Firelight Media Announces Spark Fund Recipients

Firelight Media
4 min readMar 17, 2022

The Spark Fund, a one-time opportunity underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities, provides stipends to 36 established BIPOC filmmakers whose work was disrupted by the pandemic.

Firelight Media, the premier destination for nonfiction cinema by and about communities of color, today announced the recipients of the Spark Fund, which offers support to established, independent documentary filmmakers who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) and whose work on humanities-themed projects was disrupted by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This one-time opportunity, which is underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (#SHARP) Grantmaking initiative, provides stipends rather than project support to the selected filmmakers.

“We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for recognizing the critical role that filmmakers play in educating the public about the humanities, and for this opportunity to provide significant financial support to established BIPOC nonfiction filmmakers in continuing their work despite the challenges they have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Firelight Media President Marcia Smith. “Mid-career filmmakers of color face significant obstacles to sustaining their work even in ordinary times — the pandemic exacerbated this problem. It is truly an honor to help this talented group of filmmakers get back to work on films that will enliven and enrich our democracy.”

“The National Endowment for the Humanities commends Firelight Media for its work in administering American Rescue Plan funds to assist filmmakers affected by the pandemic,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “These stipends will provide crucial support to talented and often overlooked filmmakers who are telling important, untold stories of the country’s rich and diverse history.”

The Spark Fund will provide 36 stipends of $50,000 to selected BIPOC documentary filmmakers over the period of one year. The stipend is not a project grant but is instead intended to alleviate financial hardship and work disruptions endured from the COVID-19 pandemic. The selected filmmakers are all working on humanities-themed projects, many of which align with the themes of NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative.

Firelight Media received over 200 applications to the Spark Fund. Recipients were selected with the help of two specially-created selection committees — one to identify a group of finalists and another to select the 36 recipients — comprising an esteemed group of humanities scholars, filmmakers, and programmers. Recipients come from 13 states spanning the U.S., from California to Massachusetts, Texas to Washington, and Florida to Hawaii.

The Spark Fund recipients are:

Along with the Sundance Institute and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Firelight Media received one of three grantmaking awards aimed at supporting media professionals whose livelihoods and in-progress projects have been affected by COVID-related financial losses. The American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking program is an emergency relief program intended to fund grantmaking programs that assist organizations and individuals working in the humanities who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and require support to restore and sustain their core activities. The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded 13 grantmaking programs: six grantmaking programs for individuals and seven grantmaking programs for organizations. Collectively, these awards will support approximately 145 individuals and as many as 625 organizations. Learn more here.

Even though it is a one-time opportunity, the Spark Fund upholds Firelight Media’s mission to support filmmakers of color throughout different stages of their careers and through challenges they often face in the nonfiction film industry. Firelight Media’s Artist Programs include the Documentary Lab, the organization’s flagship mentorship program focused on developing emerging filmmakers, and the Williams Greaves Fund, which addresses the persistent structural challenges many filmmakers of color face after producing their first films so that they are able to remain in the field and continue to create vital stories focused on underrepresented people and topics, among others.

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 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, presented in partnership with PBS and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at



Firelight Media

Firelight Media produces documentary films, supports nonfiction filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. We’re #changingthestory.