Groundwork Ohio: Supporting Emerging Midwestern Filmmakers

Firelight Media
4 min readJul 22, 2022
Groundwork Ohio participants with staff from Firelight Media and Ideastream Public Media

Firelight Media was thrilled to return to in-person Groundwork Regional Lab convenings in June with Groundwork Ohio in Cleveland. The Lab was led by Chloë Walters-Wallace, Firelight Media’s director of regional initiatives; supported by Weenta Girmay, regional initiatives coordinator; and presented in partnership with local public media and film organizations.

Firelight Media’s Groundwork Regional Lab is designed to support diverse, emerging documentary filmmakers living and working in under-represented regions of the U.S and U.S. territories. By providing an introduction to the documentary landscape and the opportunities that exist for early-career filmmakers, our goal is to help position them for national opportunities as well as to increase public television stations’ capacity to leverage the talent and content of diverse, local makers.

Learn more about Groundwork Ohio below — and meet some of the local filmmakers who participated!

Groundwork Ohio was held from June 3 through June 5 in Cleveland, Ohio. Firelight Media partnered with Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland International Film Festival, and No Evil Eye to provide Groundwork participants with an overview of the local media landscape and filmmaking opportunities. The Lab, which was co-facilitated by Jeanelle Augustin, manager of Film Fellowships and Artist Development at NBCUniversal, included an overview of Ideastream Public Media’s programs and a tour of their facilities; a workshop on fundraising and grant writing; and an instructional overview of the Documentary Core Application and how to create a compelling case for project support as a filmmaker. In addition to the presentations by local partners, Groundwork Ohio participants were treated to a curated documentary short film program by filmmaker and film programmer Amir George, designed to showcase the virtuosity and craft of the format.

Groundwork Ohio participants touring Ideastream Public Media

Groundwork Ohio participants included:

  • Claudia Owusu — Claudia is a Ghanaian-American writer and filmmaker based in Columbus, Ohio. Her short films have screened at the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, Ohio Shorts Film Festival, and the No Evil Eye Micro Cinema. Her documentary short film Ampe Study; or Leap into the Sky Black Girl is the winner of BlackStar Pitch 2021. Her feature documentary, How One Young Columbus Activist is Leading a Fight to Remove Police from Schools, is forthcoming with Frame Media.
  • Alexis McCrimmon — Alexis is a filmmaker whose non-fiction and experimental films explore geographies of power, hauntological subjects, and the materiality of ritual practice. Her work has been programmed nationally and internationally including the Athens International Film and Video Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, BFI Flare, Frameline, Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, East End Film Festival, and MIX NYC, among other venues.
  • Shelli Reeves — Shelli is the director of Reframe History, an organization dedicated to keeping stories alive through archiving the past, recording the present, and advocating for the future. She previously served as a community engagement specialist at Ideastream Public Media, Cleveland’s PBS/NPR station where she co-created projects focused on toxic stress and racism as a public health crisis with people who lived in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
  • Elisa Clark — Elisa is the head of the Spanglish Media Groupe, LLC, a female, Hispanic-helmed production company dedicated to making films and other media promoting stories of the underrepresented. Elisa was a founding member of the Ohio chapter of Women In Film and served as the chapter president from 2017 to 2020.
  • Stacey Malone — Stacey is an award-winning actress, producer, director and screenwriter. Her film credits include writing the script “A Split Second,” for which she won an award at the 2013 Indie Gathering Film Festival; and creator, writer, producer, and director of the web series “The Greek Chronicles,” currently streaming on YouTube; and the 2018 independent film I’m Having an Affair with My Wife. Stacey is currently working with Kool House Media on a documentary about Cleveland’s impact on Hip Hop, due out in 2022.

Learn more about the Groundwork Regional Lab and Firelight Media’s other artist support programs by visiting



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