Firelight Media Announces First Cohort for PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund

Firelight Media
5 min readOct 4, 2023

The Fund, which supports mid-career filmmakers from diverse communities, is also seeking proposals for its next cycle.

Headshots of filmmakers Nina Alvarez, Rodrigo Dorfman, Ellen Martinez, Keith McQuirter, Steph Ching, Karla Murthy, Christine Turner, Par Parekh, and Thomas Allen Harris.
Top row, left to right: Nina Alvarez, Rodrigo Dorfman, Ellen Martinez; Middle row: Keith McQuirter, Steph Ching, Karla Murthy; Bottom row: Christine Turner, Par Parekh, Thomas Allen Harris.

Firelight Media, the premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color, has announced the first cohort for the newly established PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund, which supports mid-career filmmakers of color. The organization has also released the RFP for the Fund’s next cycle.

The PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund provides resources to documentary productions created by mid-career filmmakers from diverse communities in the United States that are intended for distribution on PBS through finishing funds or co-production funding. The filmmaker must own the copyright and maintain editorial control of the project. For more details about the application process, view the Firelight Media website.

Films selected for the inaugural PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund include personal stories that push the form of nonfiction, portraits of migrants and undocumented families navigating the complex and ever-changing immigration process, and investigative documentaries that interrogate the criminal justice and housing systems.

“We are pleased to continue our long and productive partnership with PBS by helping these documentary productions cross the finish line,” said Stanley Nelson, co-founder and lead mentor of Firelight Media. “PBS continues to be the best place for independent documentary filmmakers to find a large and diverse audience for their work, and I’m so glad these eight new films (and more to come) will have a home in the PBS system.”

“PBS gives opportunities to filmmakers who have stories to share that reflect the lived experiences of our audiences,” said Sylvia Bugg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS. “We are excited to continue our partnership with Firelight Media to create an expanded pipeline of diverse content and creators across platforms.

The inaugural cohort, their film projects, and their PBS distributors (when available) are:

  • Nina Alvarez, Almost American
    A Washington, DC, family with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 19 years faces the threat of deportation and family separation. Their class-action lawsuit pulls back the curtain to reveal the motivations to terminate their legal status and that of almost a half-million TPS holders.
  • Rodrigo Dorfman, Bulls and Saints (POV, now streaming)
    After 20 years of living in the U.S., an undocumented family decides to return home. Little do they know, it will be the most difficult journey of their lives. Set between the backdrop of the rodeo rings of eastern North Carolina and the spellbinding Mexican hometown they long for, Bulls and Saints is a family love story of longing and reverse migration.
  • Thomas Allen Harris, My Mom, The Scientist
    Part essay, part personal documentary, My Mom, The Scientist uses the stories of the filmmaker’s mother, Rudean Leinaeng, a chemist, a Bronx Community College professor, and an activist, to examine the challenges and revolutionary potential around African American participation in the sciences.
  • Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching, Slumlord Millionaire
    In some of the most quickly gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City, a group of fearless residents, activists, and nonprofit attorneys fight corrupt landlords for the basic human right to a home.
  • Keith McQuirter, The 3,000 Project
    The 3,000 Project follows four stories that reveal the complexities of crime and punishment, rehabilitation, and parole in America today while tracing the evolution of those realities over the past half-century.
  • Karla Murthy, The Gas Station Attendant
    A daughter explores the immigrant experience in America and the human capacity to love, dream, and survive through the story of her South Asian father, who worked as a gas station attendant.
  • Par Parekh, Sister Úna Lived a Good Death (Independent Lens, February 2024)
    Following a cancer diagnosis, Sister Úna — a smoking, wisecracking Catholic nun dedicated to social justice — chooses to live as she’s dying. In Sister Úna Lived a Good Death, we follow the self-proclaimed “leader of the misfits” in her last nine months as she plans her funeral, attempts to complete her bucket list, and confronts what it means to let go.
  • Christine Turner, J’Nai Bridges Unamplified (American Masters, now streaming)
    Critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges has graced the world’s top opera stages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bridges emerged as a leading figure in conversations surrounding racial justice in the arts. J’Nai Bridges Unamplified captures Bridges in this pivotal moment, preparing for her solo in “A Knee on the Neck,” a choral tribute to George Floyd.

The PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund and the William Greaves Research and Development Fund (previously known as the William Greaves Fund) are designed to address the persistent structural challenges many filmmakers of color face after producing their first films so that they can remain in the field. The Funds are named in honor of William Greaves, the longtime mentor of Firelight Media’s Co-Founder Stanley Nelson. Greaves’ legacy in the documentary field includes producing the groundbreaking television news magazine Black Journal along with 200-plus documentaries throughout his 60-year career.

The application for the next cycle of the PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund is open now through Wednesday, November 1. For more information about the PBS/Firelight William Greaves Production Fund, and to apply, click here.

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About Firelight Media

Firelight Media is a premier destination for nonfiction 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 forthcoming collection HOMEGROWN: Future Visions.

About PBS

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Firelight Media

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