We are excited to announce that Reel Economy will be part of the 2013 Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative’s Annual Conference from June 4-6 in Boston, MA. The Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, is a network of state-level grassroots organizations that advocate for progressive and adequate state taxes.
This conference will be open to allies and advocates involved in the tax fairness and economic justice movement: community leaders, activists, and organizers, legislators, people concerned with tax policy, people not yet concerned with tax policy, , journalists, foundation representatives, people with good ideas, and others who believe in the power of a bottom-up movement!
We’ll be there to kick things off with an advanced screening of Inequality for All and we’ll represent Reel Economy in a workshop on how to effectively use film to advance economic justice campaigns. Click here for the full agenda and registration.
Timed to the February 4th PBS Independent Lens rebroadcast of his award-winning documentary As Goes Janesville, Brad Lichtenstein is launching BizVizz, the first mobile iPhone app to make corporate behavior transparent. Just snap a picture of a brand’s logo and a simple graphic screen instantly displays essential facts about America’s largest corporations. Do they pay their taxes? How much money do they get in government subsidies? To whom do they give their political donations? BizVizz currently has 300 companies and over 900 brands with plans to expand.
Filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein says he created the app after filming a company in his movie obtaining taxpayer dollars without even so much as a public hearing. “I watched the democratic process being subverted and felt that we should do something on a grander scale to make corporate behavior more transparent; especially when we’re all called on to do our part during these tough economic times.” The Independent Television Service, funded by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, backed BizVizz to extend the movie’s impact.
Seeking a wider audience for BizVizz, Lichtenstein teamed up with fellow Reel Economy filmmakers, Vicky Bruce and Karin Hayes, whose 2012 Sundance film We’re Not Broke exposes how US multinational companies offshore profits to avoid paying taxes. Together they are working with non-profits including the Tax Justice Network-USA, US PIRG, the F.A.C.T. coalition, and others to expose corporations’ all too often bad behavior.
We think BizVizz will appeal to consumers who prefer to “shop their values”, citizens and activists concerned with corporate accountability, and reporters on the economics beat. With this new app, a walk down the shopping aisle can reveal how most brands are owned by only a few companies. Users can discover that Boeing received over $450,000,000 from South Carolina in subsidies to help build their now grounded Dreamliner; that Wells Fargo, recipient of at least $25 billion in bailout funds, paid negative tax; or that the fiscal cliff deal actually extended a tax break that will allow GE to once again file for a refund instead of paying tax in 2013. “This is public information,” says Lichtenstein. “We’re just making it visible.”
The line up for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival has been announced and we are so excited to see filmmakers that we’ve worked with on this list! Congratulations to the teams behind American Promise, Citizen Koch and God Loves Uganda.
American Promise follows two African-American boys from middle class families as they navigate their way through 12 years at a prestigious New York City Prep school. The film is part of our Reel Education t collaboration, in which nine documentaries about various education issues came together for our residential training in February 2011.
Citizen Koch is the latest film by Carl Deal and Tia Lesson (Trouble the Water) that tells a story about money, power and democracy in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down limits on corporate political spending. The film was one of six films that attended our Reel Economy residency held in July 2012 in Washington, DC.
God Loves Uganda follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law. Paige Ruane, the films’ outreach coordinator, attended our Reel Change: Managing Social Issue Film Campaign residency last spring in Washington, DC. At the residency, Paige along with a room full of filmmakers learned how to make strategic plans to get their films and media projects out to the right audiences and form effective partnerships with organizations working on the issues in their film.
We are thrilled about each! Be sure to check them out when you’re at Sundance.
It’s that time of the year again! Cucalorus Film Festival 18 will kick off this Thursday and will run throughout the weekend here in Downtown Wilmington. Working Films has partnered again with the folks at Cucalorus and this year we’re bringing you two films from our Reel Engagement series that will be included in their “Works-in-Progress” documentary program. Films under this category are unfinished works that are screened in an informal workshop setting where filmmakers can seek feedback and receive input as well as share information about their films.
Xmas Without China
Thursday, November 8 @ 7:45 PM
Pride and mischief inspire Chinese immigrant Tom Xia to challenge his American neighbors to survive the Christmas season without any Chinese products. Fed up with toy and food recalls, the Jones family down the street eagerly accept the consumer mission-impossible and are drawn into a surprising intercultural exchange with the Xia family.
Tom Xia, who is the star of the film and also one of the producers, and the director Alicia Dwyer will be in attendance to dialogue with the audience after the screening! They are putting the finishing touches on the film and making plans for their audience engagement and are looking for input from both filmmakers and folks working on the issues the film addresses.
Grace Lee Boggs is a 96-year-old Chinese-American activist and philosopher in Detroit who has dedicated her life to creating the next American Revolution. What Grace means by revolution and her journey through a century’s worth of social movements — from labor to civil rights, Black Power to environmental justice — tells an unexpected story of how one woman changed herself to change the world around her. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street, Grace’s 70 years of experience as a movement activist provide both a long view and inspiration for a new generation of 21st century citizens to be the change they wish to see in the world.|
Filmmaker Grace Lee (who yes, shares a name with her subject) will be in attendance and is looking forward to a conversation with the audience both about the film’s content and how it can be used as a tool to advance intergenerational dialogue and action on important social issues.
Working Films’ staff will be facilitating the post screening Q&As at these events! Please join us. For more info on how to get tickets for these and other Cucalorus events go to: http://www.cucalorus.org/tickets.asp
We’re happy to announce that during the month of October, two films in our Reel Engagement Initiative are set for theatrical release! Escape Fire, part of our Reel Economy collective, will hit theaters on October 5th and Brooklyn Castle, a film from our Reel Education series, will make its theatrical debut on Oct. 19. Both films have already received outstanding responses from audiences at film festivals and screenings across the nation.
The makers of Brooklyn Castlehave started a campaign to increase support for chess and other enrichment programs, and to engage audiences in this important work across the country. They’ve already been making great progress on this campaign with events at film festivals and at special sneak preview community screenings, but there’s definitely more exciting things to come! For more information on how to support after school programs, and the I.S. 318 national champion chess team, visit Brooklyn Castle’stake action page.
Fireworks on Independence Day start the month of July out with a bang, but for Working Films the real excitement came at the end of the month. That’s because we had the pleasure of hosting our Reel Economy residency and convening July 23-26.
Supported by and presented in collaboration with Chicken and Egg Pictures and The Fledgling Fund, Reel Economy brought together six documentary projects that tell personal stories of the most pressing economic issues with a group of nonprofit organizations, foundations and other allies that are working for economic justice. The featured films in Reel Economy were American Winter, Citizen Corp, Escape Fire, Solarize This, We’re Not Broke, and Xmas Without China.
After the residency, the filmmakers and economic justice organizations met for a day of networking and strategizing about how these films can fit into the ongoing work of these allies. The diverse groups of participants included Green For All, Jobs With Justice, National Physicians Alliance, Institute for America’s Future, Moms Rising, and many others.
Leading up to the final convening day of Reel Economy we spent three days in Arlington, VA with just the filmmakers, where we enjoyed this awesome view of the Potomac:
Aside from enjoying a change of scenery from the Wilmington office, we helped the participating film teams plan the nuts and bolts of their audience engagement strategies.
While at the Reel Economy residency, filmmakers got practical advice about engagement campaigns. For example, they heard from Barbara Abrash, a Working Films board member and longtime expert in the field, about evaluation strategies. They also had the chance to explore the new Sparkwise platform for sharing a film’s impact and heard from Kickstarter’s director of film projects, Elisabeth Holm, about best practices for crowd sourcing. Much of the residency included opportunities for filmmakers to think strategically about how they want to engage organizations as long-term partners with their campaigns. All this work led to the final convening day of Reel Economy when they presented their projects to key organizations.
We had a great guest instructor that joined us for the week. Steve Schnapp of United for a Fair Economy was our expert in residence and helped to ground our strategy in the needs of organizations that are at work on these critical economic and social justice issues.
Most importantly, the filmmakers were also able to learn from one another. Some films in the group, such as We’re Not Broke and Escape Fire, have been out since early 2012 and have partnerships that others could build upon. The flip side is that some of the films are still in production, but with the residency have already begun the process of engaging with partners and planning for audience engagement. That’s the beauty of these thematic residencies; it’s truly a space for folks to collaborate rather than compete, and we find that the filmmakers gain critical lessons from one another’s experiences.
Between their support for each other, Steve’s preparation from the organizing perspective, and Working Films’, the Fledgling Fund’s, and Chicken & Egg Pictures constant message to the filmmakers of viewing their film as a gift and resource for the folks working on these issues, all of our work paid off on the final convening day. After hearing pitches from the filmmakers, the participating organizations suggested concrete ways they might use these films. From screenings of American Winter at gatherings of the National Association of Social Workers to creative uses of Solarize This in the upcoming campaigns of Green For All, the organizations discussed specific ways that these films could be used to advance their work.
We are looking forward to launching a collaborative effort that over the next few months will feature these multiple films that will build a stronger movement for economic justice and support the work of these individual organizations.
“This was about keeping hope alive – the past is not who we are.”
“This event allowed us to see successful strategies (from other cities) that can translate to our own community.”
“I feel confident our community can change and make strength in diversity a reality.”
These were just a few out of 180 positive comments from over 200+ audience members at the Reimagining the Region: Building a New Detroit Metropolis forum, centered around Andrea Torrice’s documentary series The New Metropolis, hosted at the Emagine Royal Oak Theater on September 15.
“Detroit has been deteriorating for over 40 years because of disinvestment,” said Ponsella Hardaway, Executive Director of Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), one of the sponsors of the event. “The suburbs had been secure, but over the last 15 years they’ve been experiencing the same decline as the urban core. There’s also been a lot of competition between municipalities. I hope this event starts to break down the barriers so that all communities, suburban and urban, can cooperate rather then compete. But the question is: how do we cooperate? This event gives community leaders the opportunity to come together and discuss how to do this.”
Award-winning filmmaker Andrea Torrice launched the evening dialogue with some clips from her recent documentary, The New Metropolis, which highlights issues facing America’s first suburbs to examine U.S. land use and transportation policy. “The film series is called The New Metropolis because old policies which separated cities and suburbs are no longer in our economic self-interest,” said Torrice. “We need a new vision for our regions in the future.”
Stephen Henderson, an editor for the Detroit Free Press and host of Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal moderated a panel discussion and dialogue with the audience, which was filmed and streamed live by Detroit Public TV. (Watch the event via streaming video on The New Metropolis website here.) “Detroit is the home of the original idea of the suburbs. The highway system here, which is more complex and over-developed than any place in the country, made it possible since the 1950s for people to leave the city. So, we have more decaying infrastructure, especially in the inner-ring suburbs because they’re older,” said Henderson.
Conan Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, which also co-sponsored the event, said, “Suburban communities were created to drive segregation in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. These films (The New Metropolis) speak about strategies to overcome important stuff for us. Overcoming segregation to realize its promise, as seen in The New Metropolis framework – that is the hope of this experience.”
108 evaluations were collected from the audience, when asked if they believed the Forum highlighted critical issues facing Detroit and the surrounding region, 99 said they agreed or strongly agreed. 101 said they thought the films highlighted stories that will be use in developing strategies in Detroit. 83 audience members said they are feeling more positive about finding new strategies to work together.
The sponsors and organizers are now putting into action many of the suggestions for follow up by the audience, including opportunities for future screenings hosted by partnerships of local organizations as well as a listserv that will allow us to stay connected to the attendees – 160+ of whom shared their contact information. Nineteen different organizations immediately committed to hosting additional screenings, from churches and synagogues to inner city youth groups to district libraries to Eastern Michigan University.
This event was part of The New Metropolis civic engagement dialogue series taking place across the country on revitalizing America’s older communities and is made possible through the support of the Ford and Surdna Foundations. Working Films co-organized two strategy summits for this Detroit event, bringing together local community stakeholders to secure their input and commitment. Robert West, Working Films’ co-founder and Executive Director, said, “This forum was a model of how to use a documentary series as a catalyst for authentic change. Community stakeholders were involved with our planning process six months prior to this event, and stayed focused on local challenges and concrete outcomes.
One comment from an audience member seemed to sum up the extraordinarily positive energy at the conclusion of the event: collaboration, unity, community.
“Detroit has been deteriorating for over 40 years because of disinvestment,” said Ponsella Hardaway, Executive Director of Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), one of the sponsors of “Reimagining the Region: Building a New Metropolis”.
A screening of The New Metropolis and a community dialogue about the film and its relevance to the region will take place at the Emagine Royal Oak Theater on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 7 – 9 p.m. A light dinner precedes the event at 6:00. The forum is free and open to the public. The event will be streamed live on The New Metropolis website.
“Reimagining the Region: Building a New Metropolis” will bring together policy makers and community members to discuss strategies for urban and suburban revitalization in the Detroit area. The event will be moderated by Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press and Host of WTVS’ American Black Journal. Joining Henderson will be a panel of state and local public officials, community leaders, and John Powell, Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
This event is part of The New Metropolis civic engagement dialogue series taking place across the country on revitalizing America’s older communities and is made possible through the support of the Ford and Surdna Foundations. Working Films co-organized two strategy summits for this Detroit event, bringing together local community stakeholders to secure their input and commitment.
When I was in Detroit over the summer for the Allied Media Conference, I attended a workshop presented by Evan Casper-Futterman, Co-Producer of the film Land of Opportunity. He explained how the film is using Mozilla Foundation’s WebMadeMovies initiative to create an interactive web campaign. Afterwards, I caught up with Evan to find out a bit more about how the interactive videos work and supplement the film. Here’s what he had to say:
A key component of the Land of Opportunity documentary project is the production and distribution of interactive web-based videos designed to engage and educate viewers on core urban issues of affordable housing, urban redevelopment/planning, (im)migration and economic displacement. We are building an open-source interactive web player for our video content that provides access to an ever-expanding content-rich environment that amplifies and contextualizes the storylines and issues we explore. The goal is to create a multi-dimensional story space that will increase engagement and inspire action. The interactive nature of these webisodes will allow users to relate the stories of post-Katrina New Orleans to what is happening in their own backyards. We have partnered with the prestigious Mozilla Foundation’s WebMadeMovies initiative to create the Land of Opportunity interactive web player.
As they watch a video, users will be presented with “triggers” that appear during key moments. These triggers will enable users to access additional content drawn from a curated “knowledge-base” organized by the filmmakers in conjunction with educational, community and data partners. This additional content will feature video, audio, data, stills, articles, maps, diagrams, scholarly essays, online action campaigns and so forth. While watching the webisodes, users will also be prompted to provide information about themselves (i.e. zip code, age-range, income range etc.) and will then access targeted data that relates the themes and issues in the video content to what’s happening in their own towns and cities (i.e. number of blighted homes in their neighborhood, immigrants rights campaigns in their community, urban planning initiatives in their city etc). In addition, the triggers will allow users to see the latest news and what people are saying in real time about the issues on Google, Facebook and Twitter, etc. Eventually users will also be able to record and upload their own content and triggers. This interface creates a holistic viewing experience that transcends the current limitations of viewing video on the web. It also furthers our goal of inspiring dialogue and analysis that connects the dots between the interrelated core urban issues presented in Land of Opportunity. For students and researchers, the player will be akin to having a dynamic streaming bibliography—video and text can now be used in tandem, rather than as separate resources. All our additional content will be created and organized in collaboration with community, educational and data partners to maximize engagement and impact around our core urban issues.
We are currently building a robust demo of the player, which we will use to attract additional funding and strategic partners. The demo will be completed in late September. We then plan to build and launch the player in three phases in 2012 in conjunction with three webisodes each highlighting a core urban issue covered in the feature film: affordable housing, urban planning/redevelopment, and immigration. Each webisode will be launched with an additional level of functionality, which will initially be piloted in six target cities, including New Orleans, Detroit and Atlanta. Our first websiode–a two part piece on affordable housing in New Orleans, Atlanta, and DC, will utilize a prototype of the player and will be released in conjunction with the National Black Programming Consortium and our strategic local and national partners in early 2012 . While developing this player, we will continue to schedule screenings of the feature film Land of Opportunity.
There will be a number of films on Latino issues at this year’s Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC. Many of these films relate to issues facing North Carolina’s Latino population, issues which we address in our New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina multi-media curriculum. We’re just wrapping up some revisions to the New Faces curriculum and we’re excited to see the connections between that project and several of the great films playing at Full Frame this year.
A number of these films are part of the 2010 Thematic Program on work and labor at the festival.
Working Films board member and filmmaker Alex Rivera’s The Sixth Section will be playing on Saturday night. The film follows Grupo Unión, a group of immigrant men that pool their earnings for philanthropic projects for their hometown, such as a 2,000-seat baseball stadium and a new well.
Morristown: In the Air and Sun takes us to the fields and factory floors where Mexicans work at “jobs that Americans won’t do,” and present their struggles to organize. We see that the links between Morristown and Mexico are being strengthened, sometimes in surprising ways, by the global economy and the multinational corporations that influence the flow of labor and capital. You can catch this film on Sunday and can see a clip from footage shot by Morristown Filmmaker Anne Lewis on our New Faces website.
Los Trabajadores is playing this afternoon. In 1999 the booming city of Austin, Texas kept on growing – thanks largely to men like Ramón and Juan, who work some of the hardest jobs in an America that doesn’t want them. Through the lives of these two men and a battle over Austin’s controversial day labor program, Los Trabajadores brings to life the vivid contradictions that haunt America’s dependence on and discrimination against immigrant labor. Clips from Los Trabajadores are also part of the New Faces curriculum.
On Saturday afternoon as part of the Career Award, The Fence will be shown. In October 2006, the United States government decided to build a 700-mile fence along its Mexican border. Three years and 3.1 billion dollars later, its stated goals—containing illegal immigration, cracking down on drug trafficking, and protecting America from terrorists—have unforeseen consequences.
In the next few weeks look for an update from us on the revisions to the New Faces curriculum. In the meantime if you are in North Carolina join us in supporting these films at Full Frame!