Our 5th Annual TFI/A&E Documentary StoryLab

This week marked our fifth TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab for documentary filmmakers!

The StoryLab is an intimate workshop comprised of feedback screenings, one-on-one mentorship, master classes and industry discussions for five selected filmmaking teams with documentaries in the late stages of production / early post-production. The invite-only workshop is designed to help documentary projects with inclusive and traditionally underrepresented storytelling teams focus on story structure and character development challenges, heading toward festival submissions early next year.

This year, ninety percent of the StoryLab was comprised of women storytellers and mentors. The selected StoryLab participants were provided with in-depth feedback from filmmaking mentors Kristi Jacobson (director, Solitary) and Lindsay Utz (editor, Quest). Master classes, with lively discussions, were led by editor Penelope Falk, director Marshall Curry, Tribeca Film Festival programmers Liza Domnitz & Ben Thompson and producers Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn of Motto Pictures.

The participants in the Fifth Annual TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab tackled socially-conscious topics with a character-driven approach – from a history of abuse within generations of women, to an intimate and dynamic exploration of an up-and-coming progressive politician to the hardships of immigrants fighting for compensation and validation in the workplace.


The five StoryLab participants are:

Director, Producer, Editor: Chelsea Hernandez 
Editor: Sarah Garrahan 
In Texas, the deadliest state for construction, half the workforce is undocumented and face devastating exploitations from the industry. After a 25-year-old undocumented construction worker dies from heat stroke on the job, his family refuses to let his death be in vain. Putting their lives at risk and facing the possibility of deportation, they join a local group of undocumented workers who are standing up to seek justice for all workers.


Director: Ursula Liang 
Producer: Chanelle Aponte Pearson 
A nuanced look at how two communities of color navigate an uneven criminal justice system, anchored by one polarizing New York City case.


Director, Producer:Jessica Earnshaw 
Producer: Holly Meehl 
JACINTA (working title) follows a young mother in and out of prison in Maine, while exploring the relationship between trauma and love within a family fractured by a cycle of addiction and incarceration. 


Director, Producer: Norah Shapiro 
Producer: Jennifer Steinman 
Ilhan Omar, a young, hijab-wearing, refugee mother of three, takes on two formidable opponents in a highly-contested race for a seat in the Minnesota State Legislature. If successful, she will become the first Muslim Somali woman lawmaker in the United States.  An intimate, behind-the-scenes view into the life of one of America’s brightest rising political stars.


Co-Director, Producer: Jeff Reichert
Co-Director, Producer: Farihah Zaman
In the "toughest town in Texas”, a high stakes election plays out as seven high school girls compete to become the next Watermelon Thump Queen.