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Producers' Lab

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November 1, 20135 months ago

Firelight Media Announces 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#    
November 12, 20121 year ago

Pete Nicks' The Waiting Room, Shortlisted for the Oscars

Pete Nicks’ The Waiting Room has been shortlisted for the Oscars!

Here is what Pete said in an interview with Variety:

"I can't tell you how many times we walked up to people and told them what we were doing, and they'd say, 'My story doesn't matter -- why does anybody care about my story?' This recognition is really special to me; it's a validation that their story does matter." Pete Nicks has also been nominated for the following prestigious awards:

2012 Gotham IFP nominee for Best Documentary

2013 Independent Spirit Awards double nominee: Best Documentary & Stella Artois Truer Than Fiction Award

2013 Cinema Eye nominee: Outstanding Achievement in a Debut Feature Film

This film is currently in theatrical distribution in selected cities around the country and will broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in the 2013-2014 season. Please click here to see the current schedule.

The Waiting Room, which follows the life and times of patients and caregivers at Highland Hospital, a public hospital in Oakland, CA, was picked as New York Times and New York Magazine Critics Pick, won the Golden Gate and Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, a Silver Docs and True or False official selection, and won the Guggenheim Emerging Artists Award at Full Frame.

A huge congratulations to Pete from Firelight Family!
October 11, 20121 year ago


The Firelight Media's Producers' Lab has a new addition: Dawn Porter for her film Spies of Mississippi. Dawn was also recently selected by Realscreen as a "Doc Hot Shot" for 2012. She was is one of 15 emerging directors that represent the future of feature-length non-fiction filmmaking. Check out the winners here. Congrats Dawn!

Spies of Mississippi tells the story of a secret state spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain white supremacy during the 1950s and ‘60s. The Sovereignty Commission was overseen by the Governor of Mississippi and handpicked board of 12 of the most powerful men in the state. The Commission’s purpose was to preserve segregation at any cost. It was granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, to keep secret files, to make arrests and even to compel testimony. To do this, they employed a network of investigators and informants to infiltrate civil rights organizations and undercut their efforts. Ultimately, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission spied on tens of thousands of Americans and collected over 160,000 pages of files.

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September 20, 20121 year ago

Jason DaSilva Receives 2013 Princess Grace Honorary Fellowship!

Jason DaSilva (When I Walk) is the recipient of the 2013 Princess Grace Honorary Fellowship given in recognition of his talent and to support him to complete his film. The Fellowship comes with a cash award and makes Jason eligible to compete for other Princess Grace support-for-filmmakers initiatives.

Jason is a participant in the Firelight Media Producers' Lab.
September 6, 20121 year ago

What's Next for Firelight? -- A Word From Stanley Nelson

As we wrap up the summer, I am especially excited about our two newest projects: one film about the Black Panther Party and another one about Freedom Summer. This Fall promises to be exciting as we start doing interviews and collecting footage.

For me, these projects are so close together in terms of era—1964 and 1966, but they are incredibly different stories. In many ways they are about different paths to liberation for African Americans. These projects are important now because we want to capture the voices of those who were active in those struggles and are aging. They are also about how individuals can participate and make a call to action in very different ways: one group fighting for the vote and for change within the system and the other saying we need drastic revolutionary change in this country. In many ways, young people have mythologized them, but many don’t know the true story. We want to make these figures human and demonstrate that the people who participated were really young. Movements can happen if you participate and if you believe in them.

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July 13, 20121 year ago

Congrats to Labsters Mike Brown & Yoruba Richen!

This month, the Fledgling Fund announced its new grantees. Producers' Lab members Mike Brown and Yoruba Richen both received community engagement funding for their films, 25 to Life, and The New Black, respectively. A special congrats to both of them!
June 24, 20121 year ago

Cristina Ibarra and Jennifer Fox on Non-fiction Filmmaking

As part of the PBS series POV's 25th season, Filmmaker Magazine ran a four-part conversation series featuring non-fiction filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Jennifer Fox last week. Cristina is a participant in Firelight Media's Producers' Lab for her upcoming film Las Marthas. See below for links to the series as well as excerpts from the conversations.

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June 21, 20121 year ago


Firelight Films Producer/Director Laurens Grant has had a whirlwind year. From receiving an Emmy Award and speaking at various ceremonies for her role as producer on FREEDOM RIDERS, to premiering and promoting her new film JESSE OWENS, working on her own independent film ROKIA: VOICE OF A NEW GENERATION, and pre-production with Stanley Nelson on the upcoming documentary special on the Black Panther Party, Laurens has indeed been a busy lady.

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June 21, 20121 year ago

New Promo Reel for the Producers' Lab

Do you want to learn more about the Producers' Lab? Check out our exciting new promo reel! This brief video includes interviews with Lab members, footage from Producers' Lab events, a special interview with Emmy Award-winning editor Lewis Erskine, and short clips from several Lab participants' films.

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June 20, 20121 year ago

UPDATE from Byron Hurt on His Latest Film "Soul Food Junkies"

Filmmaker Byron Hurt is a participant in the Producers' Lab. His newest film, SOUL FOOD JUNKIES, has a hot summer schedule. In this project, Hurt explores the health advantages and disadvantages of soul food, a quintessential American cuisine. Check out his update below.

SOUL FOOD JUNKIES makes its worldwide premiere tomorrow! The 64-minute feature length film will be one of four to compete in the documentary film competition at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami, Florida June 20-23, 2012!

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