Firelight Media Documentary Lab Announces National Open Call for 2019

The Documentary Lab, An Incubator Program for Diverse Filmmakers, Marks Its 10th Anniversary in 2019

Firelight Media announced the 2019 Open Call for submissions to the 10th year of its Documentary Lab program. The Documentary Lab, launched by Firelight co-founder Stanley Nelson in 2009, is an 18-month fellowship supporting filmmakers of color with mentorship from prominent non-fiction leaders, film funding resources, professional development workshops and networking opportunities. The deadline for all submissions is June 17, 2019.

“A lot has changed since we first started the Documentary Lab ten years ago. Documentaries have become popular, the number of distribution platforms have doubled, and almost everyone agrees that we are experiencing the golden age of documentaries,” says Firelight Vice President and Documentary Lab Director Loira Limbal. “Yet, there are still structural barriers for filmmakers of color to enter into the field. Ten years later we remain steadfast in our belief in the importance of people of color being able to tell their own stories. The Documentary Lab Open Call is an exciting time for us at Firelight because it puts us in direct contact with hundreds of emerging filmmakers of color from all over the U.S. telling nuanced and complex stories informed by their own lived experiences.”

With this anniversary, Firelight’s Documentary Lab moves into its second decade of important work in amplifying underrepresented voices while celebrating key milestones of growth. Unrivaled in its representation of filmmakers of color, the Documentary Lab nurtures an inclusive network of talented unique storytellers to receive ongoing support from conception to completion. Considering the challenges for emerging diverse filmmakers Firelight Media also offers the Next Step Media Fund – a grant supporting fellows in the final phase of production with up to $25,000 towards necessary travel, shooting, editing, and more.

"For 18 months, Firelight offered project support with a level of intention and commitment that allowed me to mostly move calmly through the filmmaking process knowing that I had some of the best talents in the industry to turn to for advice, feedback, and resources when facing challenges great and small,” said Doc Lab alum Jackie Olive on her experience making her film Always in Season.

Previous notable fellows and films include Jason DaSilva’s When I Walk (2013) which won a Jury Award at Hot Docs and went on to win an Emmy Award in 2015; Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Thank You for Playing (2015) which won two Emmys after receiving the Tribeca Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature; and Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’s Whose Streets (2017) which was nominated for Peabody, Gotham and Critics’ Choice Awards.

It’s already been a landmark year for Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab, starting with its presence at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where two of its fellows world premiered films – Jeffrey Palmer’s Words from a Bear and Jackie Olive’s Always in Season which won the Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency. Stanley Nelson also debuted Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool there, his 10th feature to premiere at Sundance  a record for a documentarian. Most recently Doc Lab fellow Yu Gu premiered her documentary feature A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Principal funding for the Documentary Lab has been provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with additional support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Wyncote Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the NY State Council on the Arts.

To find out more about the Documentary Lab application process and eligibility requirements please visit: