2021 Works-in-Progress Lab

Call for applications

The Cucalorus Works-in-Progress (WiP) Lab supports social justice documentaries being made by Black filmmakers. Participating artists will receive feedback on their work-in-progress and explore audience engagement strategies through workshops, consultations, and community screenings during a residency at Cucalorus’ campus November 8-14. The WiP Lab is Nov. 8-10, and the 27th annual Cucalorus Film Festival is November 10-14, 2021 in downtown Wilmington, NC. Now in its thirteenth year, the Works-in-Progress Lab was launched in 2008 through a partnership between Working Films and Cucalorus. Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2021!


Click here for Program and Application Details



Working Films and Cucalorus are teaming up again for the 2021 Works-in-Progress Lab. Selected filmmakers will come to Wilmington, NC – where Cucalorus and Working Films are based – for a weeklong residency which includes trainings, workshops and screenings before and during the festival. Participants should plan for arrival on Sunday, November 7. The lab runs from Monday, November 8 – Wednesday November 10. Cucalorus Film Festival begins on November 10 and concludes the evening of Sunday, November 14.

Filmmakers will spend time participating in workshops with the Working Films and Cucalorus teams. They will be joined by experienced documentary filmmaker mentors. Previous mentors include Byron Hurt, Natalie Bullock Brown, Jacqueline Olive, and Lana Garland. We create a tight knight atmosphere of peer support, where the facilitators and mentors lead the group in giving one another feedback on their works-in-progress. Using Working Films’ 21 years of experience in creating impact campaigns for documentary films, we also spend time workshopping the distribution and impact strategies for participating films.

During the residency week, filmmakers will have an opportunity to screen their work-in-progress footage with organizations and individuals in Wilmington who are working on the issues their films address. These are intimate, closed door screenings. The participating audience members and change-leaders, whose lived experiences and work align with the film content, provide valuable feedback for filmmakers as they continue to edit and plan for how their film can make an impact once it’s completed.

Filmmakers will also have down time to work on their edit, write, relax, experience Cucalorus Film Festival, and sight-see in Wilmington and the surrounding beaches.


Filmmakers will stay in Wilmington, NC to share their work-in-progress during the Cucalorus Film Festival, November 10-14, 2021. This is another opportunity to get feedback on their work during the Cucalorus WiP spotlight screening. Participants are encouraged to attend the entire festival, but their screening events will take place over a two-day period within the festival.


The Cucalorus WiP Lab serves Black directors making social issues documentaries. Films may be shorts, features, or episodic, but must be nonfiction.

Films can be at any stage of development, but we find that filmmakers benefit most when they are in the production or post production phase of their project. We will need some sample footage to show at feedback screenings. This could be an assembly, sizzle reel, rough cut, or fine cut. It’s up to each individual filmmaker to decide what to show. The goal is for these feedback opportunities to benefit the director wherever they are in their process.

What’s Included

Working Films and Cucalorus cover the following expenses for each selected director:

  • Round trip transportation to Wilmington, NC for the residency and the Cucalorus Film Festival
  • Housing during the residency and festival
  • Most meals during the residency
  • Airport transfer and most local transportation during the residency
  • Airport transfer during the festival (all festival venues are in walking distance)
  • An all-access pass to Cucalorus Film Festival

Note: At this time, we are hopeful that we will be able to hold this lab in person, as the schedule is presented above. We will keep applicants updated if there are any adjustments to the current program details, including moving the program to an online format.


Apply here!

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