Reel Power collaborating filmCome Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek will host it’s D.C. premiere at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker, the film’s protagonist, Derrick Evans, and special guests Brentin Mock, regular Grist contributor; Reilly Morse, president of the Mississippi Center for Justice; and Leslie Fields, national environmental justice director at the Sierra Club. The discussion will focus on social and environmental justice challenges on the Gulf Coast and will include frontline community leaders working for change through strategic alliances and the use of independent media.
Derrick Evans is director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and a managing advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. Before returning to his native coastal Mississippi community he taught for many years in the Boston Public Schools.
Leslie Fields is national environmental justice director at the Sierra Club. She teaches international environmental law at Howard University and serves as a Commissioner on the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies’ Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate and the Environment.
Leah Mahan is an independent filmmaker. She spent a dozen years making Come Hell or High Water and was invited to work on the rough cut at the Sundance Institute Documentary Editing and Story Lab. Her first film was Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street.
Brentin Mock writes regularly for Grist about the connections between environmental policy, race, and politics. He was lead reporter on Voting Rights Watch, a reporting partnership between Colorlines and The Nation. Before moving to D.C., he worked from New Orleans with The Lens and Bridge the Gulf.
Reilly Morse is president of the Mississippi Center for Justice. He worked for many years with grassroots leaders in the Turkey Creek watershed and collaborated with the Sierra Club and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights on legal strategies.
Come Hell or High Water held its national premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature. It will broadcast on PBS’ America ReFramed on April 29th. This date was just chosen, so stay tuned for more details. The community media site Bridge the Gulf places the Turkey Creek story in a broader context, connecting viewers to a network of Gulf Coast community journalists with deep roots in diverse communities and fields who report on pressing social and environmental issues. A redesign of the site will be launched in March and celebrated at the Washington, D.C. film premiere.
The New Public, a film by Jyllian Gunther is the most recent addition to the Reel Education co-hort. The film follows an ambitious group of teachers who create Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM) a small, public high school in an under served neighborhood of Brooklyn. The film provides a close-up look at the struggles teachers face in and outside of school.
In North Carolina, a state where teacher pay is ranked at 46th in the nation and public funds are being diverted to private schools, Working Films connected The New Public to the Tarheel Alliance of Classroom Teachers (tACT). TACT is a new organization that works to unite public educators in North Carolina in order that they might assume a more active role and voice in the decisions made that impact public schools and the students enrolled in them. They seek to promote teacher respect, recognition, compensation as well as improvements in public education as a whole.
With support from Working Films tACT held screenings of The New Public in key cities across the state. In addition to promoting awareness of the struggles and triumphs in public education, the screening series raised tACT’s profile and helped grow its membership. Specifically the screenings resulted in Sixty new members joining this new and growing organization. TACT staff and board members said that putting the series together helped them to establish or strengthen existing alliances with prestigious, well established state and national organizations including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), UNC CH Education Law & Policy Society, Public Schools First of NC, Women AdvaNCe, NC Justice Center, and the NC Association of Educators. The screenings were also used to collect audience information on working conditions and challenges for North Carolina teachers to help inform tACT’s agenda for the school year.
Sandy Younce, a board member for tACT, said the discussions following each screening were overwhelmingly fruitful. Participants “agreed that a free public education for all children is basic to the maintenance of a free and democratic society.” Out of the many complex issues depicted in the film, one of the major takeaways is the incredible burden on public school teachers to be all things to all people. According to Younce, “Public educators are expected to do everything for their community. Teachers are expected to be mothers, fathers, moral guides, nursemaids, and administrators.” tACT is working hard to create recognition of the challenges educators in NC and across the country face and to assure that teachers are given credit for their commitment to their students, knowledge and professionalism. Working Films is proud to have been able to support them in using film to advance these goals.
Keep your eyes open for further collaboration with tACT on additional screenings of education films this spring!
Working Films is excited to be a Community Partner of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI)’s 10th Annual Media That Matters Conference in Washington, DC February 6 -7, 2014.
Media That Matters is an annual symposium presented by the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University. It is designed for established and aspiring filmmakers, nonprofit communication leaders, funders, and students who want to learn and share cutting-edge practices to make their media matter. The conference opens Thursday February 6th with workshops on fair use of copyrighted material, designing for impact, and incorporating transmedia theory into media projects. Friday’s agenda will include a keynote address by Alden E. Stoner, Vice President of Social Action Film Campaigns at Participant Media. The conference will also feature networking opportunities and sessions focused on digital games, using play for social impact and graphically visualizing policy, history, news and more.
Register now to be a part of this awesome opportunity!
The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, formerly the Center for Social Media, is an innovation lab and research center that studies, designs, and showcases media for social impact. CMSI focuses on independent, documentary and public media, the Center bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners across media production, media impact, public policy and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and academic research; convenes conferences and events; and works collaboratively to understand and design media that matters.
Working Films’ home state of North Carolina gained national attention this year for its Moral Monday protests, when thousands gathered at the capitol building every Monday from April through July to protest the regressive actions of the state legislature. From cuts to unemployment insurance, to tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest citizens, loosening of environmental regulations, to suppressing the right to vote – a multitude of harsh new policies are threatening the social safety net, education, the economy, voting access, women’s health, and the environment.
We’ve responded with a plan to position and leverage Reel Engagement films to support and build on the momentum of the Moral Monday/Forward Together movement.
Participants at the NC Engagement Strategy Convening October 2013.
On October 29th, in collaboration with stone circles, the North Carolina NAACP, the North Carolina Justice Center, Clean Water for North Carolina, and Democracy NC, we hosted a full day training and strategy convening among nonprofit leaders from around the state. The meeting was designed to offer best practices and specific guidance in using film to advance organizing for social and environmental justice, and to facilitate strategy development across multiple issues with film at the center of those efforts. Participants left with specific plans to take back to their organizations and to pursue in partnership with each other. In particular, we devised ways to use films, online and off, to reach the “movable middle”. These efforts will unfold as part of a screening series and tour in 2014.
After the convening, in partnership with Responsible Wealth and stone circles, we hosted a closed-door sneak-peek screening of Citizen Koch. The event brought together individual donors, representatives of giving circles and community foundations with leaders of the Moral Monday mobilization, including NC-NAACP President, Rev. William Barber. Citizen Koch is a new film by award winning filmmakers Tia Lessen and Carl Deal that highlights the ways in which big donors are influencing elections and gaining control of the entire political process. After the screening, audience members had an opportunity to speak with NC-NAACP, NC Justice Center, and Democracy NC organizers about specific ways they can be supportive through giving and as spokespeople.
The day energized us and reinforced our commitment to fight alongside our allies in the state to protect the people and the environment in North Carolina. Stay tuned to our blog in the new year for updates on our work build power and participation among citizens in the Tarheel State for a brighter and more sustainable future.
Since 1999, Working Films has harnessed the humanity, power and vision of nonfiction filmmaking to educate viewers and mobilize communities for positive social change — at home, on the street, and in the halls where public policy gets made.
We’re asking you to give today to support Working Films’ unique approach to making “stories lead to action.”
2013 has been a year of transition. In June we tragically lost Robert West, our beloved co-founder and executive director, to brain cancer. Although deeply saddened, we renewed our commitment to carry out Robert’s vision for Working Films. With the extraordinary support of our board, our co-founder Judith Helfand, our dedicated staff, and long-time allies in the field we have begun the next chapter for Working Films, and we’re reaching out now for your help.
In 2013 we watched a growing number of states become battlegrounds and testing-sites for ultra conservative policies that are eroding social safety nets, damaging the environment and threatening voting rights. Working Films’ home state of North Carolina is a prime example! We responded by putting our Reel Engagement initiative to work in the states, where change is happening.
Reel Engagement supports organizations, issue leaders and on the ground organizers to use collections of films to reach critical audiences and achieve meaningful impact on some of the biggest issues of our time: climate change (Reel Power), education (Reel Education), the economy (Reel Economy), the growing aging population (Reel Aging) and Reproductive Justice (Reel RJ).
For the past year we’ve had our ear to the ground while field testing ways in which state level organizations working for social and environmental justice can use award-winning Reel Engagement films to build their base, strengthen their efforts, create coalitions, and actively address the critical issues at play. Here are some highlights of that work in 2013:
Strategic, sneak peek screenings of Inequality for All and Citizen Koch launched our Reel Economy campaign – now unfolding in Florida, North Carolina, and beyond.
With filmmaker Josh Fox, we designed a Southeast tour of the Reel Power film Gasland 2. The tour spotlighted the work of local organizations and anti-fracking networks in Texas and North Carolina.
We worked with film festivals like True/False, CIFF and Cucalorus to design and lead strategy summits among leaders in the fields of aging and reproductive justice.
In the last three months alone, we’ve convened over 80 organizations in states across the country to identify shared goals and specific strategies for using Reel Engagement films as a central component of new coalition efforts.
In 2014, we’ll expand the Reel Economy campaign in North Carolina, Florida and other states in partnership with United for a Fair Economy. We’ll use new Reel Power films like Come Hell or High Water, Bidder 70, and Gasland 2 in Texas and North Carolina to fight fracking and advance clean energy solutions.
We’ll help to strengthen the Moral Monday/Forward Together movement in our home state of North Carolina, using documentary films from the Reel Engagement cohorts to educate citizens on important issues like fracking, economic inequality, education budget cuts and threats to reproductive rights and justice.
We’ll also train hundreds of social justice and environmental organizers and nonprofits in states around the country on how to make the best use of documentary films to advance their critical work.
$50 helps cover a training session with a nonprofit partner.
$100 helps pay for screening rights fees for under-resourced groups and organizations
$500 helps support a strategic convening of filmmakers and organizers working to advance progress in states where the issues are at a critical tipping point.
We are trying to raise $20,000 in individual donations by December 31, 2013. Please contribute today.
Thank you for your support of and belief in Working Films!
We wish you, your loved ones and your community a healthy, peaceful and hopeful holiday season.
Anna Lee and Molly Murphy
P.S. Make an even bigger impact with a recurring monthly donation to sustain our work in the new year.
If you would like to make you contribution in honor of Robert West’s life, vision and legacy, you can donate directly to the Robert West Reel Engagement Fund. Like Robert, the work supported by the Fund is nimble, creative and responsive to the needs and opportunities for social change.
Working Films brought Reel Power to Power Shift, the largest national youth climate conference, which took place in Pittsburgh, PA this year. Wearing his Peaceful Uprising t-shirt, Josh Fox gave a keynote address on Friday night where he told the crowd, “There can be no democracy until we have freedom from fossil fuels.” The audience couldn’t agree more. Check out Josh’s keynote online (with the Reel Power trailer starting at 46 minutes), where he makes the interconnectedness of the issues clear and calls everyone to find their role in the movement.
Reel Power, Come Hell or High Water and Gulf Coast activists and journalists
Reel Power films were featured over the weekend. Bidder 70 was accompanied by Peaceful Uprising board advisory member and youth climate leader Lauren Wood, with the Q&A discussion focusing on Tim’s story and the larger issues of using civil disobedience as a tactic. Gasland Part II included young socially conscious rappers, the Earth Guardians to give hope after the film. Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek’s sneak peak featured a Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan, film subject and Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans, as well as Bridge the Gulf contributors Cherri Foytlin and Bryan Parras leading a conversation on environmental justice and serious grassroots organizing. We also included a sneak peak of Reel Economy film Citizen Koch that had a Q&A with expert Nick Surgey, Director of Research at the Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed to lead a discussion on money in politics. Read Come Hell or High Water’s blog about the filmmaker’s experience at Power Shift.
Derrick Evan’s KatrinaRitaVille Express FEMA trailer was freshly decorated by Power Shift participants for the march on Monday, photo by Leah Mahan
Students are now planning a Reel Power Spring Film Series on their campuses to recruit new members, host a social event with a purpose, and advance the goals of their groups. Want to host Spring Film Series in 2014? Our Campus Screening Toolkit provides a framework to help walk you through the steps.
Gasland Part II screened at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC on October 7th to a packed house! Working Films’ Reel Power initiative and Clean Water for NC coordinated this effort with the Gasland team to grow the anti-fracking movement in the state at this critical time. Below is a photo blog of the event, community, groups, conversation and action.
Clean Water for NC prepares volunteers before doors open
Working Films – Reel Power info table
Director Josh Fox with members of the Frack Free NC Alliance
Attendees signing the petition to keep NC Frack-Free!
The crowd enjoying the food trucks
Working Films’ staff before screening
Bring Reel Power films to your community! reel-power.org
Standing ovation for filmmaker Josh Fox as he plays banjo along with the credits
Gasland Part II draws an energetic audience at the Carolina Theater of Durham! Crowd says “I’m from NC, not from Gasland.” Photo by Lee Ziesche, Gasland Part II
Q&A with moderator Anna Lee of Working Films, Josh Fox of Gasland Part II, and Hope Taylor of Clean Water for NC
Sneak Peak of Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, Sunday at 10:15 am in room 407 Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan, film subject/Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans and other contributors to BridgeTheGulfProject.org
Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Derrick and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals including Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.
“This intimate film tells a gigantic story — about race, power and so-called development. But it is also a saga of community, resilience, resistance, and hope. It’s about everything that matters in our society.” -BILL BIGELOW, Rethinking Schools
Turkey Creek residents are descendants of emancipated slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s. They have been stewards of the creeks rich wetland habitat for generations, and have farmed, fished, hunted and been baptized along its banks. Today, Turkey Creek is surrounded by an airport, a Walmart, highways and an industrial canal that threaten the community and its fragile wetlands.
This is an inspirational story of how one community banded together to save their land and culture. Filmmaker Leah Mahan worked with Derrick Evans and the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health to create an interactive website and network of bloggers called Bridge the Gulf. This network links environmental justice activists, writers and others concerned about resource extraction, climate change and a sustainable future for the Gulf Coast region.
The film will be screened as part of the Reel Power film series at Power Shift today at 10:15 am in room 407 with a Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan and film subject/Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans; Bridge The Gulf Project organizer Cherri Foytlin; and T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) organizer Bryan Parras.
Come Hell or High Water premiered this month at the New Orleans Film Festival. Currently a network of Gulf Coast community leaders and national environmental and civil rights organizations are planning a series of screenings of the film at regional and national convenings of community leaders, activists, academics and philanthropists working on environmental justice, human rights and sustainable development.
Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film to your campus or community.
Sneak Peek of Citizen Koch on Sunday at 10:15 am, room 406
Q&A with Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed
America – They’re Coming for You Next!
That’s the warning featured in the documentaryCitizen Koch which comes from a Wisconsin state employee after her union rights were destroyed by a Republican governor funded by corporate and billionaire donors. Citizen Koch explores what the Wisconsin playbook and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed a new era of unbridled special-interest spending mean for us all. And it poses a crucial question: Who owns democracy in America?
Join us for a sneak peak screening at Power Shift on Sunday at 10:15am in room 406. The film, which is at the heart of the public television censorship scandal was directed and produced by academy award nominated filmmakers of Trouble the Water. Stick around after the screening for a Q&A with Nick Surgey, Director of Research at the Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed. According to Nick, “Through the lens of my home state of Wisconsin, Citizen Koch brilliantly details the problems of a political system awash with cash, which serves to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the many and the environment. Its not quite Halloween, but this film is pretty scary.”
Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film to your campus or community. Find more about Reel Power films at Reel-Power.org and about Citizen Koch at CitizenKoch.com.
Bidder 70 Saturday, 11:30am in room 406 Q&A with Peaceful Uprising
Bidder 70 centers on an extraordinary, ingenious and effective act of civil disobedience demanding government and industry accountability. In 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher committed an act which would redefine patriotism in our time, igniting a spirit of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice.
The film will be screened at Power Shift as part of the Reel Power film series today at 11:30 in room 406 with a Q&A with Peaceful Uprising advisory board member Lauren Wood.
The film is being used on campuses as part of the students’ fossil fuel divestment campaigns, including Harvard where Tim DeChristopher is now attending divinity school.
Although, last week, Harvard University President, Drew Faust, justified the university’s decision not to divest from the energy industry saying: “Harvard fights climate change through its research on it; Harvard needs fossil fuels to run its campus, so isn’t divesting disingenuous? Harvard should be an academic institution, not a political one.”
Tim’s response: “Drew Faust seeks a position of neutrality in a struggle where the powerful only ask that people like her remain neutral… She touts all the great research on climate change that is done at Harvard, but she ignores the fact that the fossil fuel industry actively works to suppress or distort every one of those efforts.”
“The students’ call for divestment was a call for help by the young people who will reap the consequences of the climate crisis.” -Tim DeChristopher
Bidder 70 has earned over 20 awards at film festivals and screened in communities churches, schools and colleges motivating groups and individuals to engage in peaceful direct action to secure a livable, sustainable future. Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film and filmmakers to your campus, community or place of worship. Bringing Tim DeChristopher’s message of courage and commitment, Bidder 70 inspires individuals and groups to work together to create the change they want to see.