POV Shorts And Chicken & Egg Pictures Announce Recipients Of Inaugural Doc Co-Production Fund

EXCLUSIVE: POV Shorts and Chicken & Egg Pictures is giving a major career boost to five young documentary filmmakers. Today, the organizations announced the recipients of the inaugural Chicken & Egg Pictures/POV Shorts Co-Production Fund, which will provide $120,000 for development and production funding to three short documentary projects helmed by women and nonbinary filmmakers. 

The quintet earning the grants are Imani Dennison, LaTajh Weaver, Aurora Brachman, Brit Fryer, and Lydia Cornett [scroll for details on their doc projects]. They will be spending the next several days attending the Camden International Film Festival in coastal Maine; the Points North Institute, which puts on the festival, is welcoming the filmmakers as “an official fellowship cohort” at CIFF 2023.

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The inaugural co-production fund “marks the two organizations’ first joint content development project, and all films are co-productions of POV Shorts and Chicken & Egg Pictures,” according to a release. “Chicken & Egg Pictures and POV Shorts each contributed $60,000 to finance the fund which awarded three non-recoupable $40,000 grants to new nonfiction short-form works in progress or already in production.”

Each of the projects will additionally receive “creative, strategic, and editorial advice from the Chicken & Egg Pictures and POV Shorts teams. While attending CIFF2023, each filmmaker will receive an All Access Filmmaker Badge including Party Access, Lodging, access to the Points North Artists Programs Lunch, and participate in a Production Summit on making films for PBS distribution.”

Once completed, the shorts will earn consideration for launch “on PBS via national linear broadcast and PBS Digital, which reaches an audience of 44.7 million people monthly.”

Recipients were selected via a dual panel review following a call for nominations from a broad grouping of film festivals and curators. The working committee responsible for planning and managing the Chicken & Egg Pictures/POV Shorts Co-Production Fund includes Kiyoko McCrae, program director for Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Iva Dimitrova, program manager for Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Opal H. Bennett, senior producer/executive producer, and Kerry LeVielle, associate producer, for American Documentary/POV Shorts. 

“There are more distribution opportunities for short-form documentaries than ever before,” Opal H. Bennett noted in a statement. “Yet a challenge many filmmakers experience is a lack of funds to get their projects started. The ‘Chicken & Egg Pictures/POV Shorts Co-Production Fund’ began as creative collaborations often do – over a meal at a film festival. Chicken & Egg Pictures wanted to expand their short form catalog, and POV wanted to lend support to shorts filmmakers earlier in the production cycle. It’s extremely gratifying that a chat over dinner could lead to the creation of such a needed initiative.”

Bennett added, “We’re also so excited for the burgeoning partnership with Points North who have shown a real commitment to supporting short form work. Hopefully we’ll be back at Camden Fest before too long to share the completed works.”

Chicken & Egg Pictures’ McCrae said, “Shorts play a vital role in highlighting timely stories and cultural perspectives. These shorts share bold visions, innovative artistry, and a deep care and connection to the communities and individuals featured in these stories. We’re proud to partner with POV to support these incredibly talented filmmakers in bringing these rich and nuanced stories to audiences. We are delighted to bring the filmmakers together and celebrate this partnership in-person at the 2023 Camden International Film Festival. Points North’s commitment to supporting filmmakers and building community makes CIFF the perfect opportunity to kick-off this initiative.”

Erika Dilday, executive director, American Documentary and executive producer, POV, POV Shorts and America ReFramed, said, “American Documentary and POV are honored to have partnered with Chicken & Egg Pictures to establish the ‘Chicken & Egg Pictures/POV Shorts Co-Production Fund.’ Good documentaries teach us to listen and really hear the stories of others without getting defensive and attempting to discredit. The selected projects amplify and nurture the filmmakers’ authentic voices and POV Shorts is proud to add their stories to our canon of acclaimed films.”

“Chicken & Egg Pictures is excited to partner with American Documentary and POV Shorts,” commented Jenni Wolfson, CEO of Chicken & Egg Pictures. “Both the organization and its series have long been committed to bringing diverse filmmaker perspectives to public media. We are thrilled that this collaboration will provide more opportunities for women and non-binary filmmakers to reach broader audiences across the US using PBS platforms.”

These are the Chicken & Egg Pictures/POV Shorts Co-Production Fund grantees: 

En Travesti

Directors: Brit Fryer, Lydia Cornett

Synopsis: En Travesti explores the entangled relationship between voice, gender, and opera through those who contend with these connections daily––a trans opera singer switching voice types, a musicologist delving into the legacy of Castrati singers, a cisgender vocalist challenging conventional voice categorizations, and an otolaryngologist specializing in vocal procedures for performers. From the history of trouser roles to breakthroughs in vocal feminization surgery, the film weaves together a tapestry of present-day stories while recognizing a long history of gender nonconformity in an art form bound by the binary. 

Brit Fryer (he/him) is an award-winning queer and trans filmmaker based in Brooklyn. He is grateful to have shown at CPH: DOX, Indie Grits, NewFest, Outfest, Inside Out, MIX NYC, BlackStar Film Festival, and more. Brit and his work have been supported by the Sundance Ignite Fellowship, Creative Culture, Chicken and Egg, GLAAD’s Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative, and HBO / Gotham’s Documentary Development Initiative. He is currently in development of his first feature film.

Lydia Cornett (she/her) is a Baltimore-born filmmaker currently based in Brooklyn, NY. She has received support from the Tribeca Film Institute, IF/Then Shorts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Her films have screened at Sheffield DocFest, AFI Fest, Slamdance, BAMCinemaFest, Aspen Shortsfest, Palm Springs International ShortsFest, Hamptons International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and DOC NYC. Her work has been distributed and featured by The New Yorker, PBS (POV and Reel South), Nowness, and Vimeo Staff Picks. Lydia is the co-founder of Cineseries, a graduate-student-led screening series at the Wexner Center for the Arts. 

Hold Me Close

Directors: Aurora Brachman, LaTajh Weaver

Synopsis: As winter gives way to spring, and spring to summer, two Queer Black women in love experience rituals of care, joy, and unavoidable pain, and a season of life together.  

Aurora Brachman (she/her) is an award-winning documentary director and producer. Through patient and poetic storytelling her films explore narratives of intimate relationships within families and communities. Her short documentaries including Club Quarantine, JoychildStill Waters, and The Gallery That Destroys All Shame, have been acquired by The New York TimesThe New Yorker, and POV; shortlisted for an IDA Award; exhibited by MoMA; selected for Vimeo Staff Picks; and screened at numerous festivals including Sundance, True/False, Hot Docs, AFI Docs, DOC NYC, BlackStar Film Festival, and SFFILM. Aurora is a 2020 Sundance Ignite Fellow, a 2022 San Francisco International Film Festival Film House Resident, and a Fulbright Scholar in filmmaking. She associate produced the A24 documentary Underrated, co-produced Apple TV+’s upcoming Girls State, and assisted on the critically-acclaimed Showtime docuseries Couples Therapy. Aurora primarily makes work about the experiences of Black, brown, and Queer people and is committed to collaborative and ethical storytelling. 

LaTajh Weaver (she/they) is an Oakland based screenwriter and director. They are dedicated to reclaiming and telling overlooked stories of Black and Queer dynamics and engaging ways these communities learn to cope with everyday injustices. Weaver’s project, Cycles, which follows a youth advocate worker and a young gang member as they search for their purpose amid danger in Oakland, was selected to screen at over fifteen film festivals and was awarded Best Screenplay at the Liberated Lens Film Festival. In 2018, Weaver was awarded a National Queer Arts grant for their screenplay, Pipeline, a satirical drama about the school to prison pipeline. Weaver associate produced A24’s Earth Mama, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Currently they’re in residence at the San Francisco International Film Festival FilmHouse for their feature length film, Queerling, a dark comedy challenging identity politics amongst the ever gentrifying Bay Area.

The Roost(working title)

Director: Imani Dennison 

Synopsis: The Roost(working title) is an experimental documentary exploring the rich history of a roller skate community in Louisville, KY. Through an intimate video lens, we delve into key community members’ personal recollections of the sport and its role in navigating life amidst the challenges of a gun-violence-affected city. Imani Dennison (she/they) is a multidisciplinary lens-based artist and curator from Louisville, Kentucky, currently based in Brooklyn, NY. Dennison is the founder, head curator and programmer of Black Science Fiction, a Black-led creative experiment dedicated to the preservation of Black imagination. Dennison co-directed For Our Girls, and their most recent work Bone Black: Midwives vs the South is a short experimental documentary produced during the 2022 Tribeca Queen Collective Directing Program set to premiere in 2023. Dennison is currently developing a hybrid documentary Black Rage, their first feature-length film.

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