In 2017 Firelight Media launched an Impact Producer Fellowship to mentor and train a diverse cadre of Impact Producers, professionals that devise and execute strategic campaigns to maximize the reach and impact of documentary films.
The strength of this first-of-its-kind program lies in the mix of Fellows who bring critical skills, issue expertise and diverse lived experiences to the fields of documentary film and impact production.
“With this Fellowship we aim to nurture an ecosystem of producers, cultural strategists, digital communications professionals and movement organizers that can inform the stories being told of diverse communities, and ensure the strategies to disseminate those films are sophisticated and strategic,” says Sonya Childress, Director of Partnerships and Engagement, who directs the Impact Producer Fellowship. “This intervention is part of a deeper narrative change strategy that moves beyond marketing and audience development.”
The inaugural Fellowship graduated a class of eight professionals, including Ani Mercedes (Impact Producer, Councilwoman), Tracy Rector (Impact Producer, Dawnland), Jin Yoo-Kim (Impact Producer, This Woman’s Work) and Sam Tabet (Producer, Love The Sinner).
Firelight opened the call for its second cohort of Fellows in May 2018, and received over 150 applications from nonfiction filmmakers in commercial and public media, seasoned impact producers, and organizers representing the environmental justice, human rights, voting rights, criminal justice reform, healthcare reform, immigrant rights and criminal justice reform movements.
“We believe the enthusiastic response to the call signals an acknowledgement of documentary film as a powerful tool for cultural organizing, and a strong desire among a diverse array of professionals to harness that power,” says Firelight President, Marcia Smith, who co-founded Firelight with master documentarian Stanley Nelson.
The newest cohort of Impact Producer Fellows hail from Detroit, Miami, Durham, Cambridge, Henderson, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and San Francisco. They are:
- Nadia Awad, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and visual artist that currently produces short videos for Lambda Legal and publishes writing on Palestinian movements and cinema.
- Ben-Alex Dupris who recently spent time creating social justice media during the occupation at Standing Rock, and continues his Native advocacy work through his company Antelabbit.
- Elbert Garcia, a Dominican-American based in Miami, is a content and communications strategist dedicated to organizing community voices for change.
- Rajal Pitroda, a San Francisco-based producer, who in addition to her work as a producer and distributor of commercial and independent films, has supported local political campaigns through outreach and voter engagement and has volunteered at sexual assault and domestic violence crisis centers.
- Rahi is an educator, organizer and multimedia artist, experimenting with ways to shift the power held by filmmakers over to the communities being recorded.
- Set Hernandez Rongkilyo is an undocumented immigrant filmmaker and organizer who is from Bicol, Philippines. Set is currently working on projects that explore the criminalization of immigrant communities as well as the connection between immigrant rights and disability rights.
- Ahlam Said is the impact producer for Assia Boundaoui’s feature documentary, “The Feeling of Being Watched.” She cut her teeth as a digital organizer around Arizona’s SB 1070 Law, known as “Show Me Your Papers”, and supported youth during the 2011 uprising in her home country of Yemen.
- Paige Wood is a producer, writer, and creative strategist. Born in Detroit and shaped by its surrounding suburbs, Paige uses film as her form of activism; working to produce projects that subvert and diversify the dominant narratives in today’s media landscape and elevate unheard voices within communities of color.
The Impact Producer Fellows will participate in three retreats and monthly workshops that will expose them to filmmakers, distributors, funders and leaders in the field of nonfiction film impact.
As part of the Fellowship they will attend the International Documentary Association’s Getting Real Conference, and hone their skills on short films produced by Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab Fellows.
Firelight’s Impact Producer Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Andrus Family Fund, Bertha Foundation, and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.