Chicken & Egg Pictures announces new Diversity Fellows Initiative, sponsored by The Harnisch Foundation

Chicken & Egg Pictures announced today the launch of the Diversity Fellows Initiative, a new program that supports seven non-fiction projects helmed by first or second-time women filmmakers. The Diversity Fellows Initiative is supported by The Harnisch Foundation, and will bring together participants for six months of tailored mentorship, workshops, and programming with Chicken & Egg Pictures staff.

This inaugural year of the Diversity Fellows Initiative features a partnership with DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States, which includes an educational conference for filmmakers called DOC NYC PRO.

With Creative Partner Chicken & Egg Pictures, DOC NYC has created “Breaking In: New Roadmaps,” an entire day dedicated to diversity at the festival, which is co-presented with The City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and will take place on Thursday, November 19. The day features a full lineup of panels dedicated to exploring where diverse voices and emerging talent can get access to funding and mentorship, as well as develop their careers and artistic voice.

“Chicken & Egg Pictures is committed to discovering and elevating underrepresented voices in documentary filmmaking,” said Executive Director Jenni Wolfson. “We are thrilled to be able to support these nine exceptional filmmakers through our Diversity Fellows Initiative, sponsored by The Harnisch Foundation. We’re equally thrilled that The City of New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment will be joining us as a co-presenter of “Breaking In: New Roadmaps” at DOC NYC, which will share important best practices and resources for emerging artists of diverse backgrounds.”

“The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is committed to supporting opportunities for New Yorkers of all backgrounds to build meaningful careers in the media and entertainment industry,” said MOME Acting Commissioner Luis Castro.  “New York is home to a talented and diverse community of artists. We are proud to partner with Chicken & Egg Pictures and DOC NYC to present “Breaking In: New Roadmaps.”  This day long series will provide invaluable insights to help up-and-coming storytellers forge and grow their careers as well as foster opportunities for diverse artists to create and share their stories.”

Acting Commissioner Castro will help kick off the day with a panel about breaking into filmmaking. The panel includes veteran filmmakers Farihah Zaman (Remote Area Medical), Hao Wu (The Road to Fame) Yoruba Richen (The New Black) and Taj Paxton (Logo/Viacom), sharing lessons learned and advice on how to sustain their creative careers. Additional “Breaking In” panels will be featured throughout Thursday.

Fellows were chosen from over 400 applications to the Accelerator Lab for first and second-time women filmmakers, and received travel grants and stipends, which enabled them to come to New York and participate in Chicken & Egg Pictures’ signature story workshop, led by Creative Director Judith Helfand and Interim Creative Director Yvonne Welbon. As part of this workshop, they will receive personalized follow-up over the next six months to mark progress and receive feedback.

In addition to travel grants and stipends, fellows received an Industry Pass to DOC NYC, moving the filmmakers forward in their careers, enabling them a greater chance of finishing better films, and putting them in a stronger position when they apply for funding from other organizations. Participants also benefit from meeting and making connections with key industry professionals at DOC NYC.

THE CHICKEN & EGG PICTURES DIVERSITY FELLOWS: 2015-2016

BOUGHT, SOLD & RETURNED                                                                       Director: Christina Birkhead – New York
Bought, Sold & Returned is a revealing look into the human trafficking epidemic in Vietnam. The film follows multiple Vietnamese girls who bravely faced impossible odds to make it home after being sold, as they emotionally heal and attempt to regain honorable futures. This delicate film confronts the root causes of human trafficking in Vietnam and highlights shelter and reintegration services enabling many young women to regain their lives after escape.

FLUSH REVOLUTION
Director: Lily Zepeda – Los Angeles
Flush Revolution follows Jack Sim, AKA “Mr. Toilet,” a Singaporean entrepreneur turned social activist who faces impossible odds doing work that others won’t: re-imagining and rebuilding the toilet. Although he has gained global recognition for his work with the UN and the World Toilet Organization, he must make endless sacrifices with no paycheck and a staff of nine to get 2.4 billion people access to safe sanitation. As Mr. Toilet partners with an army of celebrities and world leaders, time will tell if his passion and innovation are a match for India’s largest sanitation assignment in history.

Flush Revolution, directed by Lily Zepeda
Flush Revolution, directed by Lily Zepeda

LADY TOWN
Directors: Siyan Liu & Danni Wang – New York
The bustling southern city of Dongguan is both the manufacturing hub and the sex capital of China. Most of the sex workers were once factory girls. Lady Town explores these two worlds through the lives of two struggling young women. This film follows two young Chinese women with high hopes. Yun, a young mother, wants to escape the crushing drudgery of factory work by starting her own business; while Jolin dreams of becoming an actress, instead of working in the sex industry.

OBSTINATE TO LIVE
Director: Sahra Mosawi – Afghanistan
In Afghanistan where systematic abuses of girls rarely come to light, and seeking justice can be deadly, one young woman says “Enough.” Her name is Khatera and this is her incredible story of love, hope, bravery, forgiveness and truth. It is also one of horrific abuse. Khatera was brutally raped by her father since the age of nine. Today she is twenty-three and raising two precious and precocious children—a daughter and a son—whom he sired.

 

RAJADA DALKA (NATION’S HOPE)
Director: Hana Mire — Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Rajada Dalka is a feature documentary that incarnates the strong will and devotion of the Somali Women National Basketball Team amid an ongoing conflict.

 

SWIMMING ON DRY LAND
Director: Michelle Sérieux – Kingston, Jamaica
Swimming on Dry Land examines the lives of young gay Jamaicans, at a time when the island is debating homosexuality publicly in politics, the press and in churches. The film’s title makes reference to the concept of “fish,” a term used in Jamaica to refer to homosexuals, but also references their marginalization, coupled with an equally strong determination by some of the characters to live and love in Jamaica, despite the odds.

Portrait of Swimming on Dry Land character Simone Harris, whose image was used as the %22face of Jamaica's inaugural Pride JA celebration in August 2015
Portrait of Swimming on Dry Land character Simone Harris, whose image was used as the %22face of Jamaica’s inaugural Pride JA celebration in August 2015

 

UNITED SKATES
Directors: Dyana Winkler & Tina Brown- New York
United Skates follows an underground subculture growing inside our country’s last standing roller rinks. Fusing hip-hop with the speed of old school quad roller skates, this film shines a fresh light on the recurring pattern of racial struggle faced by African American artists, as it follows the next artistic movement still undiscovered by the American mainstream.

Unbeknownst even to the police, there are numerous public spaces across America that have been declared “neutral territory” by rivaling gangs. In the heart of South Central LA, Bloods and Crips put down their weapons each evening and peacefully coexist. These safe havens are found inside the faded walls of our country’s last remaining roller rinks where an underground social and artistic movement is growing under the radar. It took nearly thirty years for mainstream America to discover the brilliance of jazz. Similarly, the blues, R&B, and hip-hop were met with prejudice before being artistically recognized. United Skates will use the talent and fresh style of this world to shine a very different light on racial stereotyping through the eyes of an ex-Crip wife turned community activist, and a skater so determined to save what he loves, that he is about to lose his wife and children in the process.

 

Chicken & Egg Pictures announces grantees for inaugural Accelerator Lab

Chicken & Egg Pictures announced today the selected participants of the inaugural Accelerator Lab. The Accelerator Lab brings together 10 non-fiction projects helmed by first and second-time women filmmakers as part of a brand new program with the goal of providing the necessary tools and environment for talented filmmakers to tell their stories. The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying a diverse group of first and second-time women non-fiction filmmakers and supporting their continued success through various means and initiatives.

These include providing financial assistance by way of grants, as well as creative guidance and support through mentorship workshops, industry connections, and peer support. Participants will receive a two-part grant for the production of their film, which they will develop over the course of the 12-18 month program.

“These filmmakers and projects represent a microcosm of the over 200 filmmakers whom Chicken & Egg Pictures has supported over the last ten years. Our goal is to nurture their talent by providing them with a yearlong creative lab program, a grant of up to $35,000, and a community of women filmmakers who can support and learn from one another,” said Jenni Wolfson, Executive Director of Chicken & Egg Pictures. “We selected these women filmmakers because we believe not only that they are going to make artful and compelling films, but because we believe that these stories must be told and will contribute to changing how we see and respond to the world around us.”

2015 ACCELERATOR LAB PARTICIPANTS:

 A GUANGZHOU LOVE STORY
Director: Kathy Huang
In China, an unprecedented surge in African migration has led to a rise in marriages between Chinese women and African men. A Guangzhou Love Story captures the love, heartache, and real life challenges of Afro-Chinese couples attempting to forge a meaningful future together in the face of racism and xenophobia.

A Guangzhou Love Story, directed by Kathy Huang
A Guangzhou Love Story, directed by Kathy Huang

BY A THREAD
Director: Rina Castelnuovo & Tamir Elterman
By A Thread tells the story of Muhammad (Muhi), a Palestinian child from Gaza and the son of a Hamas activist wanted by Israel. As a newborn, Muhi is transferred to Israel for treatment of a life-threatening condition. Months turn into years and Muhi, now six, has lived his whole life in the Israeli hospital, confined for security reasons to its premises with his grandfather. The film explores Muhi’s contradictory world in which he is treated, raised, and saved by his people’s enemy, while his parents remain in Gaza.

By A Thread is an inside look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s inescapable presence in everyday life and how it shapes those like Muhi who are unwillingly drawn into it.

CUENCA
Director: Isabel Alcántara
San Miguel de Allende is neatly perched at the draining edge of the aptly named “Cuenca de la Independencia (Watershed of Independence).” While it used to be a town overflowing in natural springs, long-term abuse has left its glorious aquifer practically bone-dry. Tourists flood into the city daily as the native communities that surround it evaporate from Mexico’s collective consciousness, their legacy lost forever. Cuenca carefully weaves together the personal journeys of a diverse cast of characters who are riding a wave of civil unrest to create a coalition of resistance against unbridled government corruption that places profits ahead of its people. Driven by the necessity to preserve the richness of the culture as well as that of the region’s ecosystems, Cuenca focuses on the issue at hand and illustrates the steep cost of doing nothing.

Cuenca, directed by Isabel Alcantara
Cuenca, directed by Isabel Alcantara

FLY AWAY
Director: LC Cohen
Fly Away is a film about memory, identity, and growing up told through the eyes of seven siblings and their mother. Five of the children are on the autistic spectrum and as they move through adolescence, an event of the past keeps drawing them back. Combining observational footage with a rich archive of home movies and songs, the film is both a detective story and coming-of-age tale, exploring universal themes of memory, family, and love.

LAWYERS
Director: Hikaru Toda
A story of love, family, and rights, Lawyers is a snapshot of Japan in transition. Fumi and Kazu are life partners, both professionally and privately: they run the first and only law firm in Japan run by an openly gay couple. From activists to artists to vulnerable young people, we see a cross section of Japanese society pass through Kazu and Fumi’s office – their clients and their cases reveal Japan’s changing social landscape and the diversity too often overlooked in its homogenous society. Lawyers also follows Kazu and Fumi’s quest to raise a family. Faced with a legal system that doesn’t allow adoption by same sex couples and having seen firsthand the realities of institutionalized youths, they have begun the process of registering as foster parents.

ROLL RED ROLL
Director: Nancy Schwartzman
The story of a football town divided, Roll Red Roll is a true crime thriller examining sexual assault in small town America.

RULES TO LIVE BY
Director: Hope Litoff
A reflection on the life and suicide of Ruth Litoff, a successful artist, a pathological liar, and the filmmaker’s sister. By looking back on Ruth’s incredible highs and lows, bursts of creative genius, depression, secrets, and lies, a vivid portrait will emerge of the brilliant woman the filmmaker is not sure she ever really knew. This is her attempt to understand what happened.

SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE INCARCERATED
Director: Denali Tiller
Growing up is full of challenges, but for Tre, Maison, and Giana those challenges reach beyond friends, school, and middle school crushes. Sons and Daughters of the Incarcerated tells the story of three children whose fathers are in prison, and a formerly incarcerated mother who is now working to stop the cycle. How do the stigmas of incarceration shape their identities as they struggle to find their places in their communities and the world? What will it take to break the cycle of violence, crime, and imprisonment that pulls so hard on these kids’ lives and millions more like them?

THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED
Director: Assia Boundaoui & Alex Bushe
The Feeling of Being Watched is the first documentary film to tell the story of the War on Terror from the perspective inside an Arab-American neighborhood. Since the early 90’s, people in Bridgeview, IL have stayed quiet about their deep suspicions of living under government surveillance, and no one has ever dug into why the surveillance may have begun. Until now. This film brings to light an under-represented human story and follows the filmmakers as they investigate what really happened, and may still be happening, in Bridgeview.

WHOSE STREETS?
Director: Sabaah Jordan & Damon Davis
A first-hand look at how the murder of one teenage boy became the last straw for a community under siege. Whose Streets? is a story of love, loss, conflict, and ambition; the journey of everyday people turned freedom fighters, whose lives intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation. This is a film for all of America – it provides insight into the unseen reality of racism, the role of media in conflict, state-sanctioned violence, and militarized policing – but at its core it is Ferguson’s story, it is our cry of “enough is enough.”

Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Jordan and Damon Davis
Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Jordan and Damon Davis

Mentorship Selects: How to follow up

Programmers and executives from HBO, Candescent Films, POV, and IFP shared their favorite ways filmmakers follow up:

Re-introduce yourself and your project.
Send a short email with where we met and a one page sheet with all the info about your film.

If you send a link, make sure it’s downloadable and easily accessible.
If it can’t be downloaded for security reasons, explain and ask how many DVDs you should send. Make sure your link has a very easy password so people don’t get frustrated opening it.

Know when to give them some space.
Send another quick email if you don’t hear back but back away after 3 follow-up emails.

Be nice.
If you see the programmer or executive, be friendly. Don’t tell them they didn’t respond or remember you. If they can’t help you personally, they still can be a friend to the project by connecting you with other people who can help you, so keep the lines of communication open and courteous.

Mentorship Selects: How to give confident and compelling interviews

Many filmmakers prefer working behind the camera, not in front of it, but talking about your film on TV, radio, and on panels provides enormous exposure for your film and the issues it tackles. Filmmaker Jessica Devaney and publicist Adam Segal of The 2050 Group joined our New York mentorship to shed some light on media presentations and dispel some common fears around media interviews.

Adam Segal of The 2050 Group presents at Chicken & Egg Pictures mentorship in NYC
Adam Segal of The 2050 Group presents at Chicken & Egg Pictures mentorship in NYC

Here are their tips for giving your best media interviews:

Tell the story you want to tell. 
Remember: as a filmmaker you are a storyteller, not a pundit. In media scenarios you are in charge of the story you present and you can direct the conversation toward what you want people to know about your film. Don’t just answer the questions. Ask yourself: what sentence do I need to say for this to be successful? Make sure you don’t get up till you say that sentence.

Be accessible.
Avoid jargon or overly technical vocabulary; don’t alienate your audience with big words or phrases they might not understand. Neutralize distracting physical tics like touching your hair or fiddling with jewelry.

Do your homework.
Talk to the producer and find out what they’re going to ask you. Look up when they last interviewed someone like you or talked with someone on your topic (via tracie). Observe what kinds of questions they asked or what angle they took.

Keep a cool head.
If you are a person who gets worked up, practice talking about hot button issues without losing your cool. If you make a mistake or say some wrong information, correct it before someone else does.

There’s strength in numbers.
If you want to take the focus off yourself, bring one of your subjects in the film with you.

Make sure your assets and materials are versatile.
Put together clips and assets that can be reused in different settings or shared in a different context.

Mentorship Selects: 7 tips for pitching your film

With the help and guidance of our guest experts and industry friends, we’ve put together this list of our 7 tips to keep in mind when you are pitching your film or project.

Practice, practice, practice.
Pitching is like a performance. If you’re prepared, you will feel and appear more relaxed.

Don’t repeat everything that is in your trailer.
Use every opportunity to share new information about your project.

Accept the feedback and any criticism you get.
Don’t waste time trying to argue; say thank you and hold back defensiveness.

Match your presentation to the tone of your film.
If it is a serious topic, reflect that in your voice.  If it if it is light match that.

Let the images speak for themselves.
Explain the compelling story, not the style. It’s hard to explain style and tone.

Do your research.
Know who you are speaking with and familiarize yourself with their interests and passion issues. Take notes so that when they follow up with you, you can show growth.

Know the landscape.
If you pitch something that sounds like something a distributer has already done, immediately distinguish it. Be humble; don’t say “my film is better;” say that your film “builds on these others because…”

Mentorship Selects: Community screenings as a tool for engagement and impact

Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout joined us to talk about how she sees community screenings as a vehicle for social change. She used her work on Diana Whitten’s film Vessel, a Chicken & Egg Pictures grantee and member of our Reel Reproductive Justice cohort, as a case study of how screenings can activate communities on an issue; in this case, abortion access.

Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout uses Vessel as case study for how to use community screenings as a tool for audience engagement and impact
Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout uses Vessel as case study for how to use community screenings as a tool for audience engagement and impact

 

Here are her strategies for using community screenings to create engagement around your film:

The filmmaker and partners should set goals for what each screening should accomplish.
In some places, Vessel screenings collected ticket fees to fund abortion access, while in areas with limited or no abortion access, bringing the film for free was paramount.

Use the calendar to give the campaign an arc.
For the Vessel screenings, Caitlin utilized the Roe v. Wade anniversary and International Women’s Day to plan special events and incentivise screenings during those days.

Align metaphors in movie with engagement campaign.
For the Vessel screenings, the engagement campaign used metaphors like “going into uncharted waters” to market the events.

Think outside the fee.
Not every group can pay screening fees but you can barter free screenings for translations into other languages and retitling or subtitles, which will help the film reach more places.

Make sure engagement happens offline as well as online.
There was a large audience for Vessel in pro-choice 60-80 year olds who might not be on facebook or using email. Use digital platforms, but remember to make calls to reach your audience.

Survey screening hosts to get feedback, metrics and understand impact.
Send your survey a few weeks after and keep it short, about 15 questions.

Mentorship Selects: Are you my audience? Connecting your film with new communities

Sara Kiener, co-founder of Film Presence and audience engagement expert, begins her outreach campaigns with one essential question: Why are you making this film?

Once you can identify the reasons you are making the film and why it matters, she says, you can can find your audience from there.

Sara Kiener of Film Presence

Here are her suggestions for creatively connecting with new audiences:

Don’t limit yourself to two or three audience groups, when you could go after twenty.
It’s not always easy to predict which groups will be interested in the film, so it’s best to cast a wide net when reaching out to partners. For example, while working on the outreach campaign for Do I Sound Gay?, she connected with anti-bullying organizations, fans of David Sedaris and Dan Savage (both men are featured in the film), This American Life listeners who are familiar with Sedaris from the radio program, and speech therapists interested in the topic of voice, and many more organizations and individuals who could link the film to new audiences.

When you first reach out, don’t ask for money right away.
Start with building a relationship and see how they might be able to help you. An organization might be interested in sharing your posts on social media or sending information about your film around in their circles.

Get personal on social media!
Show pictures from the process of your film being made. Put a quote on top of a picture to make an easy to share post about your film. Ask celebrities who care about the issues in your film to share posts or pictures of themselves in connection to the film.

Sara Kiener of Film Presence presents on audience engagement to a crowd of Chicken & Egg Pictures filmmakers
Sara Kiener of Film Presence presents on audience engagement to a crowd of Chicken & Egg Pictures filmmakers

Filmmaker Dispatch: Jacqueline Olive, director of Always in Season

I’m directing and producing ALWAYS IN SEASON, a documentary that examines the lingering impact of almost a century of lynching African Americans and follows relatives of the perpetrators and victims in three communities who are seeking justice and reconciliation.

The project is particularly relevant in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict the Staten Island police officer who killed Eric Garner. The turmoil the country now faces after repeated incidents of racial violence gone essentially unchecked powerfully demonstrates the unfinished business of confronting lynching. My goal is that Always in Season will move viewers to begin dialogues in their communities about not only ways to address the historical racial violence of lynching, but also strategies for stopping the killing of unarmed people of color by police and vigilantes that is occurring in numbers comparable to the rate of lynchings per week, at its height, across the country.

976708_572632359424330_535601174_o

The emotional intensity of the subject matter is definitely challenging. When I first began to look at the collection of photographs of men, women and children posing with the tortured bodies of lynching victims, it was deeply troubling. But, if I’d refused to look closer, I wouldn’t have learned who the people were in those scenes. Just as importantly, I’ve gotten to know inspiring people who are featured in the film, like Olivia Taylor, who witnessed a lynching at the age of 3, and is part of a multiracial group of amateur actors who reenact the 1946 lynching of two couples annually in Monroe, GA, (outside of Atlanta) on the very spot where the violence happened. And, Rev. David Kennedy, who has spent almost two decades fighting to close the shop that sells KKK robes and neo-Nazi memorabilia right in the middle of downtown Laurens, SC, and less than a mile from where his great-uncle was lynched in 1913. In Duluth, MN, three men were lynched in 1920 with two thousand spectators watching. The film goes there to follow Don Clariette, a cousin of one of the victims, along with Warren Read and Mike Tusken, relatives of some of the perpetrators, as they attempt reconciliation after the first-ever memorial to lynching victims was erected. These stories, of descendants and others taking action to acknowledge the victims, repair the damage, and reconcile, light a path towards healing.

It also doesn’t get any more motivating than the support I’ve received from Chicken & Egg Pictures. We finished principal filming and have begun fundraising to create a rough cut. In the earliest days of production, shortly after using up my own funds to shoot test interviews, Chicken & Egg awarded us an I Believe in You Grant. The name says it all! Not only did they provide funding at exactly the right time to make it possible for us to film, but Chicken & Egg also continues to support the project, most recently granting funds for editing earlier this year. Mentorship workshops, like the one I attended last spring and co-sponsored by another valuable project funder, Catapult Film Fund, are just as important and have prepared me for the editing that lies ahead with critical feedback on character development and structure from fellow filmmakers. In fact, my editor, Michaelle Stikitch, and I used notes from that workshop to revise the work-in-progress by June, and that cut of the film screened at the Cucalorus Festival last month.

Cucalorus was outstanding! The festival gave the project exposure and the team more input as the film screened several times at different venues during the week to audiences of students and educators, community organizers, filmmakers, and more. The experience showed me that Always in Season resonates with a broad audience eager to see the film completed.

If you would like more information on the Always in Season project, or if you would like to support the project, visit www.alwaysinseason.net.

Chicken & Egg Pictures Kicks Off Fall Mentorship with Distribution Day

On Wednesday, October 15, Chicken & Egg Pictures hosted 16 filmmakers in New York City for a full-day workshop with sessions covering International Co-Productions & New Opportunities with Al-Jazeera America, with guest expert Cynthia Kane (Senior Commissioning Producer, Al-Jazeera American); Reversioning for Foreign Sales, Maximizing Opportunities, & Delivery on Deliverables, with guest expert Nina Chaudry (Independent Producer and Former Executive of Wide Angle), and Digital Distribution 101, with guest expert (Susan Margolin, President of Docurama and Cinedigm).Here’s what Julie Englander, director of Home Again and a member of the Chicken & Egg Pictures nest, had to say about the day:

When I got the call in 2011 that I was being awarded a Chicken & Egg Pictures “I Believe in You” grant for my documentary Home Again, I was thrilled. The money and the prestige were awesome rewards, but possibly the most meaningful benefit of the grant was being welcomed into the Chicken & Egg nest.

It was truly inspiring on Wednesday to gather with fellow grantees for Distribution Day, where we convened with Cynthia Kane of Al Jazeera America, Nina Chaudry, Former Executive Producer of Wide Angle, and Susan Margolin of Cinedigm. Though my film is not yet finished, it’s never too early to think about distribution, as nearly every presenter pointed out. As we discussed possible outlets for our projects and how to imagine different versions of the stories we want to tell, the wheels in my head began to turn about the many different directions my film could go in.

In our discussion of what (and what not) to cut when reversioning, one rule that went up on the easel pad was “Time spent laughing is never wasted time.” And time spent brainstorming with other fantastic women, I’ve found, is one of the most productive things a filmmaker can do.