Now in its fourth year, DOC NYC’s 2023 Documentary New Leaders program honors figures in the American documentary industry whose work to date and potential for leadership brings greater inclusion and equity to the field. The initiative is co-presented by A&E IndieFilms.
The list of 14 honorees reflect a broad range of experiences, including roles in distribution, education, community engagement, funding, social impact, organizing, and journalism. While several honorees are filmmakers, this program highlights the cohort’s leadership in roles that shape industry practices and culture. Over the next year, the Documentary New Leaders will meet periodically to embark on discussions that address the issues most pivotal to their roles in the field.
Class of 2023
Showcasing the work of daring storytellers who are invested in the cultural evolution of the documentary form.Jaad Asante is the Manager of Documentaries at Onyx Collective, championing stories from artists of color that celebrate the joy, resilience, and diversity of our shared human experience. Jaad’s passionate advocacy for shepherding innovative films into the world is informed by her experience at industry-leading organizations such as Disney+, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Cinetic Media, and Doc Society.
Documentary Accountability Working Group
Championing filmmakers, funders and other documentary stakeholders who are aligned with equitable, accountable filmmaking practices that mitigate harm for film participants, and increase opportunities for transformative storytelling.Natalie Bullock Brown is the proud director of the Documentary Accountability Working Group. She is a 2023 Harvard Shorenstein Center Documentary Film Fellow, and a 2021 Rockwood JustFilms Fellow. Natalie was a producer on filmmaker Byron Hurt’s PBS documentary, Hazing, and produced his upcoming NOVA film, Lee and Liza’s Family Tree. Natalie was also an associate producer on Ken Burns’ Jazz.
Bringing new funding into the documentary impact space, and advocating for fair impact distribution rights so we can serve the communities we are ultimately most accountable to as filmmakers—film participants and the movement ecosystems that our films exist in.
Jamie is the COO of Represent Justice, a nonprofit that builds narrative power for formerly incarcerated filmmakers, film participants, and activists. As a founding steering committee member of GIPA she is co-leading an effort to preserve impact-related exhibition rights in distribution deals. As a director/producer her work has screened at MoMA, Full Frame, and AFI DOCS, among other festivals.
Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc)
Uplifting and empowering AANHPI filmmakers and storytellers to live out their creative pursuits through community, collaboration, and impact.Raised on Guam, Lailanie Gadia is a Filipina American community builder, producer, and financial professional based in Los Angeles. Serving as the Asian American Documentary Network (A-Doc)’s Operations Director, Lailanie finds purpose in supporting and empowering underrepresented voices. She is an Associate Producer on Tadashi Nakamura’s Third Act, a 2022 LEAP Impact alum and graduated from Loyola Marymount University.
Supporting doc filmmakers’ artistic visions through creative collaboration, business strategy, and bridging the gap between filmmakers and social impact investors.
Kelsey has worked in independent documentary for over a decade and is currently the VP of Production at Impact Partners, a fund that supports powerful documentary films addressing pressing social issues. Since joining IP, she has been involved with the development of 100+ projects and has spoken on panels about funding, distribution, and impact at industry events around the world.
Supporting filmmakers and centering the unique ability of documentaries to demonstrate complexity, illuminate the intersections between people and issues, and catalyze action for a just and equitable future.
Gerry Leonard is Brooklyn-based impact strategist and organizer from Jakarta, Indonesia. He is the Director of Filmmaker Services and Impact at Working Films. Gerry weaves his grassroots movement building and policy advocacy background into the documentary film and impact space. He currently serves on the Leadership Team of A-DOC, Advisory Board for OPEN DOORS, and the Steering Committee for GIPA.
Cultivating then empowering the next generation of storytellers to interrogate traditional perspectives to create fresh authentic nuanced tales.Anjanette Levert is a documentary filmmaker, producer, curator, coach, and professor at Spelman College. The Producer of The Only Doctor by Matthew Hashiguchi, she is an alumna of the Sundance Producers Intensive, Southern Producers Lab, and New York Foundation of the Arts Emerging Leaders. She is a board member for Jezebel Productions, Dominicans Love Haitians, and Atlanta’s MINT Gallery.
Championing emerging and established voices, equipping filmmakers with the tools, network, and confidence to resource themselves, often beyond conventional avenues of support.Elise is Head of Film at Kickstarter, mentoring and championing filmmakers worldwide, on fundraising and audience-building strategies. She nurtures emerging talents, with a keen focus on creators from historically underrepresented groups. Since 2020, Elise has also been working as a freelance producer on feature documentaries. Based in New York, she previously worked with Doc Society in London.
Chicken & Egg Pictures
To make our visions for social change a reality by supporting and amplifying untold stories through documentary films.
Kiyoko McCrae is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Program Director at Chicken & Egg Pictures where she strategizes to build gender and racial equity through its programs and partnerships. Previously, she was Director of Documentary Programming and Filmmaker Labs at New Orleans Film Society, working to create access and build resources for Southern filmmakers through its labs and festival.
Empowering independent artists to fulfill their unique creative vision, while contributing to a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable documentary ecosystem.
Paola’s career in the documentary field has been driven by her passion for the creative process coupled with a commitment to positive change. For over a decade, Paola has worked across key areas of the documentary industry from production, festivals, and markets to funding and artist support. As the director of the Sundance Documentary Fund, Paola currently oversees the curatorial and grant-making process that every year discovers exciting new talent and nurtures unique stories that explore pressing contemporary issues, push the boundaries of the documentary form, and connect with new audiences. Recent projects supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund include: All That Breathes, American Factory, Collective, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, The Edge of Democracy, Fire of Love, I Didn’t See You There, The Mole Agent, The Territory, and Time.
Peace is Loud
Creating pathways to prioritize care in documentary filmmaking and impact campaigns.Stephanie Palumbo is a documentary impact strategist, film producer, and organizer. She is Director of Film Impact and Innovation at Peace is Loud, where she helps the documentary field prioritize care for film protagonists. She also oversees filmmaker workshops and impact campaigns that use documentary films as tools for people-powered movement building.
Fostering awareness and advocacy of the rights of nonprofit workers and BIPOC filmmakers to build sustainability in the industry.Kristal Sotomayor is a bilingual Latinx filmmaker, journalist and curator based in Philadelphia. They serve as the Editor-In-Chief of the cinéSPEAK Journal and Festival Programmer for SFFILM and Frameline. Formerly, they were the Programming Director for the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Programmer for True/False Film Fest, and Awards Competition Manager for the IDA Documentary Awards and IDA union organizer.
Creating culturally representative cinema, and equitable professional spaces for underrepresented filmmakers, through collaboration and community.Prerana Thakurdesai’s work highlights South Asian and end-of-life stories. She’s the producer of the upcoming documentary, The Last Ecstatic Days. Her previous work has aired on World Channel, History Channel among others. While in India, she produced the acclaimed series, Satyamev Jayate. Prerana is a founding member of Bitchitra Collective – a collective of Indian women/non-binary documentary filmmakers.
Encouraging more ethical decision making by aggregating and availing free ethics resources to documentary makers and consumers alike.Sarah is a documentary producer and nonfiction television director whose credits include The Food Network, TLC, MTV, Netflix, and Max. She earned an MFA in Social Documentary Film from the School of Visual Arts. Sarah is Secretary of the board of the Documentary Producers Alliance and co-chairs the ethics subcommittee. She lives in NYC with her cats Theodora and Tovah.