The McKnight Foundation has announced the winners of its 2010 screenwriters and filmmakers awards. Two $25,000 prizewinners are chosen in each category.

This year’s winners are Shelli Ainsworth, for her screenplay “Stay Then Go” and David C.C. Erickson, for his screenplay “Bill-land;” Dawn Mikkelson, for her documentary films and Daniel Schneidkraut, for his experimental and narrative films.

It’s the second prestigious local award for Ainsworth, 54, of Minneapolis, who won a Bush Foundation fellowship in 2001, and used that grant to fund the filming of a short feature shot in Minneapolis and Paris. She has been working on “Stay Then Go,” the story of the relationship between a mother and her autistic son, for a decade. She said she intends to use the McKnight prize to underwrite other film projects and to move “Stay Then Go” into production with a local cast next year.

“It’s my hope to make this film for under $1 million,” said Ainsworth, who intends to direct the film. “We don’t have all our money. It’s a long haul, but we’re on our path.” Winning the McKnight will facilitate further fundraising, she said.

“All good energy helps. It certainly can’t hurt, and one of the judges who read it expressed interest in helping us get it made.” 

The Screenwriting Fellowship final judges were veteran filmmaker and screenwriting teacher (AFI, USC) Jerome Gary, SAGIndie director and former development executive Darrien Michelle Gipson, and Michael Clark, creative executive at the New York-based production company Big Beach. The Filmmaking Fellowship panel included Sundance programmer Mike Plante, Laura Gabbert, an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles (“No Impact Man”) and Barry Jenkins, a highly acclaimed independent filmmaker from San Francisco (“Medicine for Melancholy”).

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