NYWIFT @ Tribeca: In Conversation with Archival Producer Lauren Wimbush

By Tammy Reese

We are thrilled to spotlight NYWIFT member Lauren Wimbush, an accomplished producer and archival researcher, as The Debutantes makes its highly anticipated debut at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

Lauren has built a career focused on telling compelling and thought-provoking non-fiction stories that highlight underrepresented characters, communities, and experiences. With a rich background contributing to notable documentaries for networks such as Hulu, PBS, and HBO, Lauren brings a wealth of expertise to her role as Archival Producer on The Debutantes. The film explores the tradition of debutante balls in Canton, Ohio, and the unique challenges faced by a new generation of Black debutantes.

Join us as we learn about Lauren’s inspiring journey and her significant contributions to this poignant and timely documentary.


NYWIFT Member Lauren Wimbush is the Archival Producer of The Debutantes


As the Archival Producer for The Debutantes, what drew you to this project and what did you enjoy the most?

I was originally drawn to The Debutantes because it portrayed this generation of young Black women in a positive light and in a way that didn’t feel preachy but also didn’t look down on them. I love that it is a small story in the sense that it is a very specific coming of age story — but the themes and subject matters they are dealing with are broad and applicable to many walks of life.

A lot of the documentary projects I am approached about that are “diverse” end up being a lot of the same recycled images of the civil rights movement or they focus on some of the most horrific times and images in the history of America. I knew working on this project wouldn’t leave me or the viewers with trauma or need trigger warnings — and it was something different that I think the audience hasn’t seen before.

I was also drawn to the team. After talking with the Director Contessa Gayles and getting an understanding of her previous work I knew she would handle not only the film with care but the relationships she had developed with the women in the film. Once I heard her vision for the film, I knew we would be using archival in a more lyrical way that many other documentaries call for and that excited me.


Still from The Debutantes (courtesy of The Tribeca Festival)


The Debutantes also explores themes of elitism, colorism, and classism. How do you believe these themes resonate with the experiences of the young women featured in the film, and what do you hope audiences will learn from their stories?

Elitism, colorism, and classism are all important topics in the Black community that oftentimes go unchecked and we don’t discuss them enough because we are understandably so focused on racism and inequality. I think that these topics were all really beautifully discussed in the film in a way that didn’t feel like we were lecturing to people or telling them what we think the right answers are. The director Contessa handles these topics with a lot of nuance and care.

I think these themes are approached differently by the different generations of women in the film — whether that be through the archival material or the women we filmed with. I hope that more than anything people are receptive to listening to all sides of the conversations and ask themselves why different people may arrive at different conclusions.


Still from The Debutantes (courtesy of The Tribeca Festival)


The Debutantes is set to premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival. Congratulations! Can you share any memorable moments during the production that shaped the film’s final outcome?

Because my experience on this production was fully remote it’s hard to share any specific memory or moments. But one thing I loved about working with this team is that it was all women from the director, the producers, and the edit team. It was a really nice and respectful group of people to work with.


Still from The Debutantes (courtesy of The Tribeca Festival)


As a member of New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), what inspired you to join the organization, and how has being a part of it influenced your career in the film industry?

The producing and documentary filmmaking journey can look so different for everyone depending on the type of project, the size of the team, the budget, etc. It can feel like a very isolating experience at times when you don’t have the traditional coworkers, you work from home the majority of the time. I love NYWIFT because it’s wonderful to feel that I’m part of a community. I often recognize women I’ve worked with or met at previous NYWIFT events and it’s great to share stories, offer congratulations, commiserate, and network.

In addition, this is an unpredictable industry where there is not always a straightforward career trajectory. I love that I can take advantage of the wonderful workshops and career advice that NYWIFT offers to keep learning and growing as a professional.


Still from The Debutantes (courtesy of The Tribeca Festival)


In your extensive experience working on non-fiction projects featuring underrepresented communities, what strategies do you employ to ensure their stories are told authentically and respectfully?

In my work I have been dedicated to telling the stories of underrepresented characters and communities and it’s important to tell these stories authentically and with respect. As an Archival Producer, that means I make sure not to manipulate archival materials to twist the film’s POV to make a point that wasn’t being made in the original material. I try not to use materials out of context — and that’s especially important with today’s AI landscape. It’s very easy now to manipulate images to make people do or say things that never happened or which no record exists. The goal at the end of the day is to make sure that we are telling stories where everyone feels accurately represented.


Still from The Debutantes (courtesy of The Tribeca Festival)


What advice would you have for aspiring women producers?

There are so many ways to achieve your goals — don’t feel like you have to follow the exact path as someone else. Comparison is the thief of joy. Focus on your career and don’t obsessively compare your trajectory to others. The industry is constantly evolving and so is the role of a producer so always keep learning and growing. Have patience as things take time.

Get everything in writing.


Connect with Lauren Wimbush online via LinkedIn and on Instagram at @lwimbush.


Tammy Reese

Tammy Reese Tammy Reese is a Central New York award winning Actress/Writer/Journalist. She is also a Filmmaker and Publicist.

View all posts by Tammy Reese

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