September 14, 2022 (New York, NY) — Brown Girls Doc Mafia announced today their selections for the Black Directors Fellowship and Sustainable Artist Fellowship, the organization’s most in-depth, ambitious filmmaker support effort yet. Formerly the BGDM Black Directors and Sustainable Artist Grants, the initiatives were re-envisioned in 2022 as Fellowships to provide more holistic professional development support including grantmaking, mentorship, and curated industry connections.

“We’re thrilled to launch these two initiatives for 2022-2023 — re-envisioned as comprehensive Fellowships — to fill the gap in the current documentary ecosystem that doesn’t prioritize the needs of BIPOC women and nonbinary filmmakers. The Fellowships will take a holistic approach that considers the entirety and sustainability of their career and long-term future. Our focus with this reenvisioning is to emphasize the community building aspect of the program as a way to ensure our Fellows thrive within a sense of intentionally cultivated belonging, purpose, safety, and strength. We believe that these relationships are the seeds that will sow deeper change in the documentary industry over the next twenty years, enabling this ‘great age of documentary’ to be more diverse, equitable, just, and inclusive,” said BGDM Executive Director Iyabo Boyd.

Six BGDM members were selected for the Black Directors Fellowship: Christine Turner, Nyasha Kadandara, Chelsi Bullard, Brittany Ferrell, and co-directing team Zephrine Royer and Stephanie Saxemard. The five BGDM members selected for the Sustainable Artist Fellowship are: Jia Li, Mars Verrone, Xinyan Yu, Robie Flores, and Jude Chehab.

While the goals of each Fellowship are distinct, the components are run in conjunction with one another, with the Fellows experiencing their program as one cohort. The Fellowships include access to funding, curated advisor meetings, creative and professional development retreats, support for attending a documentary film festival, community building through mentorship and leadership opportunities, and hands-on personal, creative, and career development support from BGDM program staff.

The fellowships shared a jury that included Ann Bennett (Documentary Filmmaker-Producer, Educator), Bedatri D.Choudhury (Culture Journalist, Programmer), Asad Muhammad (VP Impact & Engagement at POV), Cecilia Aldarondo (Documentary Director-Producer, Professor), Jeanelle Augustin (Manager, Film Fellowships and Artist Development at NBC News Studios), and Merrill Sterritt (Co-Director at IF/Then Shorts).

“We were honored to be invited behind the scenes at Brown Girls Doc Mafia to experience the admirably rigorous and expansive grantmaking process. A necessary intervention in our industry, BGDM grants and fellowships transcend harmful and obsolete dichotomies between director/producer, subject/object, and maker/consumer through active self-inquiry in the application and review process, encouraging us to see and celebrate originality, honesty, experimentation, and potential. We were taken by the wealth of stories and talent in this year’s applicant pool. The selection process became even more challenging as we recognized the amount of resources still needed to adequately support and compensate the creative work of Black and brown femme and nonbinary documentary filmmakers insisting on a more inclusive reality. BGDM is a crucible for collective visions of tomorrow. We hope the field continues to recognize the unique and necessary opportunities that BGDM provides, and contributes increased financial support in the future so that additional grants and fellowships can be offered,” shared the Fellowship Selection Jury.

The Black Directors Fellowship, sponsored by The Bertha Foundation, is focused on directors whose craft, and unique point of view is not only steeped in the Black experience but also reflects and uplifts Black perspectives. The Fellowship works to support Fellows with greater visibility, resources, creative enrichment, and professional development as a means to support the forward momentum of their projects.

The Sustainable Artist Fellowship aims to support, connect, and resource BGDM members working as directors, producers, editors, and/or DPs who are at a critical turning point in their creative or professional development. Fellows are identified for their craft, storytelling ability, and unique point of view as a career artist, and who demonstrate immense potential to contribute to a shifting documentary field.

These grants will be annual, and are supported in part by The Ford Foundation JustFilms, The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Bertha Foundation, National Geographic Documentary Films, and Breakwater Studios.

Read more about our 2022 cohort of BGDM Grantees below.