Firelight Launches New Fellowship for Diverse Impact Producers – Meet the Inaugural Cohort

TOP ROW L-R: ANI MERCEDES, CARMEN DIXON, JULIEN TERRELL, TRACY RECTOR; BOTTOM ROW L-R: JUMOKE BALOGUN, JIN YOO-KIM, ILIANA SOSA, SAM TABET

TOP ROW L-R: ANI MERCEDES, CARMEN DIXON, JULIEN TERRELL, TRACY RECTOR; BOTTOM ROW L-R: JUMOKE BALOGUN, JIN YOO-KIM, ILIANA SOSA, SAM TABET

Firelight has announced the Impact Producer Fellowship, the first-ever training program dedicated to mentoring and training impact producers of color. Impact Producers work alongside filmmakers to produce campaigns that maximize the reach and impact of films.

Launched in February 2017, the inaugural cohort includes 8 organizers and producers from CA, TX, WA, NY, FL, DC and PA. They will participate in three retreats and monthly online roundtables that will expose them to filmmakers, distributors, funders and leaders in the field of nonfiction film impact.

Firelight’s Impact Producer Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Andrus Family Fund, Embrey Family Foundation and Bertha Philanthropies.

The 8 producers selected for the inaugural event follow below, with bios:

— JIN YOO-KIM – Los Angeles, CA

Jin Yoo-Kim is currently co-producing filmmaker Yu Gu’s feature documentary, A Woman’s Work, following the NFL cheerleaders’ fight for wage equality. Some of her past directorial film projects range in subject matter from an underground student movement fighting racism in the administration, the prophetic dreams pregnant Korean women have, the raw vegan subculture, Korean immigrants navigating the US healthcare system, Asian American women attempting to define their sexuality, and a bio-pic of a struggling Korean American indie musician. She worked for documentary filmmakers like Bill Guttentag and Rory Kennedy, and is most excited about working with Yu Gu and Elizabeth Ai on A Woman’s Work. Jin was born in Bolivia (the poorest country in South America) but is of Korean descent and as a result, her passion for immigrant stories and global social inequality was sparked. Through film, she hopes to bridge the difference gap between people, cultures, socioeconomic status, races, and nations.

— JUMOKE BALOGUN – Washington, D.C.

From a groundbreaking report focused on ending the criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color, to an award-winning public history exhibition that debunked accepted truths about World War I, to a website that challenged the official government narrative of Hurricane Katrina, Jumoke Balgun has spent the entirety of her career finding compelling ways to elevate the dignity of people of color. She does this by writing, creating media strategies, and designing digital content that highlight the genius of the most impacted. She has done this on Capitol Hill, in rural Mississippi, upstate New York, Little Haiti in Miami, Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, New Orleans and at the White House. Currently a writer living in Washington D.C., Balgun was most recently an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration and she is excited to gain new tools as a Firelight fellow.

— SAM TABET – Brooklyn, NY

Sam Tabet is a Brooklyn based creative producer and cinematographer. Sam produced Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Tribeca Film Festival, HotDocs, IDFA 2016) which had its television premiere on Investigation Discovery to one million viewers this fall. The critically acclaimed film helped exonerate the ‘San Antonio Four’. Sam was also the assistant producer for award-winning feature documentary Call Me Kuchu (Berlin Film Festival, HotDocs 2012) and produced SIGNIFIED, a multi-media archive of LGBTQ testimony featuring the work of queer artists and activists. Sam previously worked at Chicken & Egg Pictures, NewFest and American Documentary, POV, and hold a B.A. from Connecticut College in Film and Gender studies. Sam is a founder of the Queer Producers Collective.

— JULIEN TERRELL – Philadelphia, PA

Julien A.Terrell was born and raised in Harlem where he first developed his passion for social justice. He began organizing on issues of gentrification and environmental justice in Buffalo and NYC connecting this work to the preservation of cultural and community spaces. From 2008-2016, he worked with young people at organizations such as Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice,The Brotherhood Sister Sol, and The School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), focusing on how organizing and art can be used to develop leadership and analysis. As a member of The Yuri and Malcolm Mural Project and The Argus Project, he develops community engagement programming with a focus on collective determination and liberation. Julien currently lives in Philadelphia with his partner and daughter and continues his social justice work through their cultural organizing collective called Village Funk.

— ILIANA SOSA – Austin, TX

Iliana is a filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas by Mexican immigrant parents. A former Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, she holds a MFA in film production and directing from UCLA. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Steven Bochco Fellowship, the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Fellowship and the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts Scholarship, among others. Her MFA thesis film, CHILD OF THE DESERT, won Best Short Film and the Texas Award at the 2012 USA Film Festival. She was a 2013 Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellow and was selected for the 2013 TransAtlantic Talent Lab in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 2014, she was selected for the Sundance sponsored Latino Screenwriting Project. She has worked as a story producer for Brave New Foundation on a documentary series that follows several families who are stuck in the crosshairs of the immigration epidemic and currently manages the artist services programs at the Austin Film Society.

— ANI MERCEDES – Miami, FL

Ani Mercedes directed, produced, shot and edited her first short documentary (THE HALL) in 2013, which aired on PBS. Her second short documentary (HAND BUILT BOAT) was an official selection at the Miami International Film Festival and awarded an Awesome Foundation Grant. She coached the lead subject to use the film as a tool to raise funds to help sustain a boat building program for youth. Ani began her film career at the documentary powerhouse Kartemquin Films (HOOP DREAMS, THE INTERRUPTERS) as an intern, where she lead transcription on several projects by award-winning director Steve James. Prior to filmmaking, she was a Community Organizer on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, served as a White House intern, and organized over 1,000 rides to the polls in the 2012 campaign. She holds a B.A. from The University of Chicago and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in Education Policy.

— TRACY RECTOR – Seattle, WA

Tracy Rector is a Choctaw/Seminole filmmaker and activist, as well as Co-founder of Longhouse Media. In addition to arts advocacy, Rector has made 400 short films in collaboration with Indigenous people and communities, and is currently in production of her fifth feature documentary. As co-producer of the award-winning film Teachings of the Tree People, producer of March Point, and co-director of Clearwater; Rector has developed an awareness and sensitivity to the power of media and film as a modern storytelling tool. Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project, Toronto International Film Festival and in the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian. Rector has begun to transfer her method of storytelling to large gallery exhibitions and art movements. She most recently curated YOU ARE ON INDIGENOUS LAND, in·dig·e·nize, Women on the Brink, Bloodlines and RE:definition featuring contemporary works by Indigenous artists on the significance of place, truth, transformation and identity.

— CARMEN DIXON – New York, NY

Carmen Dixon is an organizer and educator with a social justice politic rooted in faith. Carmen’s organizing was activated during childhood as she witnessed her parents fighting for worker justice. She currently organizes at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) to support families and communities that have been deeply impacted by police violence. Prior to joining LDF, Carmen worked at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) organizing clergy to advocate for economic equity policies. There she launched FPWA’s first faith based initiative designed exclusively for women. After journeying to Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of the police murder of Michael Brown Jr., Carmen attended a screening of Freedom Riders that inspired her to get involved with the Black Lives Matter New York City Chapter. Carmen’s own organizing is inspired by storytelling and she is excited to use film as a visual/auditory tool to fight oppression.

Read more about the fellowship here.

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