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Grantee Spotlight: Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest


In GiVE 365's 2016 grant round, Memphis 2020: programs that will have a tangible impact on Memphis in the next five years, Indie Memphis received a transformative grant to launch its Youth Film Fest. As we approach the 2020 mark cited in the grant theme, that tangible impact is being felt throughout this community and beyond. The Youth Film Fest has continued to grow since its launch, offering hands-on filmmaking opportunities, mentorship, and creative career development for emerging filmmakers in our region.                                                                           

“From the moment I started working at Indie Memphis in 2015, I’d have parents and filmmakers alike ask about opportunities for teenagers to learn filmmaking,” executive director Ryan Watt recalls. Despite interest in expanded programming for students, the Indie Memphis Youth Film program nearly didn’t make it off the ground. The new initiative required start-up funding almost impossible to carve out in lean years for the nonprofit’s budget.


According to Watt, it all came down to the GiVE 365 funding he was pursuing in 2016. “If we get the grant, we launch the Youth Film Fest,” he recalls thinking. “Thankfully, we got it and we launched the event straightaway.”

That grant is representative of the GiVE 365 membership’s consistent willingness to make risk-taking investments in new projects. Grants like Indie Memphis’s $10,000 award make a significant impact at pivotal moments for Memphis nonprofit—and for those they serve.

Standouts who have participated in the Youth Film Fest include Janay Kelley, whose spoken word short film, The Death of Hip Hop, won last year’s grand prize and its accompanying $5,500 in production support for her next film. Another recent winner is Vivian Gray, who went on to enroll at USC School of Cinematic Arts, one of the premier film schools in the country.


“The reason we are doing this is because there are few options across the city for this type of professional development,” says Watt. “This is about access to mentors, equipment, and a support structure. And without GiVE 365 we would not have had the capacity to serve the youth in this way.”

After three years of growth, the Youth Film Fest received another grant from GiVE 365 to ensure its continued success. Indie Memphis and its Youth Film Fest proved to be a perfect fit as a grantee for the 2019 grant theme, Pathways to Success: programs that provide workforce training and career development

Anna Ritz, who captained the review team that recommended Indie Memphis receive a 2019 grant, attests to its impact on Memphis’s burgeoning youth film scene. “We voted to move Indie Memphis forward because clearly they know what they are doing in developing this program,” she says. “We were impressed with their ability to track the progress they had made, and we knew it would be a good use of our dollars.”

The 4th Annual Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest is Saturday, September 7, 2019, at the Halloran Centre at the Orpheum. In addition to showcasing short films and videos from regional and national youth, the event will feature several presentations and workshops from high-profile guests. For more information, visit