2023 Cucalorus Works in Progress Lab: Call for applications

The Cucalorus Works-in-Progress (WiP) Lab supports social justice documentaries with a focus on Black storytelling. Co-designed and coordinated by Working Films, participating artists receive feedback on their work-in-progress and explore audience engagement strategies through workshops, consultations, and community screenings during a weeklong residency at Cucalorus’ campus. This year’s Lab takes place from September 24th through Oct 1st, 2023. Now in its fifteenth year, the Works-in-Progress lab was launched in 2008 through a partnership between Working Films and Cucalorus. We will be accepting applications through April 28th, 2023!

Program and Application Details


Working Films and Cucalorus are teaming up again for the 2023 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 community engagement screenings. Participants should plan for arrival on Sunday, September 24th and departure Oct 1st, 2023. The lab begins on Monday, September 25th and runs through Saturday September 30th.

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 knit atmosphere of peer support where the facilitators and mentors lead the cohort in giving one another feedback on their work in progress. Using Working Films’ 24 years of experience in creating impact campaigns for documentary films, we also spend time workshopping the distribution and impact strategies for participating films.

And finally, during residency week, filmmakers will have an opportunity to screen their work-in-progress footage with organizations and individuals who are working on the issues which their film addresses. These are intimate, closed door screenings. The audiences are change leaders, whose lived experiences and work align with the film content, who can 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, and relax or sight-see in downtown Wilmington and surrounding beaches. Previous cohorts have found the downtime creates the perfect opportunity to build lasting relationships and share experiences & learnings with their peers.


The Cucalorus WiP lab supports social justice documentaries with a focus on Black storytelling. 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 the filmmaker to decide what to show. The goal is to have these opportunities for feedback be of benefit to 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.
  • Housing during the residency.
  • Most meals during the residency.
  • Airport transfer and most local transportation during the residency.
  • Three years of all-access passes to Cucalorus Festival in November.

Note: At this time we remain hopeful that we will be able to continue the WiP Lab in person as the schedule is presented above. We will certainly keep applicants updated if there are any adjustments to the current program details.

Working Films