2023_Works-In-Progress Lab Filmmakers

The Cucalorus Works-in-Progress (WiP) Lab supports social justice documentaries with a focus on Black storytelling. Co-designed and coordinated by Working Films, participating artists will receive feedback on their work-in-progress and explore audience engagement strategies through workshops, consultations, and community screenings during a residency at Cucalorus’ campus from September 24th through October 1st, 2023. Now in its 15th year, the Works-in-Progress Lab was launched in 2008 through a partnership between Working Films and Cucalorus.

The following documentary films were selected for the Cucalorus 2023 Works-in-Progress Lab:

2023 Works-in-Progress Lab Filmmakers

Unfiltered by Chelsi Bullard

Chelsi Bullard, Unfiltered

In “Little Haiti” Brooklyn a teenager challenges the ‘Angry Black Woman’ trope through poetry that ignites a quest for intergenerational healing and reclaiming her childhood in this lyrical coming-of-age film.

Chelsi Bullard is a Memphis-born and Brooklyn-based filmmaker and editor with an unwavering desire to restore beauty, well-being and complexity in stories about Black folx. She is a 2023 Big Sky Pitch participant and 2022-2023 Brown Girls Doc Mafia Black Directors Fellow. She edited the feature documentary The Right to Read  (Santa Barbara, 2023 and SXSW EDU, 2023) with director Jenny Mackenzie and executive producer LeVar Burton. She also recently co-edited Locked Out  (Kate Davis and Luchina Fisher), which was named ‘Best Documentary Feature’ at American Black Film Festival, 2023. She produced the feature documentary Coming Around directed by Sandra Itäinen (Frameline, 2023).

Mother Wit by Te Shima Anusha Brennen

Mother Wit, co-directed by Te Shima Anusha Brennen and Rajvi Desai, follows three Black trans women grieving the death of their matriarch as they fight to achieve their academic ambitions and fulfill promises they made to her.

Te Shima Anusha Brennen (they/them) is a Black, queer, trans visual storyteller based in Brooklyn, New York. As an emerging documentary filmmaker, they tell nuanced stories about Black, queer, and trans communities as they navigate institutions and systems not built to support them. Te recently made their co-directoral and cinematography debut with their film Hold On To Me, which premiered at NewFest Film Festival in October 2022 and has traveled to festivals in London, Amsterdam, Seattle, and LA in 2023. Outside of filmmaking, Te advocates to improve journalistic practices that produce harmful narratives about the trans community. They recently finished a fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, where they researched how journalists can build trust in trans communities as the first step to better reporting on the community.


7 Acres and a Church by Caroline Josey Karoki

Caroline Josey Karoki

A septuagenarian and community matriarch fights to preserve the oldest continuous Black Baptist Church in North America, her heritage, and the community’s history in Savannah, Georgia.

Caroline Josey Karoki is a Kenyan-born filmmaker in Georgia with an MFA in film, drawn to telling stories featuring underserved communities and extraordinary individuals. She recently completed her first documentary feature film, The Price of Hope, which is currently in the festival circuit with selections including the Roxbury International Film Festival and Women Deliver Conference, one of the largest multi-sectoral convenings to advance gender equality. Caroline enjoys teaching film with experiences as a university professor and instructor to high school-age students. She is a board member of Savannah Women in Film and T.V. and a member of DOC Savannah and Brown Girls Doc Mafia.

World Makers by Ashely Tyner

Ashley Tyner

Grappling with the impact of George Floyd’s murder, three Black women in Minneapolis embark on interweaving journeys to care for their communities and find inner healing.

Ashley Tyner is a writer, producer and filmmaker. She serves as Culture & Special Projects Editor at i-D Magazine, where she works to create space to amplify marginalized voices in the worlds of art and culture. She formerly led Special Projects for GARAGE Magazine. Ashley studied literature at Middlebury College and Columbia University. She is a Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow.

World Makers by William Tyner

William Tyner is a filmmaker and currently works as a researcher at Google across questions of justice, equity, and product inclusion. William is currently a Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow and the recipient of the 2018-2019 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, Code for America Fellowship, and San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation Fellow. William studied Anthropology at Wesleyan University.

In Love, In Memory by Shalon Buskirk

Shalon Buskirk, In Love, In Memory

To preserve delicate memories of her son and buried histories of the city he was killed in, a mother collaborates with her community to compose an elegiac portrait of love, loss, and legacy.

Shalon Buskirk is a community leader who has dedicated her life to protecting, helping, and saving young adults from violence within her community. She was born and raised in Allentown, PA. After the tragic death of her firstborn son, Parris, she started to work towards a nonprofit for young adults that engages them with the resources they need for success. Buskirk was a driving force behind the first major funding in the city for youth violence prevention. She is a storyteller, a mother of eight children, and the CEO/Founder of the Parris J. Lane Memorial Foundation. She was a Film Independent Documentary Lab Fellow in 2022, a Visiting Fellow at MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute in 2020 and 2022, and the co-author of United Hearts for Autism: Stories from Caregivers and Self-Advocates. She is a board member for Community Bike Works, and on the advisory council for Allentown’s Salvation Army and Youth Teen Renovations.

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