Firelight Media-Supported Filmmakers Selected for 2021 Wyncote Fellowship at PBS Annual Meeting
Firelight Media participated in the Wyncote Fellowship program at this year’s PBS Annual Meeting, which took place on May 11–12 and May 17–20. On hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program resumed this year with a virtual format focusing on providing fellows with a greater understanding of the PBS ecosystem and positioning independent filmmakers as a vital part of the future public media in our democracy. The Wyncote Fellowship was a collaboration between PBS Indies partners Firelight Media, POV, ITVS, Reel South, and America ReFramed on WORLD Channel.
“Wyncote was proud to support another cohort of independent makers attending PBS Annual Meeting” said David Haas, vice chair of Wyncote Foundation. “Providing these fellowships for filmmakers, along with a similar program for PBS station staff to attend the biennial IDA Getting Real conference, bolsters public media’s mission to amplify diverse voices, by strengthening relationships and deepening awareness of the challenges and opportunities in the system.”
Over two weeks, the Wyncote Fellows participated in closed sessions and met with PBS leadership and station staff. Consultants Artemis Independent scheduled one-on-one meetings between filmmakers and stations in over 20 key markets that were tailored to program-specific goals and objectives. Half of the fellows have received support from Firelight Media, including Ashley O’Shay, Ursula Liang, Julianna Brannum, Li Lu, Emily Cohen Ibañez, Sian-Pierre Regis, Jasmín López, CJ Hunt, Dilsey Davis, and Amman Abbasi.
AMMAN ABBASI is a Pakistani-American writer-director, editor, and composer from Little Rock, Arkansas. Filmmaker Magazine listed him among the 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2016. His film DAYVEON premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, was an Official Selection of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, and went on to get two Film Independent Spirit Award nominations in 2018, including in the coveted Someone to Watch category. Abbasi’s upcoming projects include THE QUENCH (Co-writer/Director), which is set up at BRON Studios. Prior to narrative films, Abbasi had worked in documentary for several years, traveling the world and discovering undocumented stories. In 2011, while working with the Renaud Brothers, Abbasi traveled to Haiti to cover the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake for The New York Times for a documentary piece, which went on to win the prestigious duPont Award. Abbasi has most recently spoken at the roundtable seminar at 2019 Cannes Film Festival and also guest lectured at Columbia University’s MFA program in 2018. As an editor, Abbasi worked on LAST CHANCE HIGH in 2015, which received an Emmy nomination for outstanding editing. As a music composer, Abbasi’s music compositions have appeared in several commercials, films, and documentaries, and most recently he was a music consultant for HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2020). In 2008, he and his brother’s debut album, Something Like Nostalgia, topped the charts in Japan. Abbasi’s forthcoming documentary short, Udaan (Soar), will premier as part of Firelight Media, CAAM and Reel South’s series HINDSIGHT.
DEANN BORSHAY LIEM has over twenty years experience working in development and production of independently produced documentaries. She is Producer/Director/Writer of FIRST PERSON PLURAL, IN THE MATTER OF CHA JUNG HEE, GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP, MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN WAR and the forthcoming CROSSINGS. She has produced and consulted on a variety of award-winning films including THE APOLOGY; BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY; ISHI’S RETURN; SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES; BURQA BOXERS; MIMI & DONA; KELLY LOVES TONY; and AKA DON BONUS. A former Sundance Institute fellow, Liem is the 2018 recipient of the Women, Peace and Security Fellowship from the San Francisco Film Society.
JULIANNA BRANNUM is an indigenous documentary film producer and director. She began her career directing THE CREEK RUNS RED for PBS’s Independent Lens in 2007. She later went on to produce WE SHALL REMAIN: WOUNDED KNEE with Stanley Nelson at Firelight Media and PBS’s American Experience. More recently, Julianna directed and produced the PBS documentary feature film, LADONNA HARRIS: INDIAN 101 and was Series Producer of the acclaimed PBS series NATIVE AMERICA. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and is a citizen of the Comanche Nation.
ELEGANCE BRATTON began making films as a US Marine after a decade spent homeless. Today, he holds a BS from Columbia University (2014) and MFA from NYU Tisch Graduate Film (2019). He wrote and will direct the feature, THE INSPECTION, which is fully financed by Gamechanger & A24. The film was selected as a part Film Independent Producers Lab and Fasttrack (2019). He is the creator and executive producer of the Viceland television series MY HOUSE. PIER KIDS is his feature documentary debut has played at 50 film festivals worldwide, won many awards, including the 2021 Independent Spirit Award for Truer Than Fiction. His short film, BUCK, premiered domestically at Sundance 2020 and the London Film Festival (BFI) 2020. He is one of Indiewire’s 25 LBGT faces to watch (2019).
EMILY COHEN IBAÑEZ is a Latinx filmmaker with Colombian and Syrian Jewish heritage. She was a Fulbright Scholar based in Colombia and earned her doctorate in Anthropology with a certificate in Culture and Media at New York University. Her film work pairs lyricism with social activism, advocating for labor, environmental, and health justice. Her directorial feature documentary debut, FRUITS OF LABOR premiered at SXSW 2021.
MAYA CUEVA is a Latina award-winning director and producer. Her work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, Latino USA, The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, and National Geographic. Her feature film, ON THE DIVIDE, will be premiering at Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. Her short documentary, THE PROVIDER, was awarded a student Emmy. Maya was a 2019 North Star Fellow, a 2019 Film Independent Documentary Lab fellow, and a fellow at the Jacob Burns Film Center. Her most recent short documentary ALE LIBRE screened at several Oscar qualifying festivals, including Big Sky Documentary Festival, Hot Docs, Aspen Film Festival, and SFFILM.
DILSEY DAVIS’ life mission is to use the Arts, and particularly film, to advance society by building social bridges and fostering a greater understanding of the equality of all people. Dilsey is the founder of Café con Leche Media. Recently, she produced and directed four documentary shorts for ITVS/Independent Lens on rural jails in North Carolina and Tennessee. One of them, DAUGHTERS OF ADDICTION was broadcast on PBS last fall. She was also selected as one of 6 filmmakers for the HINDSIGHT Project. Her film, NOW LET US SING follows members of the interfaith, interracial One Human Family Choir during the pandemic.
LEAH GALANT is a Jewish filmmaker based in New York. Her film DEATH METAL GRANDMA premiered at SXSW 2018, is a NY Times Op Doc, and won Best Documentary at Cannes American Pavilion. In 2015, she was named one of Variety’s “110 Students to Watch in Film and Media”. Leah was a Sundance Ignite and Jacob Burns Film Center Fellow and is a member of Meerkat Media worker-cooperative film production company in Sunset Park, NY. Leah serves as the Director and Director of Photography on her feature debut, ON THE DIVIDE which will premiere at Tribeca Film Festival in 2021.
CJ HUNT is a comedian and filmmaker living in NYC. He is currently a field producer on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He has also served as a staff writer for A&E’s Black and White, and a field producer for BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede. CJ is a fellow with New America and Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab. During his eight years living in New Orleans he began what he thought would be a short film about a local confederate monument removal. That short has grown into the feature length documentary THE NEUTRAL GROUND, airing nationwide on POV July 5th.
JALENA KEANE-LEE’s filmmaking explores intergenerational trauma and healing through an intersectional lens. She co-founded Breaktide Productions, an all women of color video production company that has won two Cannes Lion awards for branded content. Jalena’s film STANDING ABOVE THE CLOUDS won best short documentary at LA Asian Pacific Film Festival and Special Jury Mention from the Center for Asian American Media, and is playing on the Criterion Collection. She has been supported by NeXt Doc, Jacob Burns Film Center, Nia Tero, CNN Films, and won Tribeca Through Her Lens 2020.
URSULA LIANG has worked for The New York Times Op-Docs, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, ESPN The Magazine, Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, StirTV, the Jax Show, Hyphen magazine, New Yorker Festival, the 2050 Group publicity, and currently freelances as a film and television producer and story consultant. Her credits include: ONE OCTOBER, THIRD ACT, UFC COUNTDOWN, UFC PRIMETIME, TOUGH LOVE. She is a member of Film Fatales, A-DOC, and sits on the executive board of Brown Girls Doc Mafia. Liang grew up in Newton, Mass. and lives in the Bronx, NY. Her debut feature, 9-MAN, was broadcast on public television and called “an absorbing documentary” by The New York Times. Her latest film, DOWN A DARK STAIRWELL, had its premiere at True/False and was called “a vital picture of a tumultuous time” by Vox.
JASMÍN LÓPEZ is a journalist, audio producer and filmmaker. Born in the U.S. with familial roots in México, her childhood was affected by issues experienced on both sides of the U.S.- México border. This instilled in her a strong passion for immigrant rights, youth empowerment, and social change. Jasmin founded Project Luz, which taught Mexican youth to document stories from within their communities. Her documentary DEADLY DIVIDE: MIGRANT DEATH ON THE BORDER received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Award in 2015. Jasmin has garnered support for her work from organizations like Chicken & Egg Pictures, Black Public Media, Sundance Institute, ITVS, Firelight Media and Creative Capital.
LI LU was born in Suzhou, China and raised in Sugar Land, TX. She received her BA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, graduating cum laude.Her debut feature THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE won three Best Feature awards. A TOWN CALLED VICTORIA, a docuseries about an arson of a Texas mosque, has garnered support from the Sundance Institute, Firelight Media, Austin Film Society, Reel South, CAAM, ITVS, and others. It will premiere nationwide on PBS in 2022. Currently, Li directs narrative television and is developing episodic and featureÂ projects. A maker of fiction and documentary films, her form-fluid work aims to create social impact and expand BIPOC representation.
DEBBIE LUM is a San Francisco-based filmmaker whose stories give voice to the Asian American experience. TRY HARDER! about San Francisco’s iconic Lowell High School premiered at 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will premiere on Independent Lens. Her previous documentary, SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE (SXSW) was a “fan favorite” on PBS’ Independent Lens, won Best of Fest (Silverdocs) and was featured in This American Life. Her editing credits include A.K.A DON BONUS (POV) and KELLY LOVES TONY (POV). She has also directed two short comedies, A Great Deal! and Chinese Beauty and is currently developing a documentary about “Tiger Moms”.
ASHLEY O’SHAY is a director-DP based in Chicago, IL, whose work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She has collaborated with a number of national brands, including Nike, KQED, Wilson Tennis, and Dr. Martens. Most recently, she filmed the final episode of Dr. Martens’ “Tough As You” series, starring the band Phony Ppl, accruing over 65K views on social and web. Her work also appeared in the critically-acclaimed Lifetime docuseries, SURVIVING R. KELLY. Most recently, she premiered her debut feature, UNAPOLOGETIC, a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, told through the experiences of two young, Black queer women. The film premiered at the 2020 BlackStar Film Festival and was shortlisted for the International Documentary Association Awards.
KELSEY PETERSON is a dancer, writer, filmmaker and quadriplegic. Her previous path was interrupted when she sustained a spinal cord injury in 2012 and became paralyzed from the chest down. Despite her injury, Kelsey continues to dance, now from a wheelchair. She currently serves as co-director, choreographer and dancer on a live music and dance production featuring inter-abled artists called, A Cripple’s Dance. Her choreographic background lends to her storytelling, which she also leans on in her documentary film, MOVE ME. Artistic advocacy for people with disabilities is her passion, using storytelling as a means of education, visibility and empathy.
SIAN-PIERRE REGIS is a filmmaker whose debut feature DUTY FREE made its World Premiere at DOCNYC in 2020, where it was a top-grossing film and runner up for the Audience Award. The film, which will be widely distributed in 2021, was a press magnet, racking in positive reviews from The Hollywood Reporter, CBS, and coverage in People, ABC, NYTimes and more. Prior to filmmaking, Regis was an on-camera contributor to CNN, HLN, MTV and founded Swagger, an online lifestyle magazine with over 1.5 million fans.
JERRY RISIUS has a 25-plus year career dedicated to documentary cinematography. His clients include: HBO, Showtime, PBS (Frontline, NOVA, Nature, Wide-Angle, Independent Lens), CNN, National Geographic, among others. He has worked on award winning documentaries and his television work has won multiple Emmys, Peabody’s, among other festival awards. STORM LAKE is his directorial debut.
He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and daughters.
SAI SELVARAJAN was born in Sri-Lanka on a Wednesday night during a coup d’etat. He grew up in Nigeria playing soccer and eating bananas. He brings a fierce passion for storytelling, coupled with great design acumen, resulting in stylistically intense pieces that linger through their emotional resonance.
BROOKE SWANEY (Blackfeet/Salish) works to tell Native stores. DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD (Maoriland, Hot Docs, Human Rights Watch) is her first feature documentary. Most recently and notably she made the Blacklist’s Inaugural Indigenous List with TINDER ON THE REZ along with her co-writer Angela Tucker. She also produced BELLA VISTA (Rotterdam), SIXTY FOUR FLOOD (PBS & PBS Digital) and the podcast ALL MY RELATIONS with Matika Wilbur and Dr. Adrienne Keene. In 2019, she was selected to participate as a NATIVe Fellow at the European Film Market/Berlinale. She holds an MFA in Film from NYU.
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 of color. Firelight Media also produces digital short film series, including In the Making, with PBS American Masters, and the forthcoming Hindsight series with Reel South and the Center for Asian American Media. In addition to a focus on excellence in filmmaking, Firelight Media develops strategies, partnerships, and materials to reach and engage diverse audiences and maximize the impact of documentary films.
ITVS is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that has, for over 25 years, funded and partnered with a diverse range of documentary filmmakers to produce and distribute untold stories. ITVS incubates and co-produces these award-winning films and then airs them for free on PBS via our weekly series, Independent Lens, as well as on other PBS series and through our digital platform, OVEE. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Produced by American Documentary, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television. Since 1988, POV has presented films on PBS that capture the full spectrum of the human experience, with a long commitment to centering women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. In 2018, POV Shorts launched as one of the first PBS series dedicated to bold and timely short-form documentaries. To date, POV films have won 42 Emmy Awards, 25 George Foster Peabody Awards, 14 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards and the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award. Learn more at pbs.org/pov and follow @povdocs on social media.
About Reel South
The people, culture, landscape and history of the South both captivate and bewilder. In the cherished tradition of Southern storytelling, Reel South reveals the South’s proud yet complicated heritage, as told by a diversity of voices and perspectives. Reel South is a cooperative documentary series between the South’s PBS-member stations: PBS North Carolina, South Carolina ETV, Alabama Public Television, Arkansas PBS, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Texas Tech Public Media, and Virginia’s VPM. Support for Reel South is brought to audiences by the National Endowment for the Arts, Center for Asian American Media, and by SouthArts.
About America ReFramed
America ReFramed is a year-round anthology series airing on the WORLD Channel. Every year, the series premieres a dozen new documentaries in addition to thematic curation from its deep catalog that explore the nation’s most timely topics–including civil rights, immigration, the environment, and more.Entering its tenth season in 2022, America ReFramed is long regarded as a critical platform for diverse voices in public media and a launchpad for new independent filmmakers. In 2020, the season supported over 46 filmmakers with acquisition fees, national broadcasts and marketing campaigns. Digital engagement strategies include live online film chats alongside broadcast on Twitter and a presence on both the American Documentary and WORLD Channel websites.
About WORLD Channel
WORLD Channel tells stories that humanize complex issues. WORLD shares the best of public media in news, documentaries, and fact-based informational programming that helps us understand conflicts, movements and cultures that may be distinct from our own. WORLD’s original content offers a national platform to makers examining issues too often ignored by mainstream media. These emerging and master filmmakers spotlight a diversity of voices, telling stories not heard elsewhere. WORLD has won a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and numerous national honors — including an RTNDA Kaleidoscope Award, a Media for a Just Society Award, two Lesbian & Gay Journalist Awards, a Gracie, and an Asian American Journalists Award. Carried by 159 partner stations in markets representing almost 66% of US TV households, WORLD can also be experienced via WORLDChannel.org and social media platforms.