Award: Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Digital Media Arts

Project Collaborator(s): Josh Kasselman,               co-producer and camera operator

Casey Farina, animation 

City/Town: Phoenix

Year: 2019

Artist Website:

I have always felt that the relationship between student and teacher has always been mutually beneficial in that I have learned as much as the students—reflecting a student’s story through this work in a participatory method is an example of this symbiotic relationship—but also serves as a thank you for everything they have given to me.

Excerpt from Stephanie Lucas’s R&D Grant application

Filmmaker Stephanie Lucas will use her R&D Grant to finish a feature-length documentary she began working on in 2013 while teaching film and video to high school students in Phoenix. The subject is Eric Chavez, a former student, and his colorful family.

When we meet Eric as a high school senior he’s bright and talented, full of potential, but haunted by the effects of a childhood trauma. Three years after graduating, Chavez still struggles to find purpose and direction, now leaning on the crutches of drugs and alcohol. When a new tragedy strikes close to home, Chavez finally finds a way to articulate his own sense of loss, receives a long overdue diagnosis of PTSD, and begins pursuing treatment.

With the majority of the documentary finished, Lucas will use her award to collaborate with Dr. Casey Farina, a local video artist, to animate a series of pieces from Eric’s graphic diaries, illustrations that reveal the young artist’s interior landscape and show what it is like to navigate the troubled waters of grief.

“Eric Chavez has a heart of gold, a magnetic personality, and a knack for telling stories—but the high schooler and his colorful family are haunted by the shadow of a past tragedy. In a dreamlike, sometimes experimental film, Unfinished Work follows the Mexican-American teenager as he looks for love and discovers his identity as an artist, while his parents search for long-elusive peace.”

Stephanie Lucas earned her BA in English Literature from the University of Arizona before going on to receive her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from New York University, focusing on documentary film, art, and social change.

Her first foray into documentary filmmaking was a (VHS tape-to-tape) short she produced for Tucson Cable Access about the visually impaired students she was assisting at the U of A. The subject matter, Goalball, a sport visually impaired athletes can play without a sighted guide, fascinated her and the medium of documentary immediately captured her heart. She is now five years into a feature documentary, Unfinished Work, also about a former student, and his family.

As a filmmaker, she has worn the hats of screenwriter, director, producer, editor, and cameraperson. With her husband, Josh Kasselman, Stephanie is the co-founder of the production company Limitrophe Films, which has produced award-winning shorts that have screened at festivals throughout the world. The two were named the Arizona Filmmakers of the year by IFP Phoenix/Phoenix Film Foundation in 2015. In addition to her creative work, Stephanie is a full-time faculty and Head of the Digital Cinema Arts Program at Glendale Community College. She and Josh are also the proud parents of an 8-year-old daughter, Greta.

Photo by Aaron Kes

Banner photo by Aaron Kes