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Mentors Coaching a New Class of LGBTQ+ Filmmakers

Mentors Coaching a New Class of LGBTQ+ Filmmakers

The town of New Hope, PA takes the spotlight for the inaugural year of the Creative Hope Initiative where five filmmakers uncover local LGBTQ+ history with their documentaries.

Purchase tickets to attend the in-person screening event on November 4th at Bucks County Playhouse.

equalpride has partnered with 'Queer Cuts: New Hope' as an exclusive media partner and will host all five short films online for free from November 6th to November 7th at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT on the Advocate Channel App for your mobile phone and your favorite streaming device.

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Learn more about Creative Hope Initiative by visiting

This article originally appeared in The Advocate for the 2023 The Advocates Issue.

In the breathtaking countryside of small-town Pennsylvania there is an artsy village filled with diverse creatives that make up an eclectic community teeming with rich history. Although not well-known outside the town, New Hope’s history is deeply rooted in LGBTQ+ stories ever since it became a popular hangout for performers, musicians and actors in the 1940’s. But throughout history, New Hope’s queer stories have been largely left untold. Until now.

Production studio TRAVERSE32 created the Creative Hope Initiative, an incubator program that funded five queer filmmakers (Hansen Bursic, Joy Davenport, Natalie Jasmine Harris, Kase Peña, and Kristal Sotomayor) to create short documentaries highlighting local queer stories in towns across the country. The incubator’s inaugural program called “Queer Cuts: New Hope” focuses on the LGBTQ+ voices of the Pennsylvania community today.

Conceived with the help of New Hope residents Daniel Brooks, founder of New Hope Celebrates (NHC), a 501(c)(3) LGBTQ+ non-profit highlighting local retail, hospitality, and professional partners through marketing opportunities, educational activities, and cultural events for locals and visitors, and local filmmaker Sara Scully, who together co-founded New Hope Celebrates History, “Queer Cuts: New Hope” has uncovered vital stories to add to the town’s history.

From one documentary that shines a light on a closed-down safe haven for trans and queer people called The Raven, to another that profiles a trans New Hope physician who offers gender affirming surgeries, there are countless queer stories in this small town that can be shared.

To help share those stories, the program also paired each filmmaker with a world-class documentarian to help mentor them during the process. What started out as a learning experience for each filmmaker turned into something more for the mentors tasked with guiding them, providing them their own lessons along the way.

Oscar-winning director Ben Proudfoot

For Oscar-winning director Ben Proudfoot ( Queen of Basketball), mentoring up-and-coming filmmaker Hansen Bursic proved to be an affirming experience for the documentarian.

“The short documentary is one of the most exciting corners of cinema and offers the lowest barrier to entry for emerging artists,” Ben starts. “Today, with the creation of the Creative Hope Initiative, this inaugural class of filmmakers joins an illustrious lineage of changemakers, whose commitment to craft and truth-telling are helping fill in the elisions of history while also creating a new vision for the future — a future that in this case is inclusive of the rich and uniquely diverse stories of queer people and their allies.”

Emmy winner Daresha Kyi

Another mentor, Emmy winner Daresha Kyi, had never formally guided another filmmaker through the filmmaking process. But helping out director Natalie Jasmine Harris was fulfilling for Daresha because she was helping guide the creative vision of another filmmaker of color.

“It’s always an honor to be considered a resource for others even though I still feel like a fledgling myself,” Daresha admits. “But I was most excited to meet another queer, African-American female filmmaker and get to know her.”

Webby honoree Ro Haber

Webby honoree Ro Haber, who is trans like their mentee Kase Peña, came away from the process reflecting on how to tell stories and the way trans narratives are told.

“The most important thing is having your particular fingerprint on the film and gaining something for yourself out of your own artistic process,” Ro explains before reflecting on telling trans stories. “Especially with trans filmmakers, I feel like we are expected to tell a certain kind of trans story - the coming out story, the transition story, etc. – which are all valid, but we need to make sure we are telling the story in a way that is as sophisticated and nuanced as we want it to be. I also think we are in a moment when audiences can handle more nuanced trans narratives because they are ready for them.”

There’s a lot these three mentors uncovered during the incubator process, and there’s a lot for audiences to uncover about this small town with rich queer history when attending “Queer Cuts: New Hope” on November 4th, where all five documentaries will be screened at the Bucks County Playhouse. It’s time that all LGBTQ+ history is told and to champion the new storytellers making sure queer stories are never forgotten.

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