Firelight Films and Hulu Announce Filmmakers Selected for the Inaugural Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund

Firelight Media
4 min readSep 22, 2023

Stanley Nelson’s Firelight Films has partnered with Hulu to provide development funds to three nonfiction filmmakers

Headshots of Ivan MacDonald, Julianna Brannum, and Juan Carlos Davila Santiago separated by white diagonal lines.
Left to right: Ivan MacDonald, Julianna Brannum, and Juan Carlos Dávila Santiago

Firelight Films, the production company co-founded by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson, in partnership with Hulu, has announced the three filmmakers selected for the new Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund. The Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund will resource these filmmakers with a $25,000 award to develop an original non-fiction documentary feature film or limited series for a “first look” by Firelight Films and Hulu.

In addition to the $25,000 award, each filmmaker will receive one-on-one professional development sessions on producing for Hulu with Hulu’s documentary division. Awardees will be expected to develop their documentary project into a robust treatment, pitch deck, budget, and schedule for a first look by Firelight Films and Hulu. Project pitches considered for additional development or greenlight from Hulu will, if selected, be co-produced with Firelight Films, executive produced by Stanley Nelson, for streaming on Hulu.

“Firelight Films is proud to continue our support of these three filmmakers — each of whom has previously received grants or fellowships through our nonprofit sister organization, Firelight Media,” said Firelight Films co-founder Stanley Nelson. “The range of subjects presented through these projects — from murdered and missing Indigenous women to the dark history of the residential school system to the criminalization of reggaeton music — highlight the many untold stories that documentary filmmakers of color are uniquely positioned to tell. We are grateful to our partners at Hulu for their support in developing these projects.”

The inaugural Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund recipients and their film projects are:

  • Julianna Brannum, Now I Lay Me Down
    When two little girls are gunned down on a dirt road and the remains of a third victim are found in a smoldering fire on the Muscogee Creek Indian Reservation, an untested Assistant District Attorney heads up the largest investigation in Oklahoma history in pursuit of their elusive killer.
  • Ivan MacDonald, Breaking the Silence
    The intersection of oral tradition and modern technology reveals a legacy of violence. Breaking the Silence follows two Indigenous women fighting to unearth the dark history of residential schools and rectify the wrongs of the past.
  • Juan Carlos Dávila Santiago, When Reggaeton Was a Crime
    Before Reggaeton music became a multimillion-dollar industry, it was criminalized in its motherland: Puerto Rico. In the 1990s and 2000s, policymakers targeted Reggaeton artists as part of an anti-crime initiative in Black Puerto Rican neighborhoods. This story will be explored through the experiences of the artists who influenced Bad Bunny.

Submissions for the Hulu/Firelight Kindling Fund were open to mid-career filmmakers who are alumni of Firelight Media artist programs (Firelight Films’ sister organization, a nonprofit supporting nonfiction filmmakers of color), including the Documentary Lab, Groundwork Regional Lab, William Greaves Research and Development Fund, PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund, Impact Campaign Fund, Spark Fund (NEH), FRONTLINE/Firelight Fellowship, In the Making documentary short film series, and the HINDSIGHT or HOMEGROWN: Future Visions documentary short film series. Additional filmmakers were able to apply by invitation only from Firelight Films.

About Firelight Films

Co-founded by acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Firelight Films productions have garnered multiple Primetime Emmy, Peabody, IDA, and Sundance awards. Among them, the Academy Award®-nominated Attica, for Showtime; Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre for the History Channel; Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy for Netflix; Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool; The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution; and Freedom Riders; Becoming Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom for Maryland Public Television/PBS. Upcoming projects include Sound of the Police for ABC News Studios, and Creating the New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade, a four-part documentary series for PBS.

About Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a premier destination for non-fiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. Firelight Media’s programs include the Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship that supports emerging filmmakers of color; Groundwork Regional Lab, which supports filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S.-controlled Territories; and the William Greaves Research and Development Fund for mid-career nonfiction filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities. Firelight Media also produces digital short films, including the recently announced collection HOMEGROWN: Future Visions.

About Hulu

Hulu is the leading and most comprehensive all-in-one premium streaming service that offers an expansive slate of live and on-demand entertainment, both in and outside the home, through a wide array of subscription options that give consumers ultimate control over their viewing experience. Hulu is the only on-demand offering that provides access to shows from every major U.S. broadcast network, libraries of hit TV series and films — including licensed content available exclusively on Hulu — and award-winning Hulu Originals, both with and without commercials. With Hulu + Live TV, subscribers receive a unique combination of access to 85+ live news, entertainment and sports TV channels from 20th Television The Walt Disney Company, ABC, NBCUniversal, CBS Corporation, The CW, Turner Networks, A+E Networks and Discovery Networks, as well as Disney+ and ESPN+ included as part of the base plan. Visit to subscribe or learn more about the service.



Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a nonprofit organization that supports, resources, and advocates on behalf of documentary filmmakers of color.