Firelight produces award-winning films that expose injustice, illuminate the power of community and tell a history seldom told. Firelight connects these films with concrete and innovative ways for diverse audiences to be inspired, educated, and mobilized into action. We are dedicated to developing talented documentary filmmakers that advance underrepresented stories, moving them from the margins to the forefront of mainstream media through high quality, powerful productions.

At Firelight we believe media can transform viewers into active citizens. Through film broadcasts, community engagement projects, transmedia and social media campaigns, Firelight is dedicated to independent filmmaking as a vehicle for education and empowerment.



In 2008 Firelight expanded its mission and created the Documentary Lab (formerly the Producers’ Lab), a flagship mentorship program that seeks out and develops emerging diverse documentary filmmakers. The Lab provides filmmakers with one-on-one support, funding, professional development workshops and networking opportunities. More than just a workshop, the Documentary Lab is unrivaled in its representation of diverse producers, creating an exclusive network of talented unique storytellers that receive ongoing support from a project’s conception to its completion.

In addition to a focus on excellence in filmmaking, Firelight has a long history and is one of only a handful of media organizations that has a permanent engagement division. Firelight has two proven community engagement strengths — reaching and engaging diverse audiences and using historical film to support contemporary social justice organizing. By collaborating with local and national organizations that are committed to a range of social justice issues, Firelight has successfully impacted audiences for well over a decade.


Firelight was founded in 2000 by MacArthur “genius” Fellow Stanley Nelson and award-winning writer and philanthropy executive Marcia Smith as an independent production company dedicated to harnessing the power of story-driven media as a platform for education and action.

Best known for producing high-quality powerful productions for PBS and creating dynamic community engagement campaigns, Firelight is committed to making films about pivotal events, movements, and people in American history and in doing so has produced a number of award-winning films including Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till, A Place of Our Own, and Freedom Summer.

Firelight’s upcoming releases include The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution; Tell Them We Are Rising: Historically Black Colleges & Universities; and The Slave Trade: Creating A New World.


  • Stanley Nelson


  • Marcia Smith


  • Loira Limbal

    Vice President

  • Sonya Childress

    Director of Partnerships and Engagement

  • Mbali Z. Ndlovu

    Documentary Lab Manager

  • Elizabeth Estrada

    Documentary Lab Associate


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