in the spring of 2021 to a student who has demonstrated financial need and as a requirement of the grant, the award recipient will participate as a mentor in the Cary Fukunaga Production Award Mentorship program with mentees selected from NYU Tisch Future Artists participants. Future Artists is a free arts education program for New York City high school students taught by Tisch’s renowned faculty and is designed for groups that are historically underrepresented in media.     

For Fukunaga, the mentorship program was a requisite factor in the creation of the production award. He wanted to ensure that aspiring filmmakers would have access to film sets, hands-on experience, and witness creatives with similar backgrounds and experiences who are on their way to achieving their goals.                            

“My hope for this award is that it empowers an emerging filmmaker who will help bridge the representation gap for BIPOC stories in the industry and turn them into a role model for kids who may not see an obvious path to the industry from where they are now. When I was younger I certainly didn’t see how someone like me could make it and if it weren’t for a few people who encouraged me, I don’t know if I would be here today. It’s critical for young people to see someone just ahead of them on the path to becoming a filmmaker. Just by example, it gives them the confidence to keep pursuing their dreams.

“Diversity in cinema is essential; we need to hear from storytellers whose diversity better reflects our society. As for audiences, we need to experience more stories told from different points of view, not only to broaden our perspectives but to engender empathy, something we are in dire need of right now. Creating opportunities, instilling confidence, and establishing links from one generation to the next is one way we can effect real change in the industry” said Fukunaga.

Fukunaga’s short film VICTORIA PARA CHINO is a harrowing account of the deadliest smuggling incident in U.S history, where dozens of Central American and Mexican immigrants died in a refrigerated trailer in Victoria, Texas. Shot during his second year at NYU and screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the short won a Student Academy Award in 2005, along with numerous other accolades. A prolific writer and director, Fukunaga has received critical acclaim for his feature films SIN NOMBRE, JANE EYRE, and BEASTS OF NO NATION. His television work includes directing the first season of the HBO series True Detective which earned five Primetime Emmy nominations and wins in the Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Directing categories. Fukunaga is also the first American to helm a Bond film, with the upcoming NO TIME TO DIE.

“Cary is a visionary storyteller who brings a nuanced sensitivity and rare visual style to every project and with this grant, he has demonstrated his commitment to using that prestige and success to further inclusivity in Hollywood and beyond. We are grateful to Cary for his generosity in supporting the next generation of filmmakers,” said Dean Allyson Green, NYU Tisch School of the Arts.              

“With one of the most diverse filmmaking programs in the country, NYU Tisch knows first-hand the captivating, unique, and fresh storytelling that emerges when filmmakers from different backgrounds are given the opportunity to cultivate their individual voices—they create the stories that define and shape the future of American and world cinema,” she continued.                         

The Cary Fukunaga Production Award will be granted based on a proposal for the student’s thesis project, including a director’s artistic statement of intent and a screenplay. The submissions will be judged by Fukunaga and a panel of NYU Graduate Film faculty and industry Professionals.                         

Future Artist program participants in filmmaking, dramatic writing, game design, theatre, recorded music, and dance will be eligible to apply for the mentorship opportunity. The selected mentees will have the opportunity to engage with the Fukunaga Award recipient and members of their film crew throughout the semester to learn about the filmmakers’ artistic journeys and process of actualizing their winning film project, while also exploring their future goals and engaging in conversation with the Graduate Film students. Meetings in spring 2021 will take place virtually.                                   

Further information and updates about the Cary Fukunaga Production Award will be available at The Cary Fukunaga Production Award is open to students in NYU Tisch’s Graduate Film program who have a deep and abiding commitment to filmmaking featuring the stories and/or voices of Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) and who would traditionally not have access to these resources. Candidates should also show an interest in mentorship for the younger generation of film students who themselves may not otherwise have access to opportunities in the film industry.                            

About NYU Tisch School of the Arts
For over 50 years, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts has drawn on the vast artistic and cultural resources of New York City and New York University to create an extraordinary training ground for artists, scholars, and innovators. Today, students learn their craft in a spirited, risk-taking environment that combines the professional training of a conservatory with the liberal arts education of a premier global university with campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and 11 academic centers around the world. Learn more at

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