Earlier this month I attended the Community Strategic Training Initiative (CSTI) hosted by the Western States Center in Portland, OR. This three-day seminar featured day-long workshops on everything from dismantling racism to introductions to community organizing. During my time there I met lots of great folks doing amazing work, one of which was Lauren Raheja who works with the Center for Intercultural Organizing in Portland. Lauren clued me in to a documentary that it seems like I should have already known about but had somehow missed: Divided We Fall.The film tells the story of hate violence in the aftermath of 9/11 and explores the question: who counts as American? I haven’t had a chance to watch the entire film yet, but the trailer and clips on the website are powerful and there are many opportunities for creating positive change.
Helen De Michiel, co-director of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) recently wrote an interesting piece discussing the changing landscape of independent documentaries and the use of media as a tool for participation, transformation, and social action. She writes about the relationship that filmmakers have with the making of their film and the development of social outreach – especially how increasingly the approach is shifting toward alternative avenues for distribution:
Public engagement and outreach planning are the farthest from a filmmaker’s thinking when beginning the process, but now these may become one of the most important links to get the film completed and distributed, and most importantly, used by people.
In come the efforts of Working Films, and those of our counterparts at Active Voice, where she explains that we:
… offer strategy, partnership matchmaking for long term relationships, and the service of being the much-needed intermediary between the creative filmmaking team and the advocacy networks that can use the work to open up dialogue and set the stage for inspired action… In this model, the filmmaker and community collaborators assume a stance of equality while undertaking the project, seeing a creative arc from production to presentation and distribution to ways that “users” can shape it into their worlds.
She urges filmmakers to not be overwhelmed by the possibilities, and instead embrace them and your audience cohorts. Read the entire piece A Mosaic of Practices: Public Media and Participatory Culture.
What’s better than the opportunity to make a video that sends an inspiring message about climate change to our next president? How about the chance to win a cash prize and your video broadcast on internet and TV channels?1Sky and Brighter Planet are inviting Americans to create powerful video messages that deliver a clear message to Washington: We’re ready for strong leadership on climate change. Upload your 30- or 60- second video to the contest page on Vimeo.com before September 22, 2008 to compete for $4,500 in cash prizes: www.vimeo.com/climatematters.
The ten videos with the most views per day will be judged by a select panel that includes award-winning documentary filmmaker and producer Rory Kennedy (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib) and Academy award-winning producer Tia Lessen (Trouble the Water, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine), among other notable individuals.
The Banished post-broadcast outreach campaign is in full swing! DVDs and event resources are available for community groups, civil rights institutions, and activists. Since its broadcast in February 2008, there has been overwhelming interest in intersecting Banished with on-going activism around reparations, displacement and gentrification. In June a New York-based youth program, Cultural Connections used Banished as part of its leadership development series for high school students from all over the City.
LDF attorney, Damon Hewitt explained in greater detail the difficulty with “adverse possession” cases. Other attorneys present volunteered to do more research. Most of the discussion focused on strategies for organizing communities and faith-based institutions to support the families portrayed in the film. Participants agreed to contact institutions in their networks. Ultimately, the groups present decided to host a major screening and panel discussion in NYC bringing out people featured in the film as well as the filmmaker.
In three years, BritDoc has transformed from noble experiment (inclusive documentary conference based at a legendary university) to unquestionable success. Set over three days on the Keble College campus in Oxford, UK, the conference has become a necessary launch pad for both completed and in-progress nonfiction filmmaking. The 2008 edition will be known for its combination of large audiences (early estimates are at 900 attendees), inspiring discoveries, and unconventionally beautiful English weather.
BritDoc invited us to co-conspire with them on their latest brainstorm for the fest, The Good Pitch. The intent for The Good Pitch was simple: as the London Guardian newspaper tells it:
for filmmakers to shop their wares to a roundtable of potential ‘stakeholders’ – distributors, broadcasters, charities, foundations, brands and media – not just to raise production money but to help situate each film as part of a wider campaign and maximize its impact. Accordingly, representatives from Amnesty, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, the World Development Movement, Christian Aid, Channel 4, the Sundance Institute, Participant Media, MySpace, Snagfilms The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) and many more spent the afternoon swapping table places to give guidance and support to the relevant projects.
Jess Search and me at the Fest
Over the first two days of the fest, Judith and I provided training for some of the filmmakers selected for The Good Pitch, and then on Friday, the last day of the fest, the Pitch was on; I co-moderated with Jesse Search, BritDoc’s Chief Executive. It was a bit nail-biting and also extraordinary, exhilarating, and energizing, as stakeholders and filmmakers engaged in a first strategic conversation in front of standing-room only, and sometimes cheering crowd of 200+ spectators. Most of the folks at the table representing broadcasters, funders, NGOs and non-profits were from the UK, but a number of US colleagues joined us at the forum, including Sundance Institute‘s Cara Mertes; Cynthia Kane, Programming Manager, ITVS International; Sarah Masters, the Hartley Foundation; Dan Cogan, Impact Partners; and Diana Barrett, of the Fledgling Fund, which supports our partnership with BritDoc.
This year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions will include the Impact Film Festival which will be screening socially themed films over a four day span. Following each film will be panel discussions consisting of filmmakers, lawmakers and other civic leaders. The films involved with the festival were selected based on their powerful and thought provoking stories on hot topic issues.
Among the films to be screened is Trouble the Water, which won the 2008 Working Films Full Frame Award. Trouble the Water tells the story of an aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, who survive Hurricane Katrina and then seize a chance for a new beginning. It’s a redemptive tale of self-described street hustlers who become heroes that takes you inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never before seen on screen.
The Impact Film Festival will run August 25-28th at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado and September 1-4th at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.