The Fusion Doc Challenge opened on November 10, 2017, and sent teams scrambling to shoot, edit and produce a documentary in 120 hours. The docs, each 4 to 7 minutes long, were given the theme “You’re not going to believe this, but…” In the end, our AMAZING panel of jurors chose the winning 12 films.
Winning best film, best in directing and best in the “sports” category was Sherry Anderson and Nathan Willis’ Cowgirl Up, about Labrelah Hutchins, an African American cowgirl in Natchez, Mississippi.
Over a shot of a young black girl handing Hutchins her cowboy hat, Hutchins says “It’s kind of been a little hard because, you know, at some rodeos I’m, like, the only African American female there actually competing in barrel racing. But I don’t let that get me down” she continues. “I know my abilities.”
At the Slamdance premiere of the top 12 Fusion Doc Challenge films, Anderson reflected on the difficulty of being a woman in the film industry, a parallel with Hutchins. Just like Hutchins, the hardship of disparity relented when she remembered she was a filmmaker, just like the other filmmakers with whom she worked. “The Fusion Doc Challenge was an amazing and rewarding experience,” Anderson says. “It put our production muscles to the test in every way possible! It is daunting to try to complete a documentary in 120 hours but our team lead, Nathan Willis, was a dream to work with and led the charge to completion.”
Fusion’s top pick, Sanctuary, is about a skateboarding facility built inside the abandoned 160-year-old St. Laborious Catholic church, the first Gothic Catholic church in the West. The juxtaposition you might imagine is shown beautifully: graffiti and stain-glass windows, the body of a grand piano repurposed as the foundation of a ramp. Sanctuary’s team was led by FDC alum Cory Byers and Ashley Seering. “The Doc Challenge,” Seering says, “is something I look forward to every year. I know that at the end of just five days I will have a brand new, completed project.” In their 120 hours, that team put together a documentary with a clear message: this place remains a sanctuary.
The premiere of these top 12 Fusion Doc Challenge shorts at Slamdance had a standing-room-only turnout.
2016 Fusion Documentary Challenge Official Winners
Best Film (Doc Challenge Selection): Cowgirl Up- Nathan Willis and Sherry Anderson
Best Film (Fusion Selection): Sanctuary- Ashley Seering and Cory Byers
Honorable Mention: Seeking Shelter- James Goldberg
Best Film in the Category of Art: Open Exhibition- Bobby McCallen and Tommy Tang
Best Film in the Category of 1st Person: MO’ FREAKA- Joey Vokac
Best Film in the Category of Historical: Beacons- Whitney Skauge, Drew Daly, Channing Nunn and Taylor Lennox
Best Film in the Category of Biography: En Pointe- Matthew Kaplowitz
Best Film in the Category of Nature/Environment: Seeking Shelter- James Goldberg
Best Film in the Category of Sports: Cowgirl Up- Nathan Willis and Sherry Anderson
Best Film in the Category of Science/Tech: Rimas- Christopher and Kyle Ransom
Best Film in the Category of Adventure: Blind Soccer- Kai Ho Lee
Best Film in the Category of LGBTQ: Christian Left- Jon Aaseng
Best Film in the Category of Social/Political: Fed by Art- Gina Sandoz
Overall “Best Use of Theme” (“You’re Not Going To Believe This, But…”): Blind Soccer- Kai Ho Lee
Best Directing: Cowgirl Up- Nathan Willis
Best Cinematography: Sanctuary- Ashley Seering and Cory Byers
Best Editing: Rimas- Christopher and Kyle Ransom
Best Score: Rimas- Christopher and Kyle Ransom
Eight out of the 12 teams were able to come and participate, not only in their screening but in all the other gifts Slamdance and Sundance have to offer. Producer and director Seering says, “I love getting the chance to see the finalist films in Park City. The chance to be among so many industry heavyweights is invaluable.”
Audience Awards’ partnership with Slamdance and Fusion Doc Challenge helps us fulfill our mission of bringing opportunity and exposure to filmmakers. As Peter Baxter, president and cofounder of Slamdance said at this year’s opening,“We had this one thing, this spirit of joining together to support one another, to give us that showcase that otherwise we wouldn’t have.”