Roy W. Dean Grant for Spring 2024 Awarded to “Driving Mrs M”

Inspiring Documentary Chronicles Disabled Teacher’s Unstoppable Fight for Independence

From the Heart Productions, a top-rated 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to supporting unique films that make significant contributions to society, is proud to announce the Roy W. Dean Grant for Spring has been awarded to the uplifting documentary, “Driving Mrs M.” Directed by Connie Bottinelli, this poignant one-hour film has been in production since September 2011 and is now in post-production.

“From the Heart Productions is honored to support ‘Driving Mrs M’ and looks forward to its completion and release,” commented Carole Dean, its President and Founder.  “The Roy W. Dean Grant is awarded to films that embody the spirit of creativity and social impact, and “Driving Mrs M” exemplifies these qualities.”

For winning the grant, the filmmaker will receive $3,500 cash prize as well as an OWC Mercury Pro U.2 8tb hard drive valued at $1,199.99,  $500 in grip, lighting or expendables from Filmtools, a 40% deduction on color, editing, and sound & all production services from ProMedia, 30% discount in equipment rental from AbelCine Tech, Inc. NYC, $1,600 value / sound mix session from Silver Sound and more from heart-felt film industry companies and individuals.

About the Film

“Driving Mrs M” tells the remarkable story of a third-grade teacher in Baltimore whose life takes an unexpected turn when a common cold leads to the loss of both her arms and legs. Despite this devastating setback, she dreams of regaining her independence and returning to the classroom. However, rather than supporting her, the school becomes an obstacle, terminating her employment due to her disability.

In an extraordinary display of resilience and compassion, her eight-year-old students take matters into their own hands. Determined to help their beloved teacher, they launch a campaign to raise money for her to relearn how to drive and fulfill her dream of teaching again. Their journey is filled with challenges, yet their unwavering determination and hope drive them forward, despite the uncertain outcome.

Director Connie Bottinelli shared her deep connection to the story: “’Where do you get your stories?’ They’re from unexpected places – like this one, from an 8-year-old girl, distressed about her teacher. Her story intrigued and horrified me. A common cold took a deadly downturn. That could be any of us, catching a cold at work. Could we be disabled, denied medical coverage, lose our job while recovering?

“Gripped by the importance of this story, it unfolds in front of my lens for the next 9 years. A woman, whose passion for a continued purpose, inspires child leaders and blazes cutting-edge contributions to the medical world. This untold story tests what’s possible and what’s next.”

Bottinelli’s words reflect the heart and soul of “Driving Mrs M,” a film that captures the extraordinary courage and perseverance of ordinary people. The documentary not only highlights the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities but also celebrates the unyielding human spirit and the powerful impact of community support.

About the Filmmaker

Connie Bottinelli – Director/Producer/Cinematographer

Connie is an international and multiple Emmy award winner in documentary film. Her career began in 1986 at CBS Entertainment in NYC. She’s co-founder of Grinning Dog Pictures, a film and TV production company for independent films, broadcast and cable networks.  The company launched in 1995, breaking rating records for Lifetime TV with their one-hour special, Jessica Savitch: An Intimate Portrait. Their programs broke records for Ch4 in the UK and drew 4 times the viewers on Discovery Europe.

Driving Mrs M is the latest in a slate of Connie’s independent films. She’s a member of International Documentary Association, Gotham-IFP, NY Women in Film & Television, D-word Ambassador, FWD-Doc, and a featured interview in Ned Eckhardt’s “Documentary Filmmaker’s Handbook”.

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

From its inception in 1992, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to independent films. It has been an important lifeline for independent filmmakers that help to get their projects started or finished.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Winners of the grant include recent Emmy Winners Belly of the Beast and The Love Bugs, the award winning narrative feature Cadejo Blanco which is now in theaters around the world,  2019 Sundance Film Festival selection Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, the acclaimed documentary Kusama-Infinity.

About From the Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  They have been chosen a top non-profit for eight years in a row by Besides providing funding through the grant, they offer a unique film sponsorship which has helped filmmakers raise over $30 million for their projects.  The program offers personal consultations and guidance on finding funding their project. 

President Carole Dean, is a published writer, a producer, and instructor for two essential classes for indie filmmakers. She wrote the best-selling The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts.   Her Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches film funding.  Her new course, Learn Producing: The Ultimate Guide to Indie Film Production is a year-round course that provides filmmakers with the essentials they need to produce their projects.


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