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Programs Thu 5.4.2023

Fiscal Spotlight: Three First-Person Journeys Into the Heart of Inherited Trauma

Welcome to Fiscal Spotlight, a special monthly round up of projects—at all stages of production—working their way through Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship pipeline.


The next two months are chockablock full of opportunities to reflect back on our parents and the effect they continue to assert on our steadily unfolding lives, with US Mothers Day looming next weekend and Fathers Day lurking close behind, in June. Sometimes the legacies our families leave us are as simple as the stubborn genetic predisposition for a pronounced front-tooth gap (your humble blogger) or as grand as the stewardship of a vast media empire (the Roys and/or Murdochs). And sometimes, what we inherit from our mothers and fathers is generational trauma, knotty and bone-deep.

Take the three projects we’re highlighting in this month’s Fiscal Sponsorship column, which in three very different ways form their narratives around the difficult choices made by the filmmakers’ parents and how those decisions continue to reverberate, informing and impacting the storytellers’ fundamental sense of identity. These are journeys of self-discovery but also of geography: Vietnam. America. Prison.

All three projects are supported by Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship program, which enables filmmakers to solicit tax-deductible donations and seek organizational grants in partnership with Film Independent. Here’s how:

March’s featured projects are I Forgive You for Dying, You Don’t Know My Name and The Empathizer. Read on to learn more about each project and how to support…



Project type: Documentary Feature

Project status: Development

Writer/Director/Producer: Mary Bronaugh

Producer: Brendan Bennett

Executive Producer: Jacqueline Lundquist

About the project: I Forgive You for Dying is a feature documentary that explores the psychology of childhood trauma through one daughter’s brave journey to forgive her father, who died fighting in the Vietnam War. Using a combination of beautiful archival film, innovative sketch-style animation, and fascinating discussions with experts, the film uses one woman’s true story to reveal profound breakthroughs in child psychology and mental health. When Don Lundquist is called to fight in the Vietnam War, he must leave his three year-old daughter Jacqueline at home without a father. After returning only a year later, news arrives that Don has suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Young Jacqueline is left feeling confused and overwhelmed. Instead of feeling grief at his passing, she feels abandoned by him. For the next 30 years, Jacqueline refuses to acknowledge she ever had a father… Until she becomes pregnant with her own child. Based on the book Letters from the Battlefield, written by the real-life Jacqueline and Don Lundquist, I Forgive You for Dying is a captivating, father-daughter drama that turns traditional documentary styles on their head.

Meet the filmmakers: To learn more about I Forgive You For Dying including how to support the project, click here. Mary Bronaugh is a writer, director and producer. Most recently, she worked as a Staff Writer on Disney Channel’s #1 series Big City Greens, whose writers room has been nominated for multiple Emmys for its stories. She has also worked as a Development Writer at Walt Disney Television, NBCUniversal and Paramount. She has also written, directed and produced indie films and series with historic organizations like Film Independent and the Academy Award winning Six Point Harness. Most recently, she wrote, directed and produced an original short called Swearing, which had its world premiere at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival in 2022.



Project type: Documentary Feature

Project status: Production

Writer/Director/Producer: Tommy Franklin

Producer: Natalie Pattillo

Director of Photography: Justin Jones

About the project: After being separated from his incarcerated mother at birth, Tommy Franklin searches for her identity while uncovering deep ancestral bloodlines. As he gets closer to this life-altering truth, he must navigate his way through systems designed to keep him in the dark. Tommy is a formerly incarcerated filmmaker living in his imagination, dreaming of what his birth mother may be like. Erica Gerrity leads the search for Tommy’s birth mom. Erica has worked with incarcerated mothers and their children for the past 20 years, devoting her time to creating better healthcare outcomes for people birthing behind bars and lobbying for anti-shackling legislation across the country. Tommy joins a community of formerly incarcerated mothers and prison doulas fighting to end prison birth in America. Tommy is unsure how long he can endure his search if he runs into too many dead ends. Is Tommy’s mother alive? Does she want to meet him? Do they finally meet? He thought he was ready for the truth, but fear and doubt seeped into the cracks of a treacherous emotional waiting game. But he never wants to live life as the version of himself that gives up the search. The miracle of finding out who his mother is could be the light emerging from his greatest shadow.

Meet the filmmakers: To learn more about You Don’t Know My Name including how to support the project, click here. Tommy Franklin is a filmmaker, writer, producer, creator of the Weapon of Choice Podcast and Special Menu Productions. He was a founding board member of All Square, is a founding board member of the Ostara Initiative, and is a creative and communications consultant at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). His documentary work in progress You Don’t Know My Name has been supported by Sundance, Kartemquin Films, Jerome Foundation, Film Independent, CNN and True/False Film Fest. Tommy is a 2023 Big Sky Pitch participant. His pilot Intrepid was a finalist for 2021’s Sundance Episodic Lab, and he was a 2022 Sundance BIPOC Mentorship Program Mentee.



Project type: Documentary Short

Project status: Post-Production

Co-Director/Producer: Fred Le

Co-Director/Cinematographer: Bret Hamilton

Executive Producer: King Kimbit

Editor: Linh Tran

About the project: Between 1975 and 1995, around 2 million Vietnamese fled the country. In 2015, there were a reported 12,000 Việt Kiều (overseas-born Vietnamese) who “returned” to the former capital of Saigon, with hundreds more migrating every year seeking opportunity, escape or info about their heritage. Shot over two weeks in Saigon and Hanoi, The Empathizer is a half-hour documentary featuring over twenty millennial-aged Việt Kiều sharing their journeys back to Vietnam and the ripples that their reverse immigration may have caused among their families. The project takes a look at the effects of wartime trauma through the eyes of the children of refugees, a generation removed from the events which led to their parents’ escape from Vietnam yet deeply shaped by the circumstances of their birth.

Meet the filmmakers: To learn more about The Empathizer including how to support the project, click here. Standup comedian Fred Le is a graduate of the Film & Digital Media program at UC Santa Cruz. In Vietnam, he served as the original host of the VTV International program Vietnam A-Z. He regularly performs and produces stand-up shows around the country and has earned invites to perform at prestigious festivals including San Francisco Sketchfest, Treefort and Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. Bret Hamilton is a documentary director of photography based in Los Angeles. Bret lived in Vietnam during the same period as Fred, where he developed a deep affection for the culture and community while working as a documentarian for a variety of media outlets including one of the top online food and travel channels: Best Ever Food Review Show.

Learn more about Fiscal Sponsorship, including its benefits and eligibility requirements, by visiting our website. Check out our Sponsored Projects page to see the projects are currently being supported.

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(Header: The Empathizer)

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