Current Student Stephanie Falkeis Awarded Heldinnen in Serie Screenwriting Award and Development Grant for 'The Invisible Sister'

Felix Van Kann
May 27, 2020

Current Student Stephanie M. Falkeis has been awarded the Heldinnen in Serie Screenwriting Award and Development Grant for her project The Invisible Sister from FISA, the Film Industry Support of Austria. The contest marked the first edition of a new initiative by the Austrian Ministry of Digitalization and Economic Affairs to kick-start high-end narrative series production in the country and identify, promote and develop series featuring strong female protagonists. Falkeis’ project was one of six selected from a pool of 108 submissions and received a €20.000 development fund as well as an intense mentorship program in collaboration with Drehbuchforum Wien

From fin-de-siècle Vienna, to pre-war Paris and Zurich, to post-war New York, The Invisible Sister follows aspiring scientist Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein who strives to assert herself as a woman of free will and choice amid the psychosis of her patriarchal family and two World Wars.

Commenting on her selection, Falkeis said, “I am honoured to win the Heldinnen in Serie screenwriting award and development grant, one of the first of its kind in Austria, where I was born and raised. This is a fantastic initiative to bring more stories about women in science to the (small) screen. The stories, the heroes and heroines we are exposed to undeniably shape and profoundly impact our lives, and especially through television/streaming. When I came to Columbia University, I knew next to nothing about episodic storytelling, having grown up with very little exposure to television shows. I was quickly drawn to the potential of the format, which allows to follow a character's journey in depth over multiple episodes, painting a world in all its detail. I am thankful for the storytelling toolkit I have received here to start building with, and for the critical feedback of my fellow students.” 

According to FISA’s website, the Heldinnen in Serie contest is “an initiative of the Federal Minister Elisabeth Udolf-Strobl to increase the visibility of women in business, science and technology in series. The script competition is a contribution to the qualitative improvement of the presentation of female characters in traditionally under-represented domains and at the same time an important impulse for the development of series in Austria. The contest is aimed at the Austrian film industry, and ideas with potential for international cooperation are expressly welcomed.”

“I came across this historical character several years ago, in an archive that granted me access to Margaret’s original letters and diaries,” Falkeis said. “I was most inspired by her unique point of view and her voice that read uncannily contemporary. I look forward to spending my summer months working on the script, developing this character’s inspiring journey, and am very excited for the opportunity to pitch the series to networks and producers in the fall, as part of the Heldinnen in Serie program.”

Stephanie Falkeis is an artist and filmmaker from Vienna, Austria currently based in New York City, where she pursues an MFA at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Division on a Fulbright Scholarship. In 2018, she was professor Annette Insdorf’s teaching assistant for Film History. Stephanie holds a degree in Transmedia Art from the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Her work has been presented in exhibitions and screenings in Austria, Germany, England, Greece, California and New York. Stephanie is a co-founder of the bilateral Austrian American Short Film Festival (AASFF), which she curated and programmed from 2015-2018.