Film Independent Selects 10 Projects and 21 Participants for Second Annual Docuseries Intensive

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CNN Original Series Returns as Founding Sponsor

LOS ANGELES (September 21, 2021) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced today the 10 projects and 21 participants selected for its second annual Docuseries Intensive. The 2021 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 Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.

“We’re happy to partner with CNN Original Series again on the Docuseries Intensive, helping to support creators working in the documentary series space to develop their unique projects.” said Daniel Cardone, Artist Development Associate. “Building on the success of last year’s program, we have selected ten diverse and talented teams bringing their specific points of view to a wide range of subjects, from African American healthcare and police corruption, to economic inequity and the ongoing shockwaves of the AIDS epidemic.”

“We are excited to once again partner with Film Independent for the second year to help support young filmmakers in the nonfiction space,” said Amy Entelis, EVP for Talent & Content Development, CNN Worldwide. “Their voices are invaluable, and we are honored to play a role in their professional development.”

The Docuseries Intensive is a three-day remote workshop, taking place September 22-24, 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 2021 Docuseries Intensive creative advisors and guest speakers include: Lynne Kirby, Elissa Johnson, Rushie Perera, Karin Hayes, Raeshem Nijhon, Katie Doering, Cullen Hoback (Q: Into the Storm); Mikaela Shwer, Parker Laramie and Sara Newens (Allen v. Farrow); Maureen A. Ryan (Dick Johnson is Dead); John Ealer (History of the Sitcom); Lyle Gamm, Jon Adler, Katie Isaacson and Rishika Advani (CNN).

The 2021 Docuseries Intensive participants and their projects are:

Black Minds Matter
Michael L Brown, Producer
Garland Mclaurin , Producer
Logline: The human mind can break down in the face of police brutality, voter suppression, poor healthcare, the prison industrial complex, poor government representation, education inequalities, and media bias. How do we carve out space for healing and restoration? Our docuseries will be guided by producer and host Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis and filmed in cinéma vérité style.

Deia Schlosberg, Director/Producer
Vanessa Bergonzoli, Producer
Logline: The very ethics of the American economic system are rooted deeply in the idea of “bootstrapping” one’s way to success, making something from nothing in this land of unbounded opportunity. The reality, however, is that the odds of realizing that success are long, and they’re heavily stacked against the majority of the population. Could Basic Income revive the American Dream? The Bootstraps docuseries shows what happens in the lives of everyday Americans when they receive $1,000 a month, no strings attached.

Dear Appalachia
Ashley York, Director/Producer
Crystal Good, Producer
John Fee, Producer
Logline: Dear Appalachia is a documentary series that highlights a commonly misunderstood place within the United States. Each episode has its own narrative arc and interweaves multiple narrative threads using cinéma vérité storytelling combined with personal interviews and archival material. Each episode will be directed and produced by filmmakers from the region in an effort to empower Appalachians to tell their own stories.

Driving the Green Book
Mike De Caro, Producer
Saro Varjabedian, Producer
Alvin Hall, Producer
Logline: An author and his young students take an enlightening road trip across America looking for locations once listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book while also discovering new spaces and facets of Black culture.

Fighting Time
Margaret Byrne, Director/Writer/Producer
Rachel Pikelny, Producer
Logline: Fighting Time reveals dozens of Chicago murder frame-ups tied to one retired detective. As innocent Latino and Black men fight for freedom, a former cop becomes an unlikely ally, risking his own safety to pursue the truth.

The Final Season
Luke Slendebroek, Director/Writer/Producer
Logline: The Final Season is a seven-part episodic docuseries that chronicles the #1 high school football team in Michigan, the Farmington Hills Harrison Hawks, as they embark on their final season before their school closes down forever. Undersized, undermanned and without a quarterback, does this team have what it takes to live up to the Harrison legacy? Or will the weight of the moment be too much?

From the Top
Chinisha Scott, Producer/Writer
Taryn Carraro, Producer
Logline: From the Top does for music what Anthony Bourdain did for food – with a very POC lens. Chinisha & Rem explore the places, stories and sounds that have given birth to the most impactful and enduring music created.

Ghost Lights: Reclaiming Theatre in the Age of AIDS
Kieran Turner, Director/Writer/Producer
Christianne Tisdale, Producer
Logline: What happens when you go in search of your legacy to find it stolen by an insidious plague? Ghost Lights explores the lasting impact of the AIDS crisis on theater.

Growing Up in America: Life After the Taliban
Isabel Soloaga, Producer/Writer/Director
Daniel Chávez-Ontiveros, Editor
Logline: America’s longest war is over. Aaina has not known life without it. After fleeing from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, eight year old Aaina tells her story of growing up in America.

Where You From? The Search for a Filipino-American Cultural Identity
Dani de Jesus, Writer/Producer
Leslie Alejandro, Director/Writer/Producer
Logline: The rise and fall of Filipino Gangs: Overshadowed by the Crips and Bloods, Filipino Americans had a defining cultural moment in 1980s/90s Los Angeles. This series is an intimate look at how the youth of an immigrant community – the Filipino gangs of Los Angeles – were simultaneously rebelling against the Asian “model minority” myth while struggling to create their own cultural identity as Americans.
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); the 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