Thursday, April 11, 2024



The Documentary Story Lab - 2024 - 


Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced today the six filmmakers and projects selected for its 2024 Documentary Story Lab.
The Documentary Story Lab helps nonfiction directors craft the best story possible for their film. Over one week, participants attend multiple workshops and sessions with guest speakers, established documentary directors, institutional funders, legal professionals, and distributors. Fellows are paired with an experienced Creative Advisor and Editing Advisor who provide one-on-one support. The Lab culminates in a final pitch event that offers further opportunities for individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.
“The 6 Fellows in this year’s Documentary Story Lab bring us unique visions from Ukraine, Mexico, and all across the US,” said Daniel Cardone, Manager of Nonfiction Programs & Fiscal Sponsorship. “Each project takes us on a creative and innovative journey across diverse landscapes both physical and emotional. We're so thrilled to be able to support these filmmakers in the program and through their careers.”
As part of the Documentary Story Lab, director Adelina Borets from Ukraine is the recipient of a Global Media Makers Fellowship making her travel and participation in the program possible.
Global Media Makers is an exchange program sponsored through a partnership between Film Independent and the U.S. Dept. of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
During the Lab, filmmakers will work with Lead Creative Mentors Chris Shellen (Steve! (Martin) A Documentary in 2 Pieces) and Anayansi Prado (Paraiso for Sale), and Editing Mentors Christy Denes (Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult) and Sara Newens (Pretty Baby: Brooke
Shields) in addition to being introduced to celebrated film professionals who advise on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking.
Guest Speakers include director Set Hernandez (unseen), producer Christine O’Malley (Taylor Swift: Miss Americana), director Tracy Droz Tragos (Plan C), producer Megan Gilbride (Fathom), sound designer and director Midge Costin (Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound), composer/music supervisor Andrew Gross (Konsonant Music), Maria Santos (International Documentary Association) and Dale Cohen & Loralee Sundra (UCLA Documentary Law Clinic).
Notable past Documentary Lab-supported projects include the Academy Award-nominated Ascension by Jessica Kingdon, the Academy Award-nominated and Spirit Award-winning film Minding the Gap from Fellows Bing Liu and Diane Quon; Alina Simone and Kirstine Barfod’s Black Snow; Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra's A Suitable Girl, Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palmero’s Rich Hill; and Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s United Skates.
Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs (Documentary, Episodic, Producing, and Screenwriting), Fast Track finance market, Fiscal Sponsorship, and our Grants and Awards, which provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.
The Documentary Lab is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information on the Documentary Story Lab and the projects supported through the program, please contact Daniel Cardone, Manager of Documentary Programs and Fiscal Sponsorship, at Additional information and an application form can be found at

The 2024 Documentary Story Lab 

projects and Fellows are:


Flowers of Ukraine

Director: Adelina Borets
Logline: Natalia lives peacefully in a green paradise with two husbands — Ukrainian and Russian. She defends her own land against Kyiv's developers until a real fight starts with a full-scale invasion.

I Want to Kill My Grandfather

Director: Lilyana Torres García
Logline: This documentary is my attempt to find the best way to kill my grandfather, guided by a detective and accompanied by my film crew. We plan on tracking him down to uncover the secrets of a family fragmented by the violence in Mexico. Oh yeah and, of course, kill him...


Director: Suzannah Herbert
Logline: Natchez is a feature documentary that explores history and memory in the American South.

Pine Curtain Fighters (working title) Director: Kenny Rigsby
Logline: Maya and Norely, besties and newcomers to amateur boxing pursue a big opportunity that could accelerate their early fighting careers. However, battling the highs and lows of friendship, mental health, and young adulthood, they discover that their most formidable challenge might be themselves.


Director: Chelsi Bullard
Logline: Generational trauma and unflinching courage collide in Unfiltered, a raw yet joyous coming-of-age documentary feature, where 15-year-old Tamia is determined to disrupt family cycles and reclaim her youth in a world that forces Black girls to grow up too soon.

Untitled Texas Doc

Director: Cody Stickels
Logline: Filmmaker Cody Stickels' examination of the death penalty in Texas turns into a personal journey when his father, John Stickels, a criminal defense attorney, attempts suicide months into filming. This ten-year journey captures their changing relationship amidst John's late-life autism diagnosis and Cody's gender transition, leading to parallel paths of self-discovery.

Fellows Photos


For over 40 years, Film Independent has helped filmmakers get their projects made and seen. The nonprofit organization’s core mission is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling and support a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision.
In addition to producing the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the organization supports creative professionals with Artist Development programs, grants, and labs. Signature mentorship program Project Involve fosters the careers of talented filmmakers from underrepresented communities. Weekly Education events and workshops equip filmmakers of all ages and experience levels with tools and resources. Global Media Makers, a cultural exchange program produced in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, provides career-building opportunities for international film professionals. And year-round screening series Film Independent Presents delivers monthly, unique cinematic experiences to Members in Los Angeles and beyond.


For more information or to become a

 Member, visit

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