In 2008 Firelight expanded its mission and created the Documentary Lab, a flagship mentorship program that seeks out and develops emerging diverse 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.

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January 01, 1970
The Feeling of Being Watched

When a filmmaker investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.

January 01, 1970
The Interpreter

The Interpreter is a feature length documentary that follows stories of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who were essential to American war efforts, but whose lives are now threatened for working with coalition forces.…

January 01, 1970
The Argus Project

Argus Panoptes is a performance intervention, video installation and wearable sculpture which directly intersect the current debate over police accountability and state surveillance, creating a space to bring together the many points of…

January 01, 1970
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Anto...

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four excavates the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang raping…

January 01, 1970
A Guangzhou Love Story

In China, an unprecedented surge in African migration has led to a rise in marriages between Chinese women and African men. A Guangzhou Love Story captures the love, heartache, and real life challenges…

January 01, 1970
A Woman's Work

Football and feminism collide in this feature documentary that follows three former NFL cheerleaders and their class-action lawsuits brought against their teams.

January 01, 1970
Building the American Dream

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and construction is no exception: a $72 billion industry that accounts for every $20 generated by the Texas economy, employing nearly one million workers. Although deemed…

January 01, 1970

Through its lyrical, non-linear structure, Amor Puro y Duro will take viewers on an evocative, thought provoking journey through the iconoclastic life of game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Centered around never-before-seen interview footage of…

January 01, 1970
Always in Season

For more than a century, tens of thousands of men, women, and children attended lynchings of more than five thousand African Americans that often included hours of torture, mutilation, and photography. Lynching was…

January 01, 1970
N. Scott Momaday: Words From a Bear

Words from a Bear examines the enigmatic life and mind of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Navarro Scott Momaday. This profile delves into the psyche behind one of Native America’s most celebrated authors of poetry…

January 01, 1970
#NailedIt: Vietnamese & The Nail Industry

#NailedIt: Vietnamese & The Nail Industry is a feature-length documentary about the genesis of the Vietnamese nail salon and its influence on the $8 billion dollar nail economy. Our story begins at a…

January 01, 1970

Unapologetic is a feature-length documentary that captures young Black women organizing for Black political, economic, and social liberation through a calendar year of triumphs and necessary forfeits. The film serves as an intimate…

January 01, 1970
You Only Live Once

The feature-length documentary You Only Live Once takes a fresh and probing look at gun violence in urban America. Told through the stories of families impacted by loss and young men who are…

January 01, 1970
Untitled Jennifer Laude Documentary

Grassroots activists in the Philippines are spurred into action when a local transgender woman is found dead in a motel room with a 19-year-old U.S. marine as the leading suspect. As they demand…

January 01, 1970
Time of the Phoenix: The First Rainbow Coalition

Time of the Phoenix: The First Rainbow Coalition (working title), a feature-length documentary now in post-production, charts the history and enduring legacy of a largely forgotten but groundbreaking multi-ethnic coalition that rocked Chicago…

January 01, 1970

A visit back home to Texas prompts the filmmaker to reflect on her mother’s creative life. But when her grandfather, an Iraqi refugee, arrives on their doorstep, his presence raises deeper questions about…

January 01, 1970
Ask The Sexpert

Ask the Sexpert is a feature documentary centered on a highly popular sex columnist for a daily newspaper in India. Despite sex being a taboo topic in India, the column’s brand of non-moralistic…





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Funding continues to be one of the greatest challenges for emerging diverse filmmakers. Even when producers have great ideas and experienced mentors attached to their projects, a lack of funds can stall or completely halt their progress. Often, producers just need a small grant to keep them moving towards the next stage and keep their projects alive.

The Next Step Fund was created to respond to this crucial need. The NSF will provide up to $25,000 in production and post-production funding to five to seven filmmakers who are already in the Producers’ Lab to complete innovative documentary films that tell stories about people, places, and issues that are underrepresented in the mainstream. Funded activities may include travel, shooting, editing, and other mid to completion phase activities.

The goal of the NSF is to help filmmakers advance their projects even in the absence of major funding. Grantees will be selected on the quality of their project and their ability to demonstrate how a small grant from the fund will allow them to move their project to a significant next phase. The NSF is made possible by the generous support of the John D. Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Surdna Foundation.