2013 Next Step Media Fund Grantees

Firelight Media today announced the 2013 recipients of the Next Step Media Fund, which will distribute $70,000 in funding to documentary film projects created by participants in Firelight Media’s Producers’ Lab, a mentorship program for talented, independent producers of color.  “The Next Step Media Fund helps to demonstrate that Firelight’s Producers’ Lab is more than just a mentorship program. In addition to helping these filmmakers prepare their work for national broadcast, we are providing holistic support to a whole new generation of independent filmmakers of color,” says Marcia Smith, Co-Founder and President of Firelight Media, “and being able to provide direct financial support at a critical stage demonstrates our commitment to making a long-term commitment to these participants.”

The Next Step Media Fund grants are being provided for the second year, through funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation designed to support and encourage a diverse slate of emerging filmmakers. “The MacArthur Foundation supports documentary films that explore contemporary issues through powerful human stories, challenge stereotypes and misperceptions, and promote understanding and empathy for different points of view,” said Kathy Im, Director of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, “We are thrilled to support Firelight Media and its Next Step Media Fund because this program nurtures a cadre of filmmakers very likely to direct and produce the type of films we’d like to see made.”

Four 2013 projects were selected to receive funding and were chosen from Firelight Media’s current roster of Producers’ Lab participants by a jury comprised of: Tamir Muhammad (Tribeca Film Institute); Cynthia Lopez (POV); Film programmer Chi-Wei Yang, and Firelight’s Stanley Nelson (Co-Founder) and Loira Limbal (Deputy Director).

Each of these projects has received direct mentorship support from award-winning filmmaker and Firelight Co-Founder Stanley Nelson who says, “it’s one thing to provide guidance to these filmmakers, but without direct fiscal support many projects don’t get made, and so we’re invested in making sure that we see our Producers’ Lab participants through the entire process—guiding them in their filmmaking practice, supporting them as they work towards broadcast, and now, ensuring that they have some funding to rely on during phases of production where support is always needed, but often unavailable. In the future, we hope to be able to support the entire lab with this much needed funding.”


The projects selected to receive a total of $70,000* include:

Wednesdays in Mississippi by Marlene McCurtis – $15,000

Wednesdays in Mississippi tells the little known story of the unlikely alliance and friendship between the “Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement”, Dr. Dorothy Height and Polly Cowan, a wealthy, New York Jewish activist. In defiance of a world in which women took their lead from their husbands, in defiance of the unacknowledged sexism inherent within the Civil Rights Movement itself, and in defiance of a world in which black women worked for white women, not with them, these two remarkable women fought together to effect lasting change.

Hazing: How Badly Do You Want In by Byron Hurt – $10,000

Hazing will be a 60-minute documentary film that will explore why the controversial practice of hazing continues to be widely seen as a meaningful and legitimate rite of passage, despite mounting lawsuits, fraternity/sorority chapter suspensions, increased media coverage, serious injuries, arrests, and tragic deaths. 

Trapped by Dawn Porter – $15,000

Trapped will follow the progress of two Southern abortion clinics – Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery in Montgomery, AL and the Jackson’s Women Health Organization in Jackson, MS as they struggle to stay open in the face of an increasingly hostile legal and political climate.

Mr. SOUL! by Melissa Haizlip – $15,000

From 1968-73, America got SOUL! – televisionʼs first “black Tonight Show.” The film celebrates the groundbreaking PBS series from its genesis to its eventual loss of funding against the backdrop of a swiftly changing political and social landscape, while profiling Ellis Haizlip, the charismatic man behind one of the most culturally significant and successful television shows in U.S. history.

*A fifth project will be announced at a later date

About Firelight Media:

Firelight Media is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing talented documentary filmmakers who tell stories about people, places, cultures and issues that are underrepresented in the mainstream media. Firelight Media was founded in 1998 as an independent non-profit production company and has been best known for producing high-quality powerful productions for PBS and its dynamic educational outreach campaigns. However, in 2008, Firelight Media expanded its work to include developing and supporting the next generation of filmmakers.

About the Producers’ Lab:

Firelight Media’s flagship program is the Producers’ Lab, a mentorship program for talented independent producers of color. Participating producers work with award-winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson and his team of senior producers, writers, editors, new media, and fundraising specialists to complete their projects for a national broadcast. Firelight Media started the Producers’ Lab as a way to provide infrastructure support for diverse producers to help overcome some of the barriers to completing their film or video.

Press Contact:

Lisa Lucas
Director of Communication
212.234.1324 Ext. 7#

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