Accelerator Lab Open Call: Apply Now!

Chicken & Egg Pictures is now accepting submissions for the 2019 Accelerator Lab Open Call!

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. In this year-long program, ten projects will receive:

  • a $35,000 in grant funding for the production of their feature-length film;
  • monthly mentorship with members of Chicken & Egg Pictures’ senior creative team;
  • three creative retreats focused on career sustainability and creative development;
  • industry meetings at a major documentary film festival; and
  • peer support from the Accelerator Lab cohort.

A glimpse at current and past projects that Chicken & Egg has supported through the Accelerator Lab program:

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal

To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of nonstop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, NY.

Through the Night is a 2018 Accelerator Lab-supported film and is currently in production.

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11—code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

The Feeling of Being Watched recently premiered at the 2018 TriBeca Film Festival and is also being featured at Hot Docs.

Muhi – Generally Temporary, directed by Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman

Muhi – Generally Temporary, directed by Rina Castelnuovo and Tamir Elterman

Muhi, a cherubic Palestinian toddler with a life-threatening immune disorder, was transported to an Israeli hospital as a baby for emergency treatment. He and his devoted grandfather have lived there ever since, stuck in a bizarre no man’s land, with their extended family living on the other side of a fiercely guarded checkpoint. Their unique and moving story takes place within the crucible of the current relentless Israeli-Palestinian conflict that impacts everyone in its orbit.

Muhi – Generally Temporary premiered at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival and was featured in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival of the same year.

To check out the full list of films supported through the Accelerator Lab program, click here.

The deadline to apply is Monday, June 25th at 3:00 pm EDT. Apply now!

And sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on the Accelerator Lab and other News from the Nest!

Accelerator Lab Open Call starts May 3!

Mark your calendars! The Accelerator Lab Open Call will open on May 3, 2018, 12 pm EST.

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women nonfiction directors working on their first or second feature-length documentary. Each project receives a $35,000 grant in three parts for the production of a film, to be developed over the course of the 12-month program. All directors of the ten projects come together at various points over the course of a year for an intensive period of professional development, tailored mentorship and workshops with industry experts, creatively fusing the art and craft of filmmaking with best practices and peer-to-peer support.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on the Accelerator Lab Open Call and other News from the Nest!

Past grantee projects have included:

32 Pills_Hope Litoff
32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, directed by Hope Litoff

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, directed by Hope Litoff
Premiered at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival
Now available on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO GO.

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.

The Feeling of Being Watched_Assia Boundaoui
The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui

The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui
Premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11—code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.

Whose Streets_Sabaah Folayan_Damon Davis
Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, co-directed by Damon Davis

Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan, co-directed by Damon Davis
Premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Now available on DVD and streaming

A firsthand 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. Set in Ferguson, MO, the film follows the journey of everyday people whose lives are intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation.

Announcing our 2018 Diversity Fellows Initiative Grantees

From left to right: A Prince From Outer Space: Zeki Müren; The In Between; The Letter; Omnipresence; and Commuted.

Congratulations to our 2018 Diversity Fellows: Beyza Boyacioglu; Robie Flores; Nadia Hallgren; Nailah Jefferson; and Maia von Lekow, with co-director Chris King; hailing from Istanbul, Turkey; Eagle Pass, TX; New Orleans, LA; The Bronx, NY; and Nairobi, Kenya, respectively.

In addition to a $5,000 grant and a seven-month mentorship program, the Fellows will come together in upstate New York for a multiday storytelling retreat aimed to help develop and strengthen their film’s narratives. “This year we’ll be doing a deep dive into storytelling,” says Lucila Moctezuma, Director of Programs at Chicken & Egg Pictures. “The five-day retreat will allow our Diversity Fellows to have complete focus on their art and provide them with the space to learn from one another’s diverse perspectives and artistic practices. We are so thrilled to be working with these exceptional group of women filmmakers who have such important stories to tell and such special ways of telling them.”  

The Diversity Fellows Initiative is made possible with the generous support of The Harnisch Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Time Warner Foundation.

For additional information, please visit our Programs page. Participants of the Diversity Fellows Initiative are chosen through the Accelerator Lab Open Call process. The 2019 Accelerator Lab Open Call will launch on May 3.

2018 Diversity Fellows Initiative Grantees

 

A Prince From Outer Space: Zeki Müren, directed by Beyza Boyacioglu

This experimental, multilayered film uses Zeki Müren, Turkey’s most celebrated singer and modern day queer icon, as a prism to explore the country’s internal contradictions, from its founding as a modern, secular nation to the current crisis. Zeki, “Turkey’s Liberace,” was a chameleon-like figure. He expertly used his celebrity to navigate societyallowing audiences to see in him only what they wanted to see. The film deconstructs how myths are made and consumed, as it provides a window onto Turkey, a nation existing between the worlds of the east and of the west while belonging to neither.

Beyza Boyacioglu is a filmmaker and artist from Istanbul, currently based in New York. Her work has been exhibited in MoMA Documentary Fortnight, IDFA, RIDM, Anthology Film Archives, Morelia International Film Festival, Brooklyn Museum, Maysles Cinema, and !f Istanbul, among others. She was a part of MIT Open Documentary Lab between 2014–2017. She’s been a fellow at UnionDocs, Flaherty Seminar, and Greenhouse. She holds an MASc in Comparative Media Studies from MIT and an MFA in Computer Art from SVA.

 

The In Between, directed by Robie Flores

At the intersection of the northern Mexico desert and the plains of southwest Texas exists a symbiotic community. Here, people’s lives are spread across two countries, connected by a bridge that everyone must travel. For some, crossing to the other side means getting to work or school. For others, life straddling the border is the only way to keep their family together. Through a collection of interweaving vignettes, The In Between is a poetic ode to a greater reality of the border than the one portrayed on the news, offering a nuanced and intimate portrait of a place and its people at the heart of Mexican-American identity.

Robie Flores grew up on the US/Mexico border. She is an independent filmmaker and video editor based in New York City. She previously worked with Loki Films as an assistant on Detropia, The Education of Mohammed Hussein, and ESPN’s Nine for IX documentary, Branded. Her work has appeared on CNN and Bloomberg and has been featured by Teen Vogue, Fusion, Allure, and i-D Vice. The In Between is her first feature film.

Omnipresence, directed by Nadia Hallgren

A look at the complexities of a South Bronx housing project over the course of a summer.

Nadia Hallgren is an award-winning filmmaker and director of photography from The Bronx, New York. With a focus on vérité storytelling, her cinematography credits include the Sundance award-winner Motherland (2017), Academy Award-nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner Trouble the Water (2008), and Sundance award-winner Trapped (2016). She has directed short films and series for Field of Vision, Topic, and PBS; and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a 2018 Concordia Studio Artist in Residence, and an alum of International Center of Photography. Most recently, Nadia won the special jury prize at SXSW 2018 for an independent episodic series she directed about women running for office in response to Trump being elected.

Commuted, directed by Nailah Jefferson

Commuted tells the story of Danielle Metz, a 52-year-old woman trying to find her footing after spending nearly half of her life in prison. In 2016 Danielle’s was one of 568 life sentences President Obama overturned. Her life story is just one example of how the US criminal justice system impacts black families—before she was incarcerated, she had lost one boyfriend to police violence, another to a wrongful conviction, and then found herself in prison due to involvement with her husband’s drug ring. As Danielle starts to right her path, we reflect with her on a life interrupted.

Nailah Jefferson’s first film, Vanishing Pearls, told the story of a little known African American oyster fishing community and their fight for justice after the BP oil spill. After acquisition by ARRAY/AFFRM, Vanishing Pearls streams on The Urban Movie Channel. Nailah was nominated for a 2017 National Magazine Ellie award for Essence Magazine’s Black Girl Magic Episode 4. Nailah’s first narrative, Plaquemines, was chosen as an American Black Film Festival HBO Shorts finalist and is available on HBO, HBO GO, and HBO On Demand.

The Letter, directed by Maia von Lekow & Chris King

This story happens in rural coastal Kenya. When Karisa, a young artist living in the coastal city of Mombasa, reads a Facebook post accusing his Grandma of being a witch, he decides to return to his rural home to confront the accusations against her. The accusers, Karisa’s uncles, demand that Grandma repent and be exorcised in a Pentecostal ceremony. The story evolves into a family confrontation between those trying to protect Grandma and those condemning her. At the end, love and care triumph against superstition and economic interest.

In today’s post-colonial Kenya, the disturbing trend of witchcraft accusations, often resulting in the murder of an elder, is being used to cover up hundreds of family disputes over land, inheritance, and money. The Letter is a story through the lens of a single family highlighting the universal issues of elderly abuse and greed.

Maia von Lekow is a Kenyan musician and filmmaker. Fusing her music with a healthy fascination of people and culture, Maia has worked as director, producer, and sound recordist on several music videos and corporate films. She was named a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR on World Refugee Day 2013, and has received an African Movie Academy Award for her song “Uko Wapi.” A performing artist in her own right, Maia has appeared on several Kenyan broadcasts and maintains strong links with producers and presenters in the region.

The Letter is Maia’s first feature documentary. Maia will compose original music for the film.

Chris King is an award-winning filmmaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. Born in Australia, Chris studied at The School of Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne with honors in Visual Media. Chris has lived in Kenya full-time since 2007, working as a cinematographer, editor, animator, director, and producer in both factual and non-factual shorts, features, and music videos. In 2009, Chris co-founded Circle and Square Productions with his wife Maia and, in the same year, received an African Movie Academy Award in Editing for his work on the Kenyan feature film, From a Whisper.

Four Nest-supported Films at the 2018 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

The annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will feature four Chicken & Egg-supported films this year! Held in Durham, North Carolina, the festival attracts filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world, creating a dynamic and culturally diverse experience for all involved.

The festival will run from April 5-8. Check out the entire list of films here. Purchase individual screening tickets here.

Dark Money, directed by Kimberly Reed (2018 Discretionary Grant Recipient)

A century ago, corrupt money swamped Montana’s legislature, but Montanans rose up to prohibit corporate campaign contributions. Today, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—which allows unlimited, anonymous money to pour into elections nationwide—Montana is once again fighting to preserve open and honest elections. Following an investigative reporter through a political thriller, Dark Money exposes one of the greatest threats to American democracy.

The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim

A group of Egyptian revolutionaries battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience.

Kings of Pastry  (2010 Celebration Award Recipient), directed by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker

On Her Shoulders directed by Alexandria Bombach (2018 SXSW LUNA / Chicken & Egg Pictures Award recipient)

***

Chicken & Egg Pictures also wants to give a special shout-out to the following films by Nest-supported filmmakers whose latest films will also be featured at the 2018 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival!

Still from Inventing Tomorrow, directed by Laura Nix

Capturing the Flag directed by Anne de Mare (director of the Nest-supported film, The Homestretch)
Control Room directed by Jehane Noujaim (director of the Nest-supported film, The Square)
Rafea: Sola Mama directed by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaeif
Startup.com directed by Chris Hegedus (2010 Celebration Award recipient) and Jehane Noujaim
The Pushouts directed by Katie Galloway (director of the Nest-supported film, The Return)
Inventing Tomorrow directed by Laura Nix (Breakthrough Film Awards recipient 2018)
This Is Home directed by Alexandra Shiva (Chicken & Egg Pictures Board of Directors)
The Unafraid directed by Heather Courtney and Anayansi Prado (2017 Chicken & Egg Pictures mentee)

Post by 2018 Spring Programs Intern Dinayuri Rodriguez.

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
After a spate of mysterious illnesses and deaths, a community in Mexico discovers its water is radioactive. What unfolds is a story of resilience, conviction and the lies we tell ourselves about our dwindling resources.

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.