June 11, 2024

Marcia Smith, president of Firelight Media, plans to step down

Marcia Smith, co-founder and president of Firelight Media, the nonprofit production company that airs many of its films on public television, plans to step down from the organization.

Smith will stay at Firelight Media until a successor is chosen. A national search for a new leader will begin this month.

Firelight Media, incorporated in 1998, is known as one of the top organizations for nonfiction productions by and about people of color. Smith formally started the company in 2000 with her partner, the filmmaker Stanley Nelson.

“It has been a joy to lead Firelight Media through an extraordinary two decades of growth and expansion … ,” said Smith in a news release. “From the outset, Stanley and I understood the transformative potential of documentary films that center communities of color in front of and behind the camera. What we did not anticipate is how much the filmmakers we’ve supported would transform the industry as a whole.

“There is certainly more work to be done, but I’m proud of the impact that the Firelight Media community has had on representing a fuller picture of the American story — not only through their films but through their own production companies and access programs. As I near the end of my tenure as President of Firelight Media, I have full confidence in the board, the staff, and our community of filmmakers to advance this work together.”


“I’m truly amazed by what Firelight has accomplished since Marcia and I launched it in 1998,” said Nelson in the news release. “Back then, we were focused on producing stories about underrepresented issues and communities that we wanted to see on screen. Today, Firelight Media is proud to support other filmmakers who share this vision. Under Marcia’s astute leadership, our artist support programs have flourished, creating a support system for filmmakers of color in various stages of their careers. I am grateful to Marcia for her foresight and dedication to making this organization as impactful as it is today.”

Smith plans to pursue archival and installation projects after leaving Firelight. They will build on her work on a projection mapping project used for the opening of the National Museum for African American History and Culture in 2016 and her curation of the African American History Pop-up Museum installation in Apalachicola, Fla.

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Photo by Sean Zanni/PMC, courtesy of Art21

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