MacArthur Awards for Creative & Effective Institutions

Firelight Media

New York, New York | 2015 Award Recipient

Supporting diverse documentary filmmakers to tell untold stories

Firelight Media is a talent incubator and documentary accelerator for minority filmmakers with important stories to tell.

Firelight’s signature program, the Producers’ Lab, mentors and trains emerging filmmakers of color to successfully produce, finance, complete, and distribute their independent film projects.

Producers’ Lab Fellows receive one-on-one, long-term, expert mentorship from Firelight founder and filmmaker Stanley Nelson and a team of award-winning producers, writers, editors, and other media professionals. Fellows also receive funding through the Next Step Media Fund and participate in professional development workshops. It has nurtured the careers of filmmakers of color who have gone on to complete multiple, critically acclaimed documentary films on important social issues, including Jason DaSilva (When I Walk), Byron Hurt (Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Soul Food Junkies), Christina Ibarra (Las Marthas), Dawn Porter (Gideon’s Army, Spies of Mississippi), and Yoruba Richen (Promised Land, The New Black).

The Producers’ Lab has been widely recognized for its role in helping promising producers of color build careers and significantly diversifying PBS programming. Since its founding in 2009, the Lab has assisted more than 35 emerging filmmakers, 16 of whom secured full funding for their first full-length projects and national broadcasts or theatrical releases of their films. Firelight is currently expanding the Producers’ Lab to serve a greater number of filmmakers across the country.

Firelight has developed dynamic campaigns that maximize the reach and impact of films through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, educational and resource materials, and creative online and offline screening events. Firelight’s engagement services have been utilized for many high-profile films, such as Favela Rising, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, The Interrupters, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summer.

Firelight will use its $500,000 MacArthur Award to expand its reserves and establish an innovation fund so it can experiment with new digital storytelling platforms.

Grantee Profile: Learn more about Firelight Media

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