Supporting Social Justice Documentaries in Progress

The Cucalorus Works-in-Progress (WiP) lab supports social justice documentaries being made by Black filmmakers. 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 September 28th through October 2nd. The WiP cohort will then return for the 26th Annual Cucalorus Festival, November 11th to 15th, 2020 in downtown Wilmington, NC. Now in its twelfth year, the Works-in-Progress lab was launched in 2008 through a partnership between Working Films and Cucalorus. We will be accepting applications through April 30th!

Program and Application Details 


Working Films and Cucalorus are teaming up again and have a new format for the 2020 Works In Progress Lab. Selected filmmakers will come to Wilmington, NC – where Cucalorus and Working Films are based – for a 4.5 day residency. Participants should plan on arrival on Sunday, September 27th. The training begins Monday, September 28th and concludes the morning of Friday, October 2nd.

Filmmakers will spend time participating in workshops with the Working Films and Cucalorus teams. They will be joined by experienced documentary filmmaker mentors. Previous mentors include Byron Hurt, Natalie Bullock Brown, Jacqueline Olive, and Lana Garland. We create a tight knight atmosphere of peer support where the facilitators and mentors lead the group in giving one another feedback on their works in progress. Using Working Films’ 20 years of experience in creating impact campaigns for documentary films we also spend time workshopping the distribution and impact strategies for participating films.

And finally, during the residency week, filmmakers will have an opportunity to screen their work-in-progress footage with organizations and individuals in Wilmington who are working on the issues their film addresses. These are intimate, closed door screenings. These audiences and changeleaders, whose lived experiences and work align with the film content, provide valuable feedback for filmmakers as they continue to edit and plan for how their film can make an impact once it’s completed.

Filmmakers will also have down time to work on their edit, write, and relax or sight-see in downtown Wilmington and surrounding beaches.


Filmmakers will return to Wilmington, NC in November to share their work-in-progress during the Cucalorus Festival, which runs November 11-15, 2020. This is another opportunity to get feedback on their work during the Cucalorus Connect track. Participants are encouraged to attend the entire festival, but their screening events will take place over a two day period within the festival.


The Cucalorus WiP lab serves Black directors making social issues documentaries. Films may be shorts, features, or episodic, but must be nonfiction.

Films can be at any stage of development, but we find that filmmakers benefit most when they are in the production or post production phase of their project. We will need some sample footage to show at feedback screenings. This could be an assembly, sizzle reel, rough cut, or fine cut. It’s up to the filmmaker to decide what to show. The goal is to have these opportunities for feedback be of benefit to the director wherever they are in their process.

What’s Included 

Working Films and Cucalorus cover the following expenses for each selected director:

  • Round trip transportation to Wilmington, NC for the residency and the Cucalorus festival
  • Housing during the residency and festival
  • Most meals during the residency
  • Airport transfer and most local transportation during the residency. Airport transfer during the festival (Note: all festival venues are in walking distance).

Note: At this time we remain hopeful that we will be able to continue this lab as intended and as the schedule is presented above. We will certainly keep applicants updated on the status if there are any adjustments to the current program details.

How to Apply 

Applications are due April 30th.  To apply you’ll use our Submittable platform.

The following is a preview of the application questions: 

Director’s name*
Director’s email*
Project/Film Title*
Category (Documentary Feature, Short documentary, or Episodic documentary)
Film website
Film social media (if applicable)
Screener link This can be the current project or an example of previous work.
Online screener password
Film File Upload if screener link is not available (Acceptable file types: .3gp, .avi, .flv, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .mpg, .webm, .wmv)

Logline * Limit: 25 words. This will be used for press and print

Film Synopsis*

Director Bio*

Equity is an important value of both Cucalorus and Working Films. The Works-in-Progress lab supports social justice documentaries by African American directors. Please provide the following information.

Director Ethnicity*

Director Gender*

What social justice issue(s) does the film address? What is the social change you are hoping to make with your film?*

How have you demonstrated accountability to the community or individual(s) whose story you’re telling? *

Why do you want to participate in the WiP lab?*

Are you able to commit to the Sept 28- Oct 2 residency and attend Cucalorus Festival on Nov 12-13?*

Name of Person submitting this application*

Click here to Apply


Read about the 2019 Works In Progress Lab participants here.