Past 360 Incubator+ Projects

Black Public Media’s 360 Incubator+ fellowship program is designed to incubate media projects in an accelerator that is eager to infuse Black stories into the public media pipeline. We select fellows whose projects might benefit from such an opportunity. The PitchBLACK Forum is the culminating competition for 360 Incubator+ fellows.  Projects selected to participate in previous PitchBLACK Forums have gone on to receive series funding and digital distribution deals.

Here’s a sample of the esteemed alumni projects from earlier cohorts of the 360 Incubator+ program:

Broadcast

SALTBOX (now "The Hook")

fellow: shirlette ammons
2016 Fellow

Saltbox follows Eastern North Carolina native Chef Ricky Moore on his quest to preserve endangered Black food culture while pursuing his dream to expand his popular yet confined Saltbox Seafood Joint. The small, chef-crafted seafood stand, located on a one-way street in the heart of Durham, N. C.. is literally caught in the intersection of the city’s efforts at “urban renewal.”

By identifying the interwoven challenges and successes Moore faces, as an accomplished chef in an elite league, Saltbox offers broadcast audiences an authentic portrait of one man’s entrepreneurial pursuits in the American South. It also captures Chef Moore’s passion to document a culture through the farmers, fishermen, home cooks, chefs, and storytellers who cherish and elevate this Black Southern culinary history.

shirlette_ammons

Shirlette Ammons, executive producer/writer, is a musician and associate producer for Emmy and Peabody Award-winning docuseries, A Chef’s Life, now airing in its fourth season on PBS. A native of North Carolina’s Down East region, she is passionate about collecting, chronicling and sharing stories of the people from her community.

Invisible Universe

fellow: m. asli dukan
2016 Fellow

The Invisible Universe documentary series reveals the history of representations and the participation of Black people in the literary genres of fantasy, horror and science fiction, collectively known as speculative fiction (SF). Framed through the point of view of a time-traveling archivist, the three-part series explores 150 years of SF literature—its origins, its developments, its key personalities, and its current state, all through the perspective of Black people and Black history. Ultimately, the series demonstrates how the genres, which were premised on the ideology of white supremacy, have been adopted and adapted by Black creators as a form of artistic resistance for envisioning liberated worlds and futures.

M Asli Dukan

M. Asli Dukan is an independent producer, director, and writer. Her short films have screened at festivals across the country, from the ImageNation Film Festival in New York to the Langston Hughes Film Festival in Seattle. As the founder of Mizan Media Productions, she has produced and directed numerous works including music videos: “Boot,” for Tamar-kali, and “Do You Mind” for Hanifah Walidah, which debuted on LOGO TV in 2008. Dukan holds an MFA from the City College of New York and currently lives in Philadelphia.

Selfies from the Hill

fellow: gregory scott williams, jr.
2016 Fellow

Selfies from The Hill constructs intimate, intertwined portraits of three teenagers from Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Using social media content, participatory footage, and interviews, the film explores the difference between our digital and physical selves while examining the barriers of race, class, and criminality in one of America’s most livable cities.

The Hill District is a historic Black neighborhood that was once home to Pittsburgh’s Black elite and business class. After decades of blight, resulting from an urban renewal plan that destroyed the Black business district and dispersed the Black middle class, the Hill District is currently undergoing another transformation: gentrification. Today, after generations of neglect, the challenge for residents of The Hill is how to avoid being left behind, displaced and, once again, forgotten.

Cierra, Ason, and Danazia, are three Hill District teens trying to keep pace with the rapid change their neighborhood, city, and world is experiencing. As The Hill District gentrifies, they are trying to reimagine themselves. In order to participate in the change happening around them, Cierra, Ason, and Danazia must abandon the culture of poverty they were born into. They cannot follow in their parents’ footsteps. They must follow their own paths and create their own identities.

Identity for the iGeneration is both digital and physical: there is an online self and a real-life self. Selfies from The Hill reveals how these two selves coincide and collide for three teens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

gregory_scott_jr

Gregory Scott Williams Jr. is an award-winning filmmaker from Chicago’s South Side. He has written and directed several short films, most notably Five Deep Breaths, which screened at numerous international film festivals, including Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca and the Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won the Best Narrative Short Award.

So Young, So Pretty, So White

fellows: christiana mbakwe and chanelle aponte pearson
2016 Fellows

All around the globe, ordinary men and women of various ages, social classes and cultural backgrounds, lighten their skin. Most often, it is an intimate act done in the privacy of one’s own home or behind the closed doors of a dermatologist’s office.

So Young, So Pretty, So White is a ground-breaking documentary series that lifts the curtain. Set over six episodes, with six characters from six countries, the film blends cinema verité with personal interviews, animation, and archival footage. For a young woman in Thailand, to a cash-strapped man in Jamaica, the lure of lighter skin, and the challenge to sustain the practice transcend borders. Contextualized by the interconnectedness of our world and capitalism’s unbridled pursuit of profit, the film explores the question: When will the characters stop bleaching?

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Christiana Mbakwe is a British writer/journalist, from London, who writes and reports on sub-cultures and the marginalized.

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Chanelle Aponte Pearson is a Bronx-bred, Brooklyn-based artist and filmmaker.

The Life’s Essentials Docu-series

fellows: muta’ali muhammad and nj frank
2015 Fellows

Inspired by the power of Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee in which iconic, Oscar-nominated actress/activist Ruby Dee helps her grandson on his quest to master lasting love, conscious art, and undying activism, The Life’s Essentials Series unites family members, across America. In each episode, two young adults search their respective family artifacts and interview an elder for answers to essential questions they have about a host of life topics, including health, interpersonal relationships, parenthood, poverty/unemployment, police violence, and how to thrive despite racial prejudice in today’s world. The answers are funny, moving, suspenseful, and charming family stories, which are by extension, imparted to viewers who receive loving guidance from a range of families. Elders are the heroes in each episode. The stories quench today’s thirst for ultra-personal memoir and entertainment, as well as our need as African Americans to preserve our family histories and solve our cultural challenges

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Muta’Ali Muhammad is an award-winning filmmaker captivated by the human experience and dedicated to inspiring others through his work.  Making films since he was 12, he completed his bachelor’s degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and studied filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. Muhammad went on to earn a master’s degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology and subsequently began his career as an independent filmmaker. He has produced several coming of age documentaries on rising stars and multi-platinum recording artists, as well as feature documentaries about social issues.  His work has been featured on BET, VH1, MTV, TruTV and TV One.  Muhammad’s feature-length film Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee — where the rich lives of actor/activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis are contrasted with love, art, and activism today — became one of Kickstarter.com’s highest funded African-American-related documentaries. In addition to filmmaking, Muhammad has earned a patent for IBM Research for a unique graphical user interface. He has appeared on NPR, ABC, Fox News, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show and has been featured in the Daily News, Essence and Ebony magazines.

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Brooklyn born, film producer NJ Frank has an instinctive talent for photography and film. His passion and projects are known for their thought-provoking impact. He began making a name for himself producing major projects for clients including AAA, The Mo’nique Show, Michael Mauldin’s Fastlife 360, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Universal Music Recording artist Bun B., Atlantic Music Recording artist T.I., and Johnson Publications’ Ebony and Jet magazines, to name a few.

My Africa Is

fellows: nosarieme garrick and hassatou diallo
mentor: 2015 Fellows

War. Starvation. Dictators. Blood Diamonds. Child Soldiers. Refugees. Extreme Poverty. These stereotypes allow many people to dismiss Africa’s awesome potential. My Africa Is proves they are missing the revolution: the technological, cultural and political rebirth, driven by Africa’s youth. My Africa Is, is a web-based chronicle of forward-thinking African youth who are creating projects and changing their communities. Its stories have a unifying theme of cultural, social, technological and political innovation.

The on-camera storytellers and interviewees are themselves the innovators, young Africans whose voices are seldom heard. The locations, cities, towns, and villages featured in each segment are also characters. The My Africa Is team has traveled the continent posting stories on the show’s existing website, YouTube channel and other social media forums. My Africa Is engages its followers with interactive elements, such as Google Hangouts, Twitter chats, and live events, building a growing social media audience of over 200,000 followers

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Nosarieme Garrick is a citizen of the world, with roots in Nigeria and the United States, She is passionate about exposing the rapid cultural and technological advancements exploding among the youth in Africa. As a writer/reporter, she covered African Culture. Her articles helped establish fresh connections between the establishment and young African political, economic, technological and cultural leaders. In 2010, she founded Vote or Quench, a youth empowerment campaign educating young Nigerians on the importance of voting in local and national elections. Garrick also spearheaded the live production of the first youth-centered presidential debate. Before starting My Africa Is as a web series, she interned with the Economist newspaper and was mentored by the company’s CEO on the business of media. She lives to tell stories of young people, living, thriving, inspiring and connecting the world community through My Africa Is.

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Hassatou Diallo is passionate about the facts. Early in her career, she realized the value of solid research in making one’s voice heard. Born in Guinea and raised in the U.S., she continues to use her skills to advocate for underserved students, women, and others throughout Africa. Their voices are hers also.  Researching and writing for My Africa Is is one of several ways Diallo continues to follow her passion. With a group of other young Guineans living in the U.S., she founded and runs the nonprofit Hope of Guinea. The group provides scholarships to elite schools for underprivileged students in Guinea and follows up with mentoring and tutoring help.

The Newark Project

fellows: derek koen and ouida washington
mentor: 2015 Fellows

The Newark Project tells the story of a community struggling to ensure its young people receive an education that prepares them to lead successful lives. Complex and layered, the story is told through the lives of six public school students over five years, as they navigate home and school in search of fulfilling their dreams and hopes for the future. The four-part documentary series captures and shares not only the potential of these youth, but the challenges faced by a school system going through unprecedented change. Telling this story over several years provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what children growing up and going to school in urban environments experience. The hopes our children have for themselves, and the promise they aspire to is either empowered or endangered by the decisions of adults who surround them every day, those endangered by the decisions of adults who surround them every day, yet seldom really see them, preferring instead to rely on quantitative data.

The goal of The Newark Project is to encourage all stakeholders to remember just what is at stake in the judgments they make every day, which impact the futures of young people around the country.

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A self-described father, filmmaker, warrior angel, and “Mr. Get it Done,” who is unafraid, Derek Koen is a son of Newark, N.J. Growing up poor, Derek’s parents modeled ingenuity: his mother made meals, and his father made household repairs, using scant resources. In childhood, creativity was Koen’s toy. He first held a camera in 1988, and ever since has remained enthralled by things unseen to the naked eye, but visible through the viewfinder.

 

In 2006, Koen and Ouida Washington formed Washington Koen Media, a full-service video production and media company focused on creating high-impact, socially responsible media and messaging. Their client list includes the U.S. Department of Justice, The Ford Foundation, Pearson Digital, The Advancement Project, and Arkansas Minority Health Commission.

Koen directed the 2010 documentary, Beyond the Bricks, and served as co-executive director of a nonprofit organization with the same name.

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While studying at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Washington was introduced to 40 Acres and A Mule Film Company. Shortly thereafter, she became an intern, which led to her becoming a production assistant on commercials and music videos. By graduation, Washington had fallen in love with the film set and production process. Although she attained a B.F.A. in Art Direction/Commercial Design, she embarked on a film career, instead.

She produced the feature film Love Poem before becoming director at the Intel Computer Clubhouse for New York-based Children’s Aid Society. The afterschool creative technology program was her introduction to working with public schools. After 3 years in education, she returned to production in 2006, teaming up with director Derek Koen to form Washington Koen Media, which produces high-impact, socially responsible media and messaging projects.

Their 2010 documentary, “Beyond the Bricks,” looks at young, Black males and their struggles to stay in school.

Street Cred

fellows: sultan sharrief and oren goldenberg
mentor: 2015 Fellows

Street Cred is a new reality show, documenting the challenges 12 Detroit High School students must overcome to meet entertainment/production skill-based tasks, in competition for a chance to win a dream internship. Life on the streets of Detroit is tough, but the youth survive, relying on their passion, perseverance, resourcefulness, and guts. Their street smarts are further tested when they are thrust into the business world. In each episode, students face a different challenge presented by industry/ celebrity judges. They pitch, market, budget, manage time, social media, and even style, earning different levels of results-based credit, along the way. They also lose credit for breaking rules or failing to accomplish tasks. In the end, the student with the most credits wins a cash prize and the dream internship. Each week, viewers watch the dynamic process unfold, and see the students prove their potential to the industry judges, and to themselves.

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Sultan Sharrief, creator and head writer of the project Street Cred, sees potential and finds inspiration in Detroit. Since premiering his directorial debut film Bilal’s Stand at top film festivals around the country, including the Sundance Film Festival, MoMA’s New Directors/New Films Festival, and the Seattle Film Festival, he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s Top 25 New Faces in Independent Film, 2010.

Sharrief seeks to develop socially relevant content while empowering youth through filmmaking. At 19, he produced The Spiral Project, a 35mm feature film nominated for a 2006 MTV Movie Award. In 2011, he served as associate producer of Moozlum and co-producer of Destined, which was filmed in Detroit, fall 2014. He serves on the board of the Michigan Theater Foundation and is the founder/curator of the Detroit Voices category at the Cinetopia International Film Festival. He also teaches a new media course at the University of Michigan.

Sharrief is active in Los Angeles and Detroit, developing inspirational and educational content.

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Oren Goldenberg is a director/producer and video artist living and working in the Cass Corridor of Detroit. He is a 2013 Kresge Artist Fellow, whose projects have included Our School, a feature documentary about Detroit’s public schools; Brewster Douglass, You’re My Brother, a film about America’s first public housing project; The Bicyclist, the feature film; and Detroit (Blank) City, a satirical web series, Through his company, Cass Corridor Films, Goldenberg has collaborated with National Geographic, MTV, BET, and Panavision.

Digital

Beyond the Book (Now "Read Awakening")

fellows: dominique taylor and stephanie fields
2016 Fellows

Beyond the Book is a web series that takes readers on a digital field trip through the literary world. Along with host Dominique Taylor, viewers explore the unconventional ways of shaping a growing literary renaissance through the lens of pop culture and digital media. This literary variety show aims to introduce viewers to the authors, editors, librarians, book clubbers, and other literary influencers shaping the world of books. It’s essentially a Reading Rainbow for millennials!

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Dominique Taylor is a multitalented artist and creator. Her media background includes writing and editing for Blavity.com, Okayafrica.com, and Tea & Breakfast.com, and film, TV, and web production.

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Stephanie Fields is an Ohio-based, multimedia producer with a background in public media and independent production. When not on set, she writes, studies, and produces stories and projects about Black women writers of the African diaspora.

The wHole

fellow: ramon hamilton
mentor: 2016 Fellow

The wHOLE is a scripted, interactive web series, inspired by real events, that puts a human face to the issues of mass incarceration and solitary confinement. The series challenges generations of messaging that continues to dehumanize Black Americans, ultimately leading to a reality in which police killings of unarmed Black men occur too often. The wHOLE challenges this messaging by telling an intimate, character-driven story that puts humanity at the forefront.

The film follows the story of Marcus Williams, an African-American man his 30s who we first meet being brutally force-fed by correctional officers following his participation in a prison hunger strike in protest of being held in solitary confinement. From this, we travel back to Williams’ initial experiences of isolation and his struggles with this brutal environment. Through Williams, audiences navigate all that mass incarceration entails: the path to incarceration, the degradation, and torture of solitary, and the subculture and corruption of the prison industrial complex. Williams’ story is told through webisodes and transmedia elements (social media, vlogs, video vignettes, etc.).

Viewers meet his family and community and see the ripple effect of incarceration. The cast and crew involved with the project also spent a combined 7 years in solitary confinement. The cinematography and editing style reflect the intimate way the project has been made and encourage audiences to empathize with Williams, a character who represents the tens of millions of Black men who have become victims of mass incarceration, a system author Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow.”

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Ramon Hamilton is an award-winning writer/director who combines entertainment and storytelling to motivate change. His unique style gives social issues a human face, telling intimate, character-driven stories.

Urban Food Chain

fellows: tiffany judkins and artemis fannin
2016 Fellows

Urban Food Chain celebrates inventive solutions to the food sustainability challenges of particular relevance in communities of color.

Its stories are chosen for their perspective on health, economy, and community. Episodes feature a select group of people who asked questions and sought their own answers, carving out their own path. A motley crew of gangstas, renegades, and all-around badasses transform blighted streets and develop clean water systems.

They include South Central Los Angeles’ “Old School” Ron Finley growing food on his sidewalk and sparking a three-year legal battle with the city; Harlem’s original “Bartenda,” Hassan ”Giant” Yasin who developed an extreme workout that develops tenacity and self-awareness in young men; and Wanda James, who entered the marijuana growing business with economic justice in mind for all who have been incarcerated by an arbitrary system.

Urban Food Chain is a gritty combination of compelling storytelling, provocative cinematography, and emotive original music. Host Sticman, formerly of hop hop duo Dead Prez, transformed his health and started living holistically a decade ago. He sets up each show’s theme through his point of view —think Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations —to tell stories of men and women who dare to make a difference, and who dare you to join them.

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Growing up in the South Side and suburbs of Chicago meant Tiffany Judkins existed at a cross-section of race and class: she was struck by the distinctions. As an artist, her mission is to marry her creativity and desire to advance social justice.

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Wife and mother, Artemis Fannin is a certified holistic health coach, American Association of Drugless Practitioner, and founder of PlantGrowThrive. For Fannin, the concept of Urban Food Chain is more than physical nourishment; it is about the ecosystem that sustains a person or community and the innovators of sustainability production.

Black Broadway on U

fellow: shellée m. haynesworth
2015 Fellow

Before there was the Harlem Renaissance, there was the D.C. Renaissance, taking place along Washington, DC’s U Street/Shaw community corridor — which eventually became known as the Black Broadway (a phrase coined by entertainer Pearl Bailey). From the early 1900s to late 1950s, this culturally vibrant corridor in the nation’s capital was America’s “Black Mecca,” where Black-owned businesses and a highly educated Black middle class thrived despite the Jim Crow laws of the time.

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Shellée M. Haynesworth is an award-winning independent producer, writer, director, and storyteller. Throughout her more than 20-year career, she has produced, written, and developed documentaries, multicultural programs, and digital media projects for clients such as USAID, U.S. Department of Education, Smithsonian Institution, PBS, Black

Entertainment Television, NBC, TV One, HBO/Time Warner, Gates Foundation and King World Entertainment, among others.

As a documentarian and digital storyteller, her focus has been to examine the African Diaspora by shedding light on the untold human stories and hidden contributions of African-American and Latino trailblazers in history, arts, culture, and humanities. Her documentary and broadcast credits include Latino Voices: Art & Culture (PBS/Smithsonian), Latino Music Greats (National TV Syndication), An Evening with Quincy Jones (PBS), An American Reunion: Clinton’s 1st Inauguration (HBO/Time Warner), Women’s Land Rights: A Ripple Effect (USAID/Gates Foundation) and A Tribute to Madiba: Nelson Mande- (a TV One/News One Now special).

More recently, Haynesworth has been exploring new approaches to immersive cinematic experiences and pioneering the next-generation of convergence in new media technology and digital storytelling for African-American themed projects. She is the recipient of several industry awards and in 2013 was nominated for a Capital Emmy award for The Sound: A Chuck Brown Tribute. An active member of the Producers Guild of America, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter), she also serves as an advisory board member for Women in Film and Video (Washington, DC Chapter), and is an alumnae of the University of Maryland, College Park where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Radio, TV, and Film.

Chronicle

fellows: shukree tilghman and isaac solotaroff
2015 Fellows

The summer of 1919 was the bloodiest in American racial history. It was also when NAACP Field Worker Walter Francis White undertook a one-man crusade to investigate the lynching of hundreds of African Americans. He brought perpetrators to justice utilizing his greatest weapon: passing as a White man. This other Walter White (not to be mistaken with the fictional protagonist of the same name in HBO’s dramatic series Breaking Bad) tells his remarkable story in Chronicle. The multi-season episodic docudrama series tackles White’s story and other tales from American history, dramatizing them over 6-10 animated episodes.

For Chronicle, White’s writings and historical accounts explain how he traveled through towns and hamlets — where the stench of charred flesh hung in the air — infiltrating the hateful mobs that plotted the murder of Black citizens, to gather invaluable information, which he later shared with federal law-enforcement.

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Shukree Hassan Tilghman navigates between fiction and nonfiction spaces as a documentary filmmaker and narrative screenwriter. Currently, a writer on the USA Network drama series Satisfaction, Tilghman received his MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University. He has received several accolades for screenwriting including being named to the Columbia Blue List and winning the Faculty Selects Screenwriting Award for his television pilot Big Girls. His original television and feature scripts have placed in film competitions including: Bluecat, Austin Film Festival, Anything But Hollywood, and ScriptShark Insider. The documentary filmmaker wrote, produced, and directed the 2012 film, More Than A Month, which follows his humorous cross-country campaign to end Black History Month. Funded by Independent Television Service (ITVS), National Black Programming Consortium, and the Sundance Documentary Fund, the film aired nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens.

In 2013, Tilghman directed The March@50, a PBS series of online, nonfiction shorts about the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. He also is the director of Danielle Mia Beverly’s 2014 film, All the Single Ladies, which looks at Black women and marriage, and was funded by ITVS.

Isaac Solotaroff

Isaac Solotaroff is a two-time Emmy nominated documentary director and producer. Recently, his 2013 series, Casualties of the Gridiron for Conde Nast Entertainment and GQ.com was the first digital series ever nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Sports Series. His feature-length directing credits include Ballplayer: Pelotero [2012] which was released theatrically in 10 cities and was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Washington Post Critics’ Pick. Isaac also includes the following among his significant works: WHAM! BAM! ISLAM! [2011] for the PBS series Independent Lens, Visioning Tibet [2007] for American Public Television, Los Romeros [2002] for PBS which received an Emmy nomination in 2002 for Outstanding Nonfiction Special, and Belief Amended, Faith Revealed[1999] which was chosen as one of the 10 best documentary shorts in 1999 by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. Isaac is also a managing partner of Endeavor5, a commercial production company based in New York. Before working in documentary and commercial production, Isaac taught high school history in San Leandro, California.

Pixie Dust

fellows: damon colquhoun and shertease wheeler
2015 Fellows

Growing up working-class in New York City meant that Damon Colquhoun existed at a cross-section of classes and types: experiencing the best and worst of the city. Shot at the age of 8 by a bullet that fell out of the sky, just missing his head but ripping out a chunk out of his thigh, Colquhoun continued to be known as a happy kid. Death felt as if it would descend upon him at any moment. That fear led to the conjuring of fantastic solutions, his reality reworked into cinematic scope, offering grand answers and deeper meaning.

Colquhoun learned to craft stories at screenwriting workshops of The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center under the late Fred Hudson (NYU screenwriting professor and writer of The Education of Sonny Carson). There, Colquhoun learned from writers like Budd Schulberg and Kermit Frazier.

As interesting as Colquhoun’s stories were, they felt flat. He picked up a camera to discover how he saw the world; he explored sound to learn how he processed it; he studied Meisner with Pamela Moller Kareman at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts to tap into emotion. Then, he dug into post-production at Nice Shoes/Guava VFX, learning to wrap it up tightly.

Finally, he returned to writing. His explorations had sharpened his vision, voice, and craft. Now his stories sing. His Pixie Dust project is an urban fantasy web series about mental illness in the Black community.

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Growing up working-class in New York City meant that Damon Colquhoun existed at a cross-section of classes and types: experiencing the best and worst of the city. Shot at the age of 8 – the bullet fell out of the sky,
just missed his head, and instead ripped a chunk out of his thigh – Damon continued to be known as a happy kid. Death felt as if it would descend upon him. That fear

led to the conjuring of fantastic solutions, his reality reworked into cinematic scope, offering grand answers and deeper meaning.

Damon learned to craft stories at screenwriting workshops of The Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center under the late Fred Hudson (NYU Screenwriting Professor and writer of “The Education of Sonny Carson”). There, Damon learned from writers like Budd Schulberg and Kermit Frazier.

As interesting as Damon’s stories were, they felt flat. He picked up a camera to discover how he saw the world; he explored sound to learn how he processed it; he studied Meisner with Pamela Moller Kareman at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts to tap into emotion. Then, he dug into post-production at Nice Shoes / Guava VFX, learning to wrap it up tightly.

Finally, he returned to writing. His explorations had sharpened his vision, voice, and craft. Now his stories sing. Mental illness, his current topic of exploration, turns the mean mug and hollow stare of a thug into a person managing an internal beast that has crept into his mind. Damon is currently developing the urban fantasy web series about mental illness in the black community, called Pixie Dust.

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Shertease Wheeler, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, debuted in indie films as the producer of Pixie Dust with Filmic Front Productions alongside writer, director, producer Damon Colquhoun. Her true passions are rooted in compelling storytelling, and pulling dark, hard to talk about stories to the forefront for scrutiny and discussion. The youngest of five children growing up in a domestically violent turned single-parent household, Wheeler always viewed writing and movies as her go-to outlets. As a child, she was very shy, and creative writing became her preferred means of self-expression. She liked to observe and record events happening in her neighborhood, and then use those observations as themes for her stories, poetry, and even badly drawn comic books. There were some especially rough days in the household when she relied heavily on her creative writing to create serenity.

It never failed her then, and it continues to provide solace to this day. With a professional background in event management and production, Wheeler has applied her event skills and life experiences to the film production process. Managing the smallest of details and coordinating many moving pieces proved beneficial in her work on Pixie Dust.

Wheeler graduated summa cum laude from Hampton University with a BA in print journalism.

Pops

fellow: garland mclaurin
2015 Fellow

When you see a Black father playing with his child, or perhaps, walking them to school, are you surprised?

From TV pundits to the President of the United States, African-American men are consistently and severely criticized for failing to be active agents in their children’s lives. So much so, that the media-driven narrative of the “deadbeat Black father” has become a generally accepted social identifier for Black patriarchy. The implications of this trend for African-American children are significant.

Pops, a web series, follows the lives of a group of African-American men who are tackling one of the toughest challenges of their lives: becoming good fathers. Interwoven through the narratives are the themes of responsibility, nurturing and love for these fathers, men whose personalities, backgrounds and struggles all differ, but who share a collective experience of fatherhood. They carry us through their emotional journeys, personalized video diaries, and daily life experiences.

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Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Garland McLaurin was a military brat whose passion for images and film emerged at a very early age. From taking childhood photos, to watching the Wizard of Oz or news footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, he has always been fascinated by images and their psychological and emotional impact on people. Raised between Oklahoma, Korea, and Florida, he finally settled in Washington, D.C. and in New York.

Stories shared by various people around politics, race, and culture, sparked McLaurin’s interest in storytelling and filmmaking. As a documentarian and cameraman, he has filmed subjects as broad as political and presidential elections, the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, to police brutality and issues affecting veterans. McLaurin’s love for storytelling comes from the form’s power to explore artistically, complex and conflicting social and psychological layers of people and society.

This is reflected in the projects and filmmakers with whom he has worked, including the Peabody Award-winning 180 Days series, the award-winning documentary The New Black (for which he was co-director of production), and the PBS series Coming Back with Wes Moore.