Film Independent Selects 10 Projects and 19 Participants for Inaugural Docuseries Intensive

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CNN Original Series Joins in Support as Founding Sponsor

LOS ANGELES (October 8, 2020) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced today the 10 projects and 19 participants selected for its inaugural Docuseries Intensive. The 2020 Film Independent Docuseries Intensive is supported by Founding Sponsor CNN Original Series, the brand behind award-winning nonfiction series such as Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell and This Is Life with Lisa Ling.

“We applaud CNN Original Series for opening the door to a sector of the filmmaking ecosystem that is often closed to filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds and are thrilled to have dedicated partners that share our enthusiasm for creating equity and access in our industry,” said Lisa Hasko, Director of Artist Development, Film Independent. “The high caliber of the 10 selected projects for the inaugural Docuseries Intensive speaks to the deep well of perspectives, voices and artistry these talented filmmakers have to offer.”

“CNN Original Series is thrilled to partner with Film Independent for this one-of-a-kind initiative to support and champion the next generation of storytellers in the docuseries space,” said Amy Entelis, EVP for Talent & Content Development, CNN Worldwide.

“We are inspired by the work this group of diverse voices has developed and look forward to helping them bring their creative visions to life,” said Molly Harrington, Director of Current Programming, CNN Worldwide.

The Docuseries Intensive is a three-day remote workshop that will give filmmakers the tools and access needed to develop and present their nonfiction series to potential collaborators working in the series space. Through executive and peer mentorship, workshopping and fostering industry connections, Fellows will walk away with a deeper understanding of how the business works, as well as having tangible next steps to move their projects forward. The program will elaborate on a range of topics, from funding and development to marketing and distribution. Networking and pitch events will offer Fellows the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work to studio and network executives. Courtesy of CNN Original Series, each filmmaker or filmmaking team will receive a $3,500 stipend to utilize as they see fit for their docuseries project.

The 2020 Docuseries Intensive creative advisors and guest speakers include: Lyle Gamm and Jon Adler (SVP, Current Programming and Vice President, Program Development CNN Original Series, respectively), Joey Marra (Vice President of Development, Jigsaw Productions), David Shadrack Smith and Amy Bucher (President and SVP of Programming & Content, Part2 Pictures, respectively), Lisa Ling (Host, This Is Life with Lisa Ling), Maureen Ryan (Producer, Hands On Productions), Smriti Mundhra (Director/Producer Meralta Films, Indian Matchmaking), Marjan Safinia and Grace Lee (Directors/Producers, And She Could Be Next) and Ben Braun (Director of Sales and Distribution, Submarine Entertainment).

The 2020 Docuseries Intensive participants and their projects are:

Alphabet Rockers Got Your Back (working title)
Nico Opper, Director
Shannon St. Aubin, Director
Logline: Grammy-nominated Alphabet Rockers is an unlikely phenomenon of the children’s music world: a group of kids using hip hop to effect social change. With songs like “Black Gxrl Magic” and “Until You’re Free” – about migrant children being held in U.S. detention centers – and songs that speak out about racism and smashing the gender binary, they are activists first and artists second. As adults and children alike grapple with these questions, society needs their voices more than ever.”

Jessica Dunn Rovinelli, Director/Screenwriter
Bill Kirstein, Producer/Cinematographer
Logline: A six-to-eight part documentary fiction hybrid television series that follows the odd couple-cum-love story between a transgender American man, Paul, and an alcoholic Yugoslavian cowboy, Dane. After meeting in the southwest of America, they embark on a motorcycle trip across the country. They encounter ketamine-fueled raves filled with gender deviants, a collective of transwomen teaching themselves to shoot guns in a rural commune, and monster-truck rallies of freaks and queers, among other moments of atypical yet somehow typical American experience.

Black America Is…
Loria King, Director
Avril Speaks, Producer
Logline: An ongoing conversation in the form of a docuseries that celebrates the formation of Black identity in the United States.

Cult Foods
Jin Yoo-Kim, Director
Krista Simmons, Producer
Logline: A docuseries that unwraps the foods that go from relative obscurity to fanatical worship. Kneel at the altar and witness the cuisine that stirs up subcultures, heats up waitlists, squeezes in crime, and melts hearts. In the first season of this series, sing the praises of SPAM, quinoa, cauliflower, and fried chicken.

Folk Frontera
Sam Osborn, Director
Alejandra Vasquez, Director
Logline: A magical-realist documentary series about life in the borderlands. It tells the stories of a traveling priest, private postman, river guardian, and radio DJ as they forge their lives in the remote Chihuahuan Desert, stretched across both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Natalie Baszile, Director
Hyacinth Parker, Director
Logline: A character-driven docuseries, focuses on the unique circumstances and passions of farmers around the globe, and offers an intimate look at their lives and realities. Taking the lens that is usually trained on chefs and foodies, Harvest celebrates the beauty and artistry of farming and the people who act as stewards of the land at a pivotal moment when mankind is grappling with our food sources, climate change, and re-examining our relationship to the earth.

Immeasurable: The Color of Fashion
Jeffery Relf, Director/Producer/Screenwriter
Logline: Reveals compelling, inspiring, and human stories about designers of color (established & emerging) who’ve shaped and continue to shape the global fashion world. The docuseries takes viewers inside a multicultural journey and peels back the layers to show the dedication, the love, the ambition, the challenges, and the breakthroughs from fashion’s most revered designers of color.

New Wave
Elizabeth Ai, Director/Screenwriter
Tracy Chitupatham, Producer
Logline: A historical coming-of-age story about Vietnamese refugee youth that survived the trauma of losing their homeland, after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and fought to build community and redefine their identities through the “new wave” music scene.

Untitled Stasi
Jamie Coughlin, Director
Gabe Silverman, Producer
Logline: Before Big Data, there was the Stasi – East Germany’s secret police that gathered and weaponized the personal information of its citizens to maintain control of the ruling communist party. In Untitled Stasi, a former prisoner of the Stasi goes on a quest for the truth after he finds out his brother informed on the family, and in the process discovers the lasting traumas of living in a surveillance state.

Woman 2.0
Kimberlee Bassford, Director
Jaqueline Langs, Producer
Logline: Women’s bodies and health have always been shrouded in taboo, but a wave of innovation, activism and public policy breakthroughs is changing the relationship women have with their bodies. Hosted by music producer, drummer, artist and activist Kiran Gandhi, also known by her stage name of Madame Gandhi, the docuseries goes around the country to reveal how the latest technology in women’s reproductive health is not only making women’s lives easier but is part of the greater movement toward women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique, independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve; Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting); Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through Grants and Awards, which provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.

For more information on any of the Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact Lisa Hasko, Director of Artist Development, at Additional information and an application form can be found at


Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional or a film lover.

In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents; a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a Member, visit