Stephanie Bleyer, a long time friend of Working Films, is an outreach and engagement campaign manager for films such as American Promise, God Loves Uganda, and Escape Fire (Sundance 2012). Stephanie has written a two-part blog post on how to effectively and efficiently raise funds for socially engaged projects. By covering topics from finding your prospects to writing your proposal, she has put together a ton of helpful information for fundraising. Check out the following excerpts below (with links to full story) and be sure to look out for part 3 next month!
…While I’m creating the master proposal, I assemble a list of 100 fundraising prospects, which I will ultimately pare down. I cast a very wide net to include every philanthropist and foundation investing in the issue area and the art discipline, as well as foundations that are focused on specific geographies, genders or races. The issue funders (e.g., health, education, environment, women’s development, etc.) may not fund art, but they understand the importance of advocacy and communications and are often eager to support creative efforts that can serve as a bullhorn for their cause.
There are a number of ways to find prospective funders. Take a look at the annual reports, 990s and sponsorship pages for your partner groups. If your work is closely aligned or if your project will positively impact that partner, their funders may be interested in your project. Then take a look at who sponsors relevant conferences, events and workshops, and who has funded your competition. Spend some time on the funders’ websites and look up their profiles in the Foundation Center‘s online database (you’ll need to join to have access)….(READ MORE)
Interacting with thoughtful talented filmmakers and organizers is the best part of my job, and that job is made all the better when I get the chance to work with these folks on multiple projects. That’s where I find myself at this moment, engaged in another opportunity to support the work of filmmaker Dan Habib. My colleague, Molly Murphy, and I facilitated a strategy summit for Dan’s first film, Including Samuel, that resulted in the I Am Norm campaign and other collaborations between the film and educators, disability rights organizations, inclusion advocates and others.
In just a couple of months, we’ll be holding a summit for Dan’s newest project, here’s more about it:
Who Cares About Kelsey? documents the lives of students with emotional/behavioral challenges, and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed – while improving the overall school culture and climate.
When Kelsey Carroll entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. Diagnosed with ADHD and carrying the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, as well as the actual scars of repeated self-mutilation, Kelsey was volatile, disruptive and, by her own admission, “not a nice person” to be around. During Kelsey’s sophomore year, a new school leadership team implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a youth-directed planning process called RENEW and other reforms to improve the school’s culture and reduce the dropout rate. This school-wide overhaul gave Kelsey a chance at a different outcome. Who Cares About Kelsey? follows Kelsey through the ups and downs of her senior year. Who Cares About Kelsey? will make viewers reconsider the “problem kids” in their own high schools and spark new conversations about an education revolution that’s about empowering–not overpowering–our most emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth.
In addition to the feature-length documentary Who Cares About Kelsey?, Dan’s team has created nine short documentaries that illustrate a wide range of educational issues and evidence-based practices, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Universal Design for Learning, Cultural Responsiveness and more.
With some early campaign planning support from Working Films and maintenance of excellent relationships with leaders in the fields, Dan and his team at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Institute on Disability have already been putting the film to work. Just a quick glance at their Facebook page will give you a sense of the many venues at which the film has screened followed by powerful conversations with Dan, inclusion advocates, and the film’s main character Kelsey Carroll. We’re excited to build on to the work that they’ve already been doing with the film and to hear how this film will be used in the future from the organizations that are leading the charge on these issues.
We’ll have another update after the summit, but in the meantime please check out the Who Cares About Kelsey? Project on facebook or purchase an educational package (including the full length film, mini-films and education materials) from the UNH website. You can also make sure that their engagement work continues to happen by supporting their Kickstarter campaign.
Documentary filmmaker and educator George Stoney passed away on July 12, 2012, at the age of 96. Judith Helfand collaborated with Stoney on The Uprising of ’34 (POV 1995). (Photo provided by Judith Helfand)
Soon after the news of George Stoney’s passing was made public, POV asked me to write a few words about him and our work together on The Uprising of ’34, which was broadcast on POV in June 1995 — a fact we were both so very proud of.
Life’s divine symmetry had me start writing this on the way to a complicated shoot that I was very uneasy about. So as I searched for words to honor George — and mark a part of his life and work I was so fortunate to share — I found myself concurrently engaging in a ritual I’ve been doing ever since he was my teacher at New York University in the mid-1980s.
Part prayer, part meditation — I’m sure I share this practice with many of his former students, mentees and colleagues.
When the complexities we all face in the field — class, race and the inextricable power of our cameras — come slamming in at me, pushing me to find the most just and decent way to react, direct, retreat, forge ahead and gather my compassionate self, and fast — I ask myself, “What would George do?”
What would he ask? What would he look for? How would he find a way, as he always did, to inject his innate respect and kindness into whatever situation he was filming? How would he navigate those complexities of class and race and the long-term impact of systemic disparity, the kind that impacts generations — no matter which side of town they live on, no matter whether they worked in the mill or not.
George Stoney celebrates a birthday with Judith Helfand (directly behind Stoney), former students, colleagues, friends and family. (Photo provided by Judith Helfand)
This brings me right back to his one-of-a-kind office, his warm, always-open-to-us office on the 11th floor of Tisch (aka 721 Broadway). I am seated between his Selectric typewriter, which he used regularly even after email, his vast (expertly catalogued typed onto index cards) collection of videotapes (reel-to-reel, Portapak, Beta and VHS) dating back to the beginning of community access television and his most current address book at the ready. The worn brown leather is stained with his insatiable desire to introduce everyone who is doing good work, from all over the world, to others who need that work, or more important, need each other. In George’s hands and via George’s heart, that book helped catalyze a great number of enduring relationships, friendships and compelling collaborations that make up our documentary field and beyond.
I can see him. I can even hear him.
I channel his cut-through-the-B.S.-George Stoney-of-a-question that I could always count on to go straight to my heart and set me straight so that I can bring my most authentic self to this shoot.
“Judy, ultimately being compassionate and kind is more important than getting the scene — isn’t it? It might also be the only way you get the scene.”
Did he tell me this, or did I live this lesson when we were making The Uprising of ’34? Or maybe, I just need to hear it again. Perhaps it’s all of the above.
His were the kinds of questions that slowed you down, lovingly stopped you in your tracks and then sped you up so that you found a way to do the right thing for both your subjects and your production, the movement and the movie.
Like so many before me and so many after, I learned all this from him, first in his classroom, then in his office, then at his birthday parties out east at Betty’s and especially in the field when we were making The Uprising of ’34.
George was a middle-class Southerner who didn’t take the management job in the mill in his hometown of Winston-Salem offered to him by a mill boss on his paper route. He went to [UNC] Chapel Hill to study journalism which set him on the most amazing of trajectories.
And I was the consummate outsider, from an all-white suburb in Long Island with a mother who had iconic notions about the South. “Judy, just do me a favor. Don’t talk about unions too loud or tell too many people that you’re Jewish.”
“Mom, the movie we’re making is about unions. But don’t worry, I’m with George, and he’s a Southerner.”
The Uprising of ’34 was broadcast on POV in 1995.
But, George’s Southerness proved to be more complicated than either of us could have imagined. Many of the retired mill workers who were still living in the mill village 50-plus years later and who had participated in the 1934 strike, were either too loyal to the mill or too frightened for their granddaughters’ mill jobs to talk with us on camera. Or they had done such a good job of making people forget that they were union, when we found them, they just had to say, “Thanks, but no.” As I would often lament to George — if only they would tell us why [on camera] they don’t want to talk — or can’t talk, then we really make that a major part of the story.
Their reticence was both frustrating and a teachable moment — especially for George. In fact, he wrote about it in an article for Southern Changes: The Journal of the Southern Regional Council in 1994, around the time the film was a very good rough cut and we were poised to complete it:
“Rejection of any kind usually leads to self-examination. “Is there something about me,” I asked myself, “that makes these people reluctant to talk?” Soon I had to accept the fact that many people, especially the women, were more at ease talking with Judy than with me. The fact that she was a non-Southern who was young and pretty and enthusiastic and who, they assumed, knew absolutely nothing about the kind of life they were describing, seemed to give them assurance. On the other hand, I was a past-middle-aged professor whose inescapable class identification as a middle-class Southerner must have reminded them of the straw boss they once feared or the shoe salesmen in town whose contemptuous remarks made half a century ago stuck in their minds and still stung.
For gaining interviews with spokespeople for the textile industry management (and they have their full say in our film), my class and regional identifications were clearly an advantage. Some of the other males seemed reassured that “this pretty young Yankee girl you’ve got there” was accompanied by a fatherly authority figure who could vouch for her.
But, by and large, Judy was taken at face value. I had to sell myself…“
As I did, our collaborators, editor Susanne Rostock and director of photography James Stoney (George’s son), found George’s personal exploration and revelations about class fascinating. For a while we strived to make that a major theme in the film. It informed our process. It informed our interview style. It was the stuff of our conversations on long country roads going to and from shoots; it was smothered, covered, diced and sliced at Waffle Houses in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee and it was the subject of our most heated editing room arguments.
But despite our best collective efforts, blessed by George himself, his personal revelations did not wind up in The Uprising of ’34. In fact, the more that George found his voice and used it to explore the complexities of class and race, his and theirs, mine and ours, the more he was sure that if it was to be in the film, it could only be there to help frame the complexities; it could not take away from theiressential story.
This process ultimately helped us make one of our most critical stylistic decisions, one that determined the tone, tenor and pace of The Uprising of ’34. We had always expected to fill the analytical holes with captivating sound-bite savvy historians and other experts. But after many years of production, we came to see that the retired mill workers, no matter which side they were on — be they retired white mill workers or the few retired black mill workers we ultimately were able to find, be they those who worked in the mill or those who worked outside, under, along and around it, be they owners and managers and their grandsons, or “loyal” anti-unionists and trade unionists, be they those whose lives had been informed by that moment of citizenship and activism or those who had tried to ensure that no one ever knew what they had done — they were the experts. And they themselves needed to speak about their history. For George, this was as much an editorial decision as it was a political statement.
Years after we had made The Uprising of ’34, when George was teaching documentary production in Ireland at the New York University’s Dublin program, I had the privilege of subbing for him and taught his documentary workshop in NYC on the Washington Square campus. This was the same class that I had taken with him at New York University when I was an undergraduate in spring 1985. This experience, a circular miracle that never failed to amaze me, led to my teaching documentary production at New York University for the next seven years. And this was when I found out how much George had taught me about teaching – perhaps the greatest gift he ever gave me.
With George in our hearts, I wrote this in conversation with filmmaker/editor David Cohen and filmmaker/professor Beverly Peterson (both of them former students of George), neither of whom I would have gotten to know, love, work closely with or have taught [David was my student in that spring 2000 documentary workshop at New York University] were it not for George Stoney, his address book and his insatiable, magnanimous desire to bring together the people he loved.
So here is to these and so many, many, many other meaningful friendships and “workships” — quietly instigated and matched by our beloved George.
I offer this context because I don’t think the act of remembering George Stoney is a solitary one. I think it is a verb done with friends. So please call the friends and comrades he introduced you to. Ask them how they, their loved ones and especially their parents are. That’s what George would do. That’s the secret sauce. I am sure of it.
Or as he told me many a time, “Nothing will replace a good kiss or a handshake.”
Long live our Stoney friendships, our Stoney collaborations, our Stoney questions and all of our beloved Stoney answers.
And as they must be saying in Brazil (a place he loved and where he was truly loved back again and again), “Viva George!”
And the work continues…
“What will you do when the lights come up? What will they, the audience, do?”
This classic George Stoney question informed the making of The Uprising of ’34 (which you can learn more about at der.org).
Will they be more bitter, more stuck, more true to the ideas and assumptions they had when they walked in? Or will they be a little more willing to look around and see who they laughed with over the past 90 minutes? Will they be able to have more compassion for the other? Will they be more willing to sit with their discomfort? Will they be able to see life through that mill worker’s eyes and heart?
This spirit, this sense of responsibility for the use of a film after you’ve made it — that was the gift of studying, working with, creating and collaborating with George on a story that was so near and dear to his North Carolina-born heart.
When they ask, “What do we do?” what will you say? We will talk about George Stoney and his belief and that making a film is only 50% of the work. And the use of it is the other 75%.
The other 75% of the work — the art, sweat and work of using a film and engaging with an audience —was the inspiration behind me and Robert West co-founding Working Films in 1999 and with it the Stoneyship internship program. George was a founding board member. Almost 12 years later, Working Films is a national leader in linking nonfiction filmmaking to cutting edge activism proudly based in North Carolina.
Documentaries by George Stoney
Here are two opportunities to spend some time with George from the work-in-progress The Happy Collaborator by Mike Hazard, a filmmaker, colleague and archivist for George Stoney.
Lucy Cooke, a PUMA Creative Winner and good friend of Working Films has an upcoming National Geographic series titled “Freaks and Creeps” set to air on Tuesday July 17 at 10pm ET. Read her blog post below to learn more about the production and her adventures:
Tasmania is like a time machine. Its primeval forests team with living fossils that have followed a different evolutionary branch to most mammals. So for freak lovers like me it’s like hitting the jackpot.
My number one quarry is the echidna – an ancient termite-eating hedgehog with what can only be described as the world’s weirdest wedding tackle. Echidnas, along with the duck-billed platypus, are the last surviving monotremes – an early branch of mammals that still lay eggs like reptiles. But despite such ancestral behaviour these oddballs are remarkably successful and have been waddling the planet since the time of the dinosaurs.
To find one I’m hooking up with Dr. Stuart Rose who has devoted the last 25 years of his life to studying the sex life of this peculiar creature. We rendezvous on a farm in the north of Tasmania on a bright but blowy morning. Stuart is accompanied by a quartet of windswept young female research students all equipped with a great Australian sense of humour. I ask them whether it was the echidna’s extraordinary penis that attracted them to their work and they all nod. Apparently I will not be disappointed.
The Echidna’s on this farm have been radio-tagged to make them easier to study. They live for up to 45 years and Stuart has been following some individuals for over a decade. We first locate a female. It’s the breeding season right now and lady echidnas are rarely alone. The competition for sex is fierce and it’s not uncommon to witness the somewhat comical sight of a solitary female being stalked by a conga line of up to ten ardent suitors.
On June 19th I had the pleasure of moderating our Story Leads to Action panel with my colleague Judith Helfand, co-founder of both Working Films and Chicken and Egg Pictures. This year’s panel featured the award winning documentary Brooklyn Castle. After watching several clips from the film where we saw the championship chess team and their teachers in action and learned about how budget cuts affected the after school program at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, we launched into a strategic conversation about how the film can continue to be leveraged to support chess and other high quality after school programming in schools around the country. Filmmakers Katie Dellamaggiore, the film’s outreach coordinator Kali Holloway and a panel of education and after-school experts from the National Education Association (Luis Gustavo Martinez), American Federation of Teachers (Delisa Saunders), The Montgomery County Maryland Council (Hans Reimer), and the Afterschool Alliance (Sarah Simpson) discussed a myriad of ways the film could be used to make change in community based settings, in theaters and at additional film festivals. For a full run down of the details of the event and some of the specifics ideas generated check out this great blog from Chicken and Egg pictures.
After starting in festivals in Europe and the US, Our Schoolfinally had its premiere in Romania – a homecoming of sorts for the film and an event that we have been anticipating for almost six years.
We shot in a small town in Transylvania, a very real place in Northern Romania. Our intention was to begin to understand, and hopefully improve, race relations between majority Romanians and the Roma ethnic minority by showing under a magnifying glass the story of three spirited Roma children involved in a school integration project in Targu Lapus. After four years of production and two years of editing we ended up with a paradigmatic story of hope, squandered opportunities, and infuriating cultural and institutional inertia. And racism, quite a bit of racism. Some intentional, some merely reflexive, yet all of it profoundly familiar to all Romanians (ourselves, the filmmakers, included). This is precisely why we were bracing so hard and for so long for the Romanian premiere. We knew that in Romania, even more than in other places in Europe or the United States, Our School would be holding a mirror up to its audience – an unflattering one at that. And there are few things as counter-productive and virulent as unexamined, defensive racism.
We did what we could to prepare for the premiere in terms of press, NGO partners on the ground, and the main characters themselves. The NGO partners were as nervous as we were and chomping at the bit to use the film for their own purposes. The characters got to see the film on their own terms before the festival premiere, on the principle that it is cruel and unusual treatment to see your own story projected on a very large screen with a large audience before absorbing it privately. The kids had never been to the cinema before, so they were extra nervous. Our youngest participant, Alin, helped to lighten the mood by eating three ice-creams in rapid succession and contently throwing up right before the screening.
The press was lukewarm, understandably, since they had not seen the film, and the international success of the new Romanian cinema over past ten years has made them unimpressed with projects with the kind of international festival success that Our School has had). The online comments to the advance press coverage came exclusively from people who had not seen it, but assumed that no film on Roma would ever help. They made violent threats and personal attacks against our team for “destroying Romania’s image abroad.” We imagined they were people who had too much time on their hands, but we were still put on notice: Our School had the potential of generating a strong backlash, and that was the last thing we wanted to happen.
Matters were not helped much by the great folk at the Transylvania Film Festival who programmed us in the largest cinema they had: 750 seats. We worried that the seats would remain empty or would be filled with people who do not like what they seen on the screen.
We worried about everything.
Whatever fears we had were dispersed in the first five minutes of the screening. The huge audience laughed loudly at even the smallest jokes in the film. They clapped after particularly poignant lines, making the projectionist worried that they would not hear the soundtrack. They started sniffling, visibly moved towards the end. And, when the credits ended and we all lined up on the stage, we found them giving the children a standing ovation. For five whole minutes.
Alin turned to me and whispered: “Are all of these guys Romanian?” Yes, they were. And they were applauding the courage, resilience, spirit and sass of Alin, Dana, Beni – and all the Romanian friends they managed to make, despite all odds, along the way. The audience had connected to the kids, managing to see themselves in our film without defensiveness or rancor. They found ways to process and understand what they could change in themselves by the time the credits stopped rolling.
After the film…
A teacher confessed to treating her Roma students as inferior. I wanted to put her in touch with the New York teacher who confessed during our Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival that she had been tracking immigrant children in special education programs because she herself lacked support and know-how to integrate them.
A local mentioned a case of segregation next door to the screening venue – an activist invited the audience to investigate the case, right then and there. A journalist mused about what the Ministry of Education should do with the film – we referred him to the principal in Our School, who despite an awareness that the film showed him in a light that was “a little too true” (his words), ended up generously saying that it is an extraordinary tool that should be used to train and inform people not only in Romania, but abroad.
There were also hugs – lots of them. Alin, Beni, and Dana said that they were treated, for that one night, better than they had been treated, cumulatively, their entire life.
The press reaction that came in response to the screening was no less enthusiastic. A journalist confessed an allergy to issue films and declared herself not only surprised, but cured. An editorial talked about how Our School is not only a film about Roma, it is a film about us. A reputed blog said the audience had come in with fixed ideas and had come out with the urge to apologize to Roma children on behalf of all Romanians.
We know this was an ideal audience in many ways – progressive, trained by ten years of challenging festival experiences, and moved by the presence of the children in the room. But having an initial reaction like this from hundreds of people gives us confidence in what this film can do. It gives us trust that the film can accomplish what we always intended: Point to a systemic problem, make us understand it in the most direct, human way, and do the hardest things of all – change hearts and minds and open up a some hope for the future.
Guest post by Mona Nicoara, Director of Our School.
This edition of the Good Pitch takes place at Silverdocs, near Washington DC. It brings together inspiring social-purpose film projects and a group of expert participants from charities, foundations, brands and media to form powerful alliances around groundbreaking films.
We are delighted to announce that we have selected the lineup for the Good Pitch @ Silverdocs. The 8 filmmakers are Victor Buhler (A Whole Lott More), Macky Alston (The Truth Will Set You Free), Jon Shenk (Higher Ground), Angad Bhalla (The House That Herman Built), Dara Kell & Christopher Nizza (Dear Mandela), Steve James & Alex Kotlowitz (The Interrupters), Danfung Dennis (To Hell and Back Again), and Annika Gustafson & Phil Jandaly ($H*T).
Selected from 150 excellent submissions, the eight projects cover an exciting range of subjects including war & conflict, disability employment, LGBT equality, incarceration and solitary confinement, violence prevention and mediation, climate change and green energy. These issues are explored through stories that play out the world over – in the USA, Afghanistan, the Maldives, South Africa and Kenya.
More on the projects: A Whole Lott More
Dir. Victor Buhler
Lott Industries in Ohio, USA employs 1200 workers with developmental disabilities. For decades, the company has built car parts. However, with the decline of the auto industry, Lott Industries finds itself in trouble. The company has twelve months to reinvent itself. A Whole Lott More details the most crucial year in Lott Industries’ history and follows three inspiring workers with disabilities as they join the struggle to hold onto the best job they have ever had.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Dir. Macky Alston
The story of a man whose two defining passions are in great conflict: his love for God and his love for his partner Mark. This film follows Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay partnered bishop in the high church traditions of Christendom, and a host of others who are making history and whose lives hang in the balance of the current church/state battles for LGBT equality.
Dir. Jon Shenk
His nation of 1,200 low-lying islands is sinking as sea levels rise. Higher Ground is a film about Mohammed Nasheed, President of The Maldives, and his extraordinary role in the global climate war. During his first year in office, we follow as Nasheed breathlessly carries the fight to chambers of power in London, the United Nations, India, and finally to Copenhagen for ten intense days in December, 2009. This drama pits a die-hard activist for human rights – Nasheed himself was imprisoned and tortured as he fought for democracy in the Maldives – against the nasty geopolitical realities of the growing climate debate.
The House That Herman Built
Dir. Angad Bhalla
“What kind of house does a man who has been imprisoned in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?” This film captures the remarkable creative journey and friendship of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3, and artist Jackie Sumell while examining the injustice of prolonged solitary confinement.
Join us for an inspiring weekend workshop designed to jump start campaigns for a limited number of excellent social issue documentaries on the 23rd-25th, July 2010. Outcomes include the identification of a range of potential outreach partners – including leading non-profits and social entrepreneurs as well as corporate and branding agencies.
The Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and Working Films designed this workshop to create effective and strategic outreach campaigns and non-traditional distribution plans – reaching the audiences who need these films. Working Films’ co-founders Robert West and Judith Helfand and their team have masterminded campaigns behind feature docs such as Rory Kennedy’s Emmy Award-winning The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Helfland’s Everything’s Cool, resulting in significant shifts in the marketplace, public and political opinion in the US. Working Films’ new full-time partnership with Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation brings this high-level expertise to the UK filmmaking community.
The aim of the workshop is to help you:
• Develop audience and community engagement strategies
• Identify potential strategic partners (i.e. charities, NGOs and brands)
• Form an outreach strategy specific to your film
• Leverage and extend the life of your film
• Make social networking work for you
Each project will leave the Workshop with an outline of activities and proposed partners appropriate for pre-release, release and post-release to give your film a long and effective life.
As Thursday is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we’re thinking about our impact in the sustainability work that we do, and the change that media projects like No Impact Man can spark.
How do filmmakers create an audience engagement campaign that is unique, yet has ties to a movement that already exists? Gillian Caldwell, Campaign Director of 1Sky, puts it simply when speaking about their partnership with No Impact Man, “It’s important that the relationship be reciprocal.”
Working Films and The Fledgling Fund are excited to bring you the second video in our series, No Impact Man: Activating Your Audience. It illustrates the benefits of mutually beneficial relationships and demonstrates creating opportunities for participation that extends the story beyond the film. Watch the video and find out how No Impact Man and its partners, like 1Sky, worked together to move participants from individual action to collective action.
I just came across this great article about the Transition movement. This movement isn’t about sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves because of climate change and peak oil. It’s about doing something, or as the article says, “Transition wants people to envision and create models for that future — and find much to be cheerful about.”
I was excited to see the Transition movement getting the attention it deserves, especially because Working Films just recently worked with Transition USto put together a special offer for their supporters who want to host a screening of Garbage Dreams. We hope those in the Transition US network will be inspired by the pro-active recycling work of the Zaballeen and use community screenings of the film to support their own community- based solutions to environmental and economic changes!