Main fundraiser photo

Help us make Church Hat, an LGBTQ based short film

Tax deductible
Concept: A young Black boy secretly likes to pose and play dress up by wearing his Mom’s elaborate church hats. When she discovers him trying on one of her new purchases, instead of being in trouble, they have a heartfelt conversation about what he is questioning (the 'Q" in LGBTQ), unconditional love, roles, gender and acceptance. How did we get from a children's book to making an animated short film?:

Church Hat focuses on a revealing conversation between the main character and his Mother when she finds him secretly trying on her fancy hats. Instead of being in trouble, he experiences a joyful exchange that gives him the comfort of knowing that he can be curious without judgment or trauma. Using the unique technique of stop-motion paper puppetry animation, the story captures a parent's loving guidance and the joy of a child's emotional safety in being accepted in a home where he knows he belongs. Representation matters. Young people need to see films about other children who look like them and are going through similar experiences. Based on a children's book by the author and executive producer, Debra Williams, Church Hat is being brought to life, from a simple story to the screen, by a talented team in the Baltimore Filmmaker's Collective, a not-for profit organization.

The Baltimore Filmmaker’s Collective is our fiscal sponsor and totally supports the educational opportunity for the film to open up family, community and group discussions around the subjects addressed in the film. We have already raised $25,000 in seed money to make initial payments to the talented creative team already working on this production. All funds will go towards the making of the film, and any donation amount will help make an impact by supporting a positive story about a child's emotional safety, with a happy ending. Thanks in advance for your contribution to this project that means so much to me. Follow our progress at , and on Instagram @storytoscreen.

Everyone who helps to financially support the film will be listed in the film credits. For those of you who contribute
  • $5,000.00 or above – Credit as a non- voting executive producer.
  • $2,500- $4,999.00 Credit as producer
  • $1,000- $24,999.00 Credit as associate producer
  • $500- $999.00 Credit as friend of the film.
  • $100- $499.00 Credit as patron of the film
  • Up to $99.00 Credit as a fan of the film.

Everyone will be a part of the most important message…. that love always wins.

Here’s what you will be helping us with to bring the animation to life (this is not an exhaustive list):
  • Concept design based on the book
  • Background design based on the book
  • Character design
  • Voiceover talent and recording sessions
  • Music production
  • Sound and audio FX
  • Audio mixing
  • Animator’s time, expertise and costs including supplies for stop-motion paper puppetry animation
  • Producer’s time and expertise as principal coordinator and project manager

Debra Williams, the author and EP will not be taking any money out of the project.

Information about the creative team producing Church Hat, the animated short film:

Debra Williams - Executive Producer is an empowerment coach of Caribbean descent and author of the children's book that this is based on. Both women broke generational trauma and challenged stigma in the Caribbean community as they showed acceptance, love and understanding to everyone in a large family with relatives and friends who were members of LGBTQ communities. Church Hat is a tribute to their example that love always wins and the importance of solidarity and allyship. A long-time volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival, she started taking time off to attend the festival as a movie lover and met Eric Cotten in line at a Midnight Madness screening. When she published her children's book, Eric read it and saw its potential to become an animated short film. It has been as a result of his encouragement that she has pursued this creative venture with him and Miceal O'Donnell.

Eric Cotten, producer, has written/directed or produced 28 short films including AFRONAUT (Sundance 2014). He has also:
  • Served in numerous capacities for various film festivals, including Programming associate for the Maryland Film Festival (2019- present).
  • Funded the co-nonprofit – Baltimore Filmmakers Collective to elevate and educate the diverse, inclusive and underserved film community in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Worked on the HBO show THE WIRE (2022- 2008).
  • Before joining the team to work on Church Hat, his most recent short film The Love Within wrapped and is currently on the festival circuit.

Miceal O’Donnell is our talented animator and experienced director of animation with Cagesafe Productions who specializes in stop-motion paper puppetry. He has made micro-budget features and short films, shot a short film in Berlin, and taught acting and screenwriting workshops. His films have played at several festivals, including the Maryland Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Nights on the Fringe, L.A. Shorts International Film Festival, and the Baltimore International Black Film Festival.
  • In 2015 he won first place in the Baltimore Screenwriting competition in the feature-length screenplay category, and in 2017 won second place, and in 2019 third place in the same competition.
  • In 2018, he was awarded a grant from the Baltimore Filmmakers Collective to make a web series, and was a finalist for the 2018 Baker Artist Award.
  • In 2019 he was awarded the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award.
He has worked on dozens of character-driven independent films and is bringing his vision to this project to transform the book with engaging animation.

What is stop-motion paper puppetry?
Paper puppet animation is a type of stop-motion animation involving paper figures that are animated frame-by-frame. Animators create a physical three-dimensional scene, like a small theatre, where the action will take place. This 'cutout animation' uses flat characters, props and backgrounds cut from various materials such as paper, cardstock, stiff fabric or photographs. Click here for an example of Miceal's previous work. Debra Williams really likes this animation style, and thinks it suits the tone of the story.

Follow along with updates on this GoFundMe page, and on Facebook & Instagram @storytocreen as progress will shared frequently.

Once again, THANK YOU! Only your donations will take us through production of this important story about the safety and support that every child deserves.


Debra Williams
Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Filmmakers Collective
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.

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