Original Voices

Original Voices FellowshipNBCU Academy in partnership with NBC News Studios, the NBC News documentary division, is proud to present Original Voices, a new artist development and inclusion initiative for independent documentary filmmakers. Eligible filmmakers are US-based documentarians who identify as – or showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting – women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color, and people with disabilities regardless of career stage or immigration status. We recognize all key creative staff as our fellows. The fellowship is an invite-only opportunity. We partner with national artist development organizations, funders, producers, curators, and independent documentary film nonprofits to solicit recommendations each summer. Fifty teams are invited to apply and five to seven teams are chosen.

Original Voices Fellowship

The inaugural Original Voices Fellowship cohort launched in 2021 with seven documentary filmmaking teams receiving a bespoke artist development fellowship and non-recoupable grant award of $45,000 each to support their creative process on feature-length nonfiction films. Once granted, the first fellowship year includes invitations to bimonthly online professional development workshops and a week-long trip to New York City to attend a film festival and in-person workshops at 30 Rockefeller Plaza with all travel and housing included. Fellows also have ongoing access to NBC News Studios executives, journalists, archival research support, mentorship, creative feedback, festival and marketing strategy, and fellows gatherings in New York City and along the festival circuit.  We are also proud to partner with nonprofits and academic research labs such as the Center for Media and Social Impact, The Flaherty, and Peace is Loud to offer additional workshops and programming.

The Original Voices Fellowship cohort of 2022 included six filmmaking teams receiving a non-recoupable grant award at the increased amount of $60,000 along with the Original Voices Fellowship cohort of 2021 receiving a regrant of an additional $15,000 each to support the completion of their films and career sustainability.

In 2023, we are launching a new program, the Original Voices Shorts Pitch. NBCU Academy in partnership with NBC News Studios, the NBC News documentary division, is collaborating with IF/Then Shorts to launch a national open call for archival and journalistically driven short documentaries highlighting social issues and identities.

Five teams will be invited to take the stage at the Original Voices Shorts Pitch, an inclusion-focused pitch session where a curated selection of diverse filmmakers propose their documentary works in progress to a panel of journalists, funders, news executives, and distributors. Pitching teams will receive a grant of $5,000 each with all pitch travel and housing included. One winning team will also receive a $100,000 investment and co-production deal with NBC News Studios. Eligible filmmakers are US-based documentarians who identify as – or showcase stories highlighting social issues affecting – women, LGBTQ+ folx, communities of color, and people with disabilities regardless of career stage or immigration status.

The purpose of the Original Voices Shorts Pitch is to open doors to the NBCU newsroom and archive to diverse documentary filmmakers eager to present a more vibrant, equitable, and accurate take on American history and society today. Reaffirming the values of integrity and inclusion in order to spur innovation, the Original Voices Shorts Pitch aims to break down barriers between news media networks and consumers, support diverse documentary filmmakers with the resources of a legacy news organization, and strengthen public trust in fact-based reporting and film.
Check back here in Spring 2023 to apply.

Questions? Reach out to Jeanelle Augustin who leads Original Voices and is happy to learn about your film.

2022 Grantees

Chain of Rocks

Directed by Damon Davis, Produced by Chris Renteria

Production Stage: Production

A Death Row inmate confesses to a crime after 30 years of maintaining his innocence. Now, an activist who once fought for his innocence is faced with the moral dilemma of whether the fight was in vain. Chain of Rocks is an animated feature-length documentary that explores the complexities of race and masculinity and how they skew our worldview and play a role in oppressive systems.

Florence From Ohio

Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal, Produced by Carrie Weprin and Mynette Louie

Production Stage: Development

Florence from Ohio is a real-life, genre-twisting film about Florence Wang and her second-generation daughter, Stephanie Wang-Breal. Told through the lens of Florence’s St. John Knit power suits and 1980s local TV cooking show, mother and daughter collectively reimagine and grapple with their generational ideas of motherhood, feminism, racism, and assimilation.

The Queer Beat

Directed by Eric Juhola, Produced by Jeremy Stulberg and David Ninh, Cinematographers Rachel Bardin and Rose Bush

Production Stage: Production

The Queer Beat is a collaborative vérité documentary featuring trans, queer and gender non-conforming journalists who reflect on their own identities while working to tell the story of a seminal moment in LGBTQ history. The film follows reporters Kate Sosin and Cristela Guerra as they investigate the still unsolved 1998 murder of trans woman Rita Hester, whose death sparked the creation of the world-wide movement ‘Transgender Day of Remembrance’. Two decades later, they discover new leads amidst a community still grieving and try to answer the question ‘What happened’?

Unseen

Directed by Set Hernandez Rongkilyo, Produced by Day Al-Mohamed and Félix Endara, Executive Producer Diane Quon

Production Stage: Production, First Time Feature Filmmaker

unseen follows the story of Pedro, an aspiring social worker hoping to provide mental health services for underserved communities. Being a blind, undocumented immigrant, Pedro faces harsh political realities in the U.S., but a network of supporters carries him through a decade’s long struggle to actualize his dream. What starts as a journey to foster the mental health of others ultimately transforms into Pedro’s path towards his own healing and self-discovery.

Untitled Labor Union Documentary

Directed by Brett Story and Stephen Maing, Produced by Samantha Curley and Mars Verrone, Cinematographer Martin Dicicco

Production Stage: Production

From the perspective of a single Amazon fulfillment center, this documentary is an intimate portrait of current and former Amazon workers taking on one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies in the fight to unionize.

BAD PRESS

Directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler; Produced by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Garrett Baker, Conrad Beilharz, Tyler Graim and Joe Peeler; Cinematographer Tyler Graim

Production Stage: Post-Production, First Time Feature Filmmaker

When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring their free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country.

BAD PRESS is premiering at Sundance 2023.

2022 Original Voices Fellows

Damon Davis
Chain of Rocks, Director
Chris Renteria
Chain of Rocks, Producer
Stephanie Wang-Breal
Florence from Ohio, Writer-Director-Producer
David Teague
Florence from Ohio, Writer
Carrie Weprin
Florence from Ohio, Producer
Mynette Louie
Florence from Ohio, Producer
Derek Nguyen
Florence from Ohio, Executive Producer
Eric Juhola
The Queer Beat, Director-Producer
Jeremy Stulberg
The Queer Beat, Producer
David Ninh
The Queer Beat, Producer
Rachel Bardin
The Queer Beat, Cinematographer
Rose Bush
The Queer Beat, Cinematographer
Set Hernandez Rongkilyo
unseen, Director-Producer-Editor-Cinematographer
Day Al-Mohamed
unseen, Producer
Félix Endara
unseen, Producer
Diane Quon
unseen, Executive Producer
Brett Story
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Co-Director
Stephen Maing
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Co-Director
Samantha Curley
Untitle Labor Union Documentary, Producer
Mars Verrone
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Producer
Martin Dicicco
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Cinematographer
Conrad Beilharz
BAD PRESS, Producer
Rebecca Landsberry-Baker
BAD PRESS, Director-Producer
Joe Peeler
BAD PRESS, Director-Producer
Tyler Graim
BAD PRESS, Cinematographer-Producer
Garrett Baker
BAD PRESS, Producer
Jean Rheem
BAD PRESS, Editor
Damon Davis
Chain of Rocks, Director
Chris Renteria
Chain of Rocks, Producer
Stephanie Wang-Breal
Florence from Ohio, Writer-Director-Producer
David Teague
Florence from Ohio, Writer
Carrie Weprin
Florence from Ohio, Producer
Mynette Louie
Florence from Ohio, Producer
Derek Nguyen
Florence from Ohio, Executive Producer
Eric Juhola
The Queer Beat, Director-Producer
Jeremy Stulberg
The Queer Beat, Producer
David Ninh
The Queer Beat, Producer
Rachel Bardin
The Queer Beat, Cinematographer
Rose Bush
The Queer Beat, Cinematographer
Set Hernandez Rongkilyo
unseen, Director-Producer-Editor-Cinematographer
Day Al-Mohamed
unseen, Producer
Félix Endara
unseen, Producer
Diane Quon
unseen, Executive Producer
Brett Story
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Co-Director
Stephen Maing
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Co-Director
Samantha Curley
Untitle Labor Union Documentary, Producer
Mars Verrone
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Producer
Martin Dicicco
Untitled Labor Union Documentary, Cinematographer
Conrad Beilharz
BAD PRESS, Producer
Rebecca Landsberry-Baker
BAD PRESS, Director-Producer
Joe Peeler
BAD PRESS, Director-Producer
Tyler Graim
BAD PRESS, Cinematographer-Producer
Garrett Baker
BAD PRESS, Producer
Jean Rheem
BAD PRESS, Editor

2022 Original Voices Jurors

Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen is an Academy Award nominated, Emmy winning director and producer of RBG, along with Betsy West.
Yance Ford
Ford is a MacDowell fellow, who made history as the first openly transgender director nominated for an Oscar for his debut film, Strong Island.
Bing Liu
Bing Liu is a Chinese-born, Midwest-raised filmmaker whose directorial credits include Minding the Gap, America to Me and All These Sons.
Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen is an Academy Award nominated, Emmy winning director and producer of RBG, along with Betsy West.
Yance Ford
Ford is a MacDowell fellow, who made history as the first openly transgender director nominated for an Oscar for his debut film, Strong Island.
Bing Liu
Bing Liu is a Chinese-born, Midwest-raised filmmaker whose directorial credits include Minding the Gap, America to Me and All These Sons.

2021 Grantees

Bloodthicker

Directed by Zac Manuel, produced by Chris Haney

Bloodthicker is a coming-of-age documentary about three childhood friends navigating adulthood while living in the shadows of their famous fathers. Filmed over 4 years, the film is an intimate portrait of how three young musicians come to define themselves in the presence and absence of their fathers.

Hummingbirds

Directed by Silvia Castaños, Estefania Contreras, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Diane Ng, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger, Produced by Leslie Benavides, Miguel Drake McLaughlin, Ana Rodriguez-Falco, Jillian Schlesinger

In this uniquely collaborative coming-of-age film, inseparable best friends Silvia and Beba emerge at night to escape the cruel summer heat of their Texas border town, wandering empty streets in search of inspiration, adventure, and a sense of belonging. When forces beyond their control threaten their shared dreams and they are faced with an uncertain future, they take a stand and hold onto what they can—the moment and each other.

I Didn’t See You There

Directed by Reid Davenport, Produced by Keith Wilson

Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. Shot entirely from his literal physical perspective, both from his wheelchair and his two feet, the filmmaker’s gaze and thoughts oscillate between how he is seen, his distant family, and whether his films have fallen into the legacy of the Freak Show.

I Didn’t See You There premiered at Sundance 2022.

La Flaca

Directed by Jessica Chermayeff and Ana Veselic, Produced by Alba Jaramillo

A teenager’s flight from Honduras through Central America suddenly snaps into focus when she gives birth on US soil — launching an epic coming-of-age tale of assimilation in America.

Mija

Directed by Isabel Castro, Produced by Tabs Breese and Associate Produced by Yesenia Tlahuel

Doris Muñoz is an ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to discover aspiring pop stars. Mija dives into the world of a young woman and a community of first generation musicians that are hustling harder than anyone because “making it” isn’t just a dream—it’s a necessity.

Mija premiered at Sundance 2022.

Untitled

Directed by Sura Mallouh, Produced by Sura Mallouh, Laura Poitras, and Yoni Golijov, Cinematography by Jason D’Souza

Two friends uncover a conflict that divides their already embattled community. Told from all sides, with unprecedented access to courtrooms, anonymous sources and community leaders, this observational film unfolds in real time.

2021 Original Voices Fellows

Zac Manuel
Bloodthicker, Director
Chris Haney
Bloodthicker, Producer
Silvia Castaños
Hummingbirds, Director
Estefanía ‘Beba’ Contreras
Hummingbirds, Director
Miguel Drake- Maclaughlin
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Diane Ng
Hummingbirds, Director
Ana Rodriguez-Falco
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Jillian Schlesinger
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Reid Davenport
I Didn’t See You There, Director
Keith Wilson
I Didn’t See You There, Producer
Ana Veselic
La Flaca, Director
Jessica Chermayeff
La Flaca, Director
Alba Jaramillo
La Flaca, Producer
Isabel Castro
Mija, Director
Tabs Breese
Mija, Producer
Yesenia Tlahuel
Mija, Producer
Sura Mallouh
Untitled, Director and producer
Laura Poitras
Untitled, Producer
Yoni Golijov
Untitled, Producer
Jason D’Souza
Untitled, Cinematographer
Michael Premo
Untitled, Director
Rachel Falcone
Untitled, Producer
Zac Manuel
Bloodthicker, Director
Chris Haney
Bloodthicker, Producer
Silvia Castaños
Hummingbirds, Director
Estefanía ‘Beba’ Contreras
Hummingbirds, Director
Miguel Drake- Maclaughlin
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Diane Ng
Hummingbirds, Director
Ana Rodriguez-Falco
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Jillian Schlesinger
Hummingbirds, Director and producer
Reid Davenport
I Didn’t See You There, Director
Keith Wilson
I Didn’t See You There, Producer
Ana Veselic
La Flaca, Director
Jessica Chermayeff
La Flaca, Director
Alba Jaramillo
La Flaca, Producer
Isabel Castro
Mija, Director
Tabs Breese
Mija, Producer
Yesenia Tlahuel
Mija, Producer
Sura Mallouh
Untitled, Director and producer
Laura Poitras
Untitled, Producer
Yoni Golijov
Untitled, Producer
Jason D’Souza
Untitled, Cinematographer
Michael Premo
Untitled, Director
Rachel Falcone
Untitled, Producer

2021 Original Voices Jurors

Dawn Porter
Award-winning producer, director, and executive producer
Nanfu Wang
Emmy-nominated filmmaker who won the 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant.
Cristina Costantini
Emmy award-winning director and one of DOCNYC’s 40 under 40 filmmakers in documentary in 2019.
Dawn Porter
Award-winning producer, director, and executive producer
Nanfu Wang
Emmy-nominated filmmaker who won the 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant.
Cristina Costantini
Emmy award-winning director and one of DOCNYC’s 40 under 40 filmmakers in documentary in 2019.

Captivate
Investigate
Inspire

Stories that captivate. Stories that investigate. Stories that inspire. That’s the foundation of NBC News Studios. NBC News Studios is a full-service production company that specializes in documentary storytelling and the occasional scripted project. NBC News Studios offers producers and filmmakers access to everything our legacy news organization has to offer: eight decades of television and radio archive; a global network of journalists; a world-class investigative team; and a rich trove of stories. Our team has decades of experience in the TV and documentary worlds and has been honored with multiple Emmy, Peabody and DuPont awards.

NBC News Studios’ documentary co-presentation with Focus Features, Dawn Porter’s The Way I See It, was the highest rated non-news program in MSNBC’s 25-year history.

Press

NBCU Academy and NBC News Studios Name Seven Filmmakers as Recipients of 'Original Voices' Fellowship

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Want to learn more about the Original Voices Fellowship? Contact us and a member of our team will be in touch.