Curse of the Mutant Heirloom


A daughter excavates decades of estrangement from her Holocaust-survivor mother, fueled by a less visible predator – the BRCA cancer gene mutation. Robots and aliens join their human inspirations in this hybrid documentary about family, forgiveness, and expendable body parts.

Phase of Support: Production

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Debra Schaffner

Debra Schaffner - Director

Debra Schaffner is a filmmaker who strives to tell true stories that make people cringe, think and laugh. She was raised by robots in the suburbs of New Jersey and eventually made her way west where she worked as a bike messenger and carpenter before finding her passion for directing and editing. Her editing projects have aired on PBS, Cartoon Network, SMG (China) and screened at festivals internationally. In recent years, Debra moved into feature documentaries as an editor on Free For All: Inside the Public Library (2023) and Instrumental: The Elayne Jones Story (2024). Her most recent work can be seen in Julie Wyman’s upcoming feature: Untitled Dwarfism Project (2024). Her work as editor, producer and writer on the feature documentary series Celebrity Explorers was awarded Best Series by the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival (2018). Debra has been a resident of SF Filmhouse, BAVC MediaMaker and Jewish Film Institute.

Julie Wyman

Julie Wyman - Producer

Julie Wyman’s creative documentary work engages issues of embodiment, body image, and the possibilities and problematics of media spectatorship – all informed by her experience of living with hypochondroplasia dwarfism.Her 2012 documentary STRONG! premiered at AFI Silverdocs and was broadcast nationally on PBS’s Emmy award winning series, Independent Lens, where it won the series’ Audience Award. Wyman’s work has been awarded support from Sundance, Sandbox, IDA, SF Film Society, Points North, ITVS, the Creative Capital Foundation, The Princess Grace Foundation, California Humanities and NEH. She has been a fellow at the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute and a resident at SF Filmhouse, Siena Art Institute, Logan Nonfiction and Points North. Her films, including FatMob (2016) Buoyant (2005) and A Boy Named Sue (2000), have aired on Showtime, MTV’s LOGO-TV, and have been exhibited on five continents. She serves as Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Media at UC Davis.

Project logline and bios courtesy of the grantees.