Now in its fifth year, Working Films’ Impact Kickstart program has helped underrepresented filmmakers create strategic goals for impact and specific plans to engage future partners, funders, and audiences in meaningful ways. This year, we will be providing in-kind partnership and strategy development support in addition to $60,000 of impact campaign funding to each recipient. 

In reflection about the Impact Kickstart program, Gerry Leonard, Director of Filmmaker Services says, “As Working Films and its programs continue to grow and evolve, we remain rooted in prioritizing and increasing support for underrepresented filmmakers. We believe the intentionality and equity lens that goes into our Impact Kickstart program reflects our deep commitment to redistributing resources and access within the documentary filmmaking ecosystem and highlighting critical stories that illuminate the complex intersections between people and issues.”

We are thrilled to announce the two films receiving an Impact Kickstart in 2022!

STORMING CAESARS PALACE by Hazel Gurland-Pooler (Director/Producer) and Nazenet Habtezghi (Producer)

When Ruby Duncan faces harassment by a fraud-obsessed welfare department, she ignites “Mother Power” mobilizing a welfare rights group to fight for justice, dignity, democratic participation, and an adequate income. With low-income mothers across the country, and two radicalized professors George Wiley and Frances Fox Piven, they form the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). In 1972, with feminist Gloria Steinem, the NWRO campaigns for a guaranteed income. When thousands of Las Vegas families are slashed from the welfare rolls, Ruby calls the NWRO and launches “Operation Nevada.” They lead an army—including Ralph Abernathy and Jane Fonda—down the Strip into Caesars Palace, shutting it down. From protesters to lobbyists to founders of an anti-poverty community center, Ruby proves her mantra, “we can do it and do it better.” Featuring lost archival footage and a cast who played pivotal roles in these events, Storming Caesars Palace reveals that it is the disenfranchised who stand up for America’s principle of justice for all.

UNTITLED UNDERGROUND RAILROAD RIDE  by Fiz Olajide (Director/Producer), Faith E. Briggs (Impact Producer/Associate Producer), Jon Lynn (Editor/Co-Producer), Nerenda Eid (Executive Producer)

On the heels of 2020’s global protests for social justice and the run-up to the US presidential elections, five Black and Latinx cyclists led by NYC-based messenger, John “Bobby” Shackelford attempt to traverse a route inspired by the Underground Railroad which led many enslaved Black people to freedom in the 1800s. Riding alongside the magnetic Bobby – Richard Carson, a camera-shy cyclocross racer from Indianapolis; Rashad Mahoney, a soft-spoken bike mechanic in Baltimore who loves the outdoors; Edwardo Garabito, a gregarious Latinx custom bike builder at a NYC shop and Alex Olbrich, a spirited DC bike salesman of Ghanaian-German heritage. They seek agency to combat the lack of representation in the ultra white world of cycling and to inspire BIPOC kids with their representation of Black manhood. Over the course of 17 days, as each man attempts this ambitious athletic feat, the challenges of the road transform them in this thought-provoking and complex tale of freedom and identity.

Congratulations to the film teams selected! We are excited and honored to be working alongside these incredible projects. Thank you to all the incredible individuals who helped us move through this collective and collaborative process. 


Impact Kickstart was launched with the understanding that a solid strategy for audience engagement and strong partnerships are critical for a documentary film to make a difference. Filmmakers often lack time to do this work themselves or the expertise and the funds to pay for it. Emerging artists, creators of color, and other underrepresented filmmakers can face the biggest hurdles, despite the potential of their projects. To respond to this challenge, Working Films offers free impact campaign development services to underrepresented artists whose films hold great promise to shift understanding and catalyze action that addresses some of the most critical issues of our time.  

The Fledgling Fund logo, Ford Foundation, Perspective Fund logo, MacArthur Foundation logo
Impact Kickstart is supported by the Fledgling Fund, Ford Foundation,
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Perspective Fund.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.