Congratulations are in order for Marlene McCurtis, Byron Hurt, Dawn Porter and Melissa Haizlip, all of whom have been selected as recipients of Firelight Media's Next Step Media Fund (who goals is to support and encourage diversity among emerging filmmakers) which will distribute $70,000 in funding to documentary film projects created by those 4 filmmakers - all participants in Firelight Media’s Producers’ Lab, a mentorship program for talented, independent producers of color.
The 4 were selected by a jury that included: Tamir Muhammad (Tribeca Film Institute); Cynthia Lopez (POV); Film programmer Chi-Wei Yang, Firelight’s Stanley Nelson (Co-Founder) and Loira Limbal (Deputy Director).
“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 four intriguing projects, which have all been previously profiled on this blog, and which were also recipients of direct mentorship support from award-winning filmmaker and Firelight Co-Founder Stanley Nelson, follow:
1 - 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.
2 - 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.
3 - 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.
4 - 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.
Funding for the Next Step Media Fund comes from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“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.”
These are all projects we'll continue to follow, fully expecting them all to be fully realized eventually.