LEF Foundation Announces $52,500 in Pre-production and Early Development Grants to New England Documentary Filmmakers

Image description: Over a white background with tendriled light blue-green organic shapes, blue and green text announces: Announcing the 2023 Summer/Fall MIF Grantees for projects in Pre-production and Early Development. 14 projects with $52,500 in funding to New England filmmakers.

The LEF Foundation has awarded 14 Moving Image Fund grants totaling $52,500 in support of feature-length documentary works by New England-based filmmakers.

The LEF Moving Image Fund invests in feature-length documentary films that demonstrate excellence in technique, a resonant story or idea, and originality of artistic vision and voice. The most recent round of awards includes seven grants of $5,000 to projects at the Pre-production stage and seven grants of $2,500 to projects at the Early Development stage

The group of projects funded in this round amplify local and global perspectives. From neighborhoods around Boston, to Western Massachusetts and overlooked corners of Maine, New England is a rich backdrop for some of the projects while functioning as a springboard to other parts of the country like Illinois, South Carolina, Florida, and Alabama, and globally to places like Wales, Greece, Ireland, Palestine, and the upcoming Paris Olympics. These films reckon with legacies both personal and cultural, enlisting innovative nonfiction storytelling strategies to bring to the screen considerations of artistic freedom, mythmaking, ecology, sexuality, personal history, and political action.  



Directed by Kate Way

Produced by Jennifer Wiggin, Tom Wiggin, Allyson Rice, + Kate Way


Directed by Michelle Trujillo

Produced by Sydney Combs


Directed by Kelly Gallagher

Produced by Mary Jirmanus Saba

The Cardiff Tapes

Directed by David Shayne

Produced by Leila Philip


Directed by Fern Silva

Produced by Rea Apostolides

The Selma Project

Directed by Jay Paris

Produced by Jay Paris, Anna Myer, Carlos Mejia, + Charles Bonner


Directed and Produced by Sarah Bliss

Early Development

Breakin’ Away 

Directed by Oliver Arias

Produced by Eric Axelman

Cosmic Moose and Grizzly Bears Ville

Directed and Produced by Amber Bemak

John Henry: Unmasking America’s First Real Black Superhero (wt)

Directed and Produced by Randall MacLowry + Tracy Heather Strain


Directed by Marc Fields

Produced by Marc Fields + Shaun Clarke

Opening the Heart (working title)

Directed and Produced by Zulilah Merry

OVERDUE: Boston Chinatown’s struggle to reclaim and restore its branch library 

Directed by Jesse Epstein + Melissa Taing

Produced by Heang Leung Rubin + Melissa Taing

SILVER & earth

Directed by Kathryn Ramey

Produced by Emily Abi-Kheirs

At LEF’s August deadline for Pre-production and Early Development, 37 eligible applications were received by filmmakers working throughout New England. Three peer readers from the local filmmaking community who represent a diversity of perspectives on documentary were invited to review, discuss, and make recommendations on the applications. These peer evaluations informed LEF staff’s final grant decisions.

The filmmaking community here is dedicated to peer support for one another and to ambitious filmmaking, making New England a strong incubator for nonfiction,” said Lyda Kuth, Executive Director. “In each round of the Moving Image Fund, we at LEF are exposed to dozens of projects that bring greater nuance to well-known histories or reveal new experiences altogether. The abundance of filmmaking practices in our region is reflected in this round of selected projects, which, even in early stages, are a driving force in the kinds of stories and voices New England has to offer.”        

Now completing its fourth year, funding at the Early Development stage is still one of the Moving Image Fund’s newest additions, giving initial seed funding to filmmakers who have not yet had a chance to shoot or edit sample footage for their current projects.

All applicants who applied for LEF funding for either Pre-production or Early Development will have the option to receive review notes from staff to learn how their proposals were evaluated by the peer reviewers and to ask any questions.

“We are excited to be able to facilitate an application process that invites peer reviewers to share feedback on proposed projects in their earliest stages,” said LEF Program Director Gen Carmel. “We know that writing a project grant application takes time and care, and we hope to reciprocate by hosting calls with each team that might find it helpful to hear what reviewers found most resonant, and where they had any questions, ideas, or resources to share. Additionally, these calls are one way for us to continue the conversation with applicants, learning about what LEF might be able to improve about its review process.”

In addition to this group of grantees, LEF will also award $205,000 to 11 projects in Production and Post-production later in the fiscal year, following the next January 2023 application deadline. In total, LEF will be distributing $257,500 in funding to documentary productions over the course of its 2024 fiscal year.

The next Moving Image Fund grant deadline will be in January 2023 for New England-based directors and producers seeking Production and Post-production support for feature-length documentaries. Please check lef-foundation.org for details regarding LEF Moving Image Fund guidelines and eligibility. You can subscribe to the LEF New England newsletter for the latest updates on deadlines, grantees, filmmaker opportunities, and more. For further information on the Foundation or its funded projects, please contact Program Officer Matthew LaPaglia at matthew@lef-foundation.org.

Share this Article