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 week-long residency at Cucalorus’ campus September 26th through October 3rd, 2021. The WiP cohort is invited to return for the Annual Cucalorus Festival in downtown Wilmington, NC upon completion of their film. Now in its thirteenth year, the Works-in-Progress lab was launched in 2008 through a partnership between Working Films and Cucalorus.

Program 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 week-long residency. Participants should plan on arrival on Sunday, September 26th. The training begins September 27th and concludes the morning of Sunday, October 3rd.

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 knit 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 change leaders, 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 to share their completed work during a future Cucalorus Festival. This is an opportunity for the films to be featured at the festival, festival goers and community guests whom participated in the engagement screenings are invited to screen the final cut.


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).

How to apply: Call for applications has closed for 2021.

Please send any inquiries or questions to

2020 Works-in-Progress Lab Participants

Saltwata Vibes: Sankofa Seeds from Geechee Roots by Sherard Duvall
Duvall’s film examines how the 20-40 year old generation of Gullah Geechee are redefining their identity and reclaiming their power through creating a modern musical expression that is wholly their own. Following a Gullah Geechee brother and sister, descendants of the enslaved from West Africa, who are on a quest to evolve their culture. Can evolution keep it alive?



They Tried to Bury Us by Bree Newsome
As a nationally recognized activist,  Newsome documents unfolding events as her hometown becomes the epicenter of national clashes over racism and other systemic problems, exploring how the city’s commitment to host the 2020 Republican convention highlights contradictions between Charlotte’s projected image as a progressive city and its continued legacy of segregation.


These Kids This City by Dorian Munroe
Munroe’s documentary centers around the young people of Liberty City, Miami and it’s infamous bike culture, reaching its pinnacle every Martin Luther King Day, when thousands flood the streets on dirt bikes and four wheelers riding in a form of rebellion and community.



This Belongs to Us by Atinuke Diver
Diver’s film questions how beer brewing, a practice that began in Africa, became synonymous with White male identity in the United States, and explores the historical, systemic and current barriers faced by Black-owned breweries in general, as well as in particular for a Black, woman/female brewer in the American South, Eastern North Carolina.


17 Days by Christine Varisse
Directed and about Varisse’s experience, 17 days is a dissection of her own immigration journey prompted after receiving a notice of deportation. In the film, Varisse retraces her footsteps towards citizenship while rebuilding the relationship with her mother broken by the immigration system while examining a variety of issues that historically and still today impact the system, in particular black immigration rights.


Read about the 2019 Works In Progress Lab participants here.