We know that filmmakers are looking for new ways to think about distribution. We hear it on our consultations, at film festivals and our residencies that we host. We often hear questions like: “Should I consider a non-exclusive agreement with a distributor?”, “How can I use Facebook and YouTube to release my film?”, and of course, “How can I increase the access of my film to organizations who are working on the issues?”
These are great questions, and we’re seeing many filmmakers creating new paths and finding innovative solutions to these questions.
I talked with Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, the filmmakers of Made In L.A., about their audience engagement campaign. They told me that it was important for them to consider how distribution and audience engagement could work together, and this is exactly what they are doing with their screening kit. The kit is available to grassroots organizations and comes with six DVDs plus promotional materials and a toolkit on how to host a screening that’s tied to action.
We’d like to congratulate filmmaker Marco Williams who has been selected by the Organization of American Historians to receive the 2009 Erik Barnouw Award, which is given annually for outstanding reporting or programming on network or cable television, or in documentary film, concerned with American history, the study of American history, and/or the promotion of history. On Saturday, March 28, OAH President Pete Daniel and President-Elect Elaine Tyler May presented the awards and prizes in Seattle, Washington, during the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Organization.
Marco’s latest film, Banished, is a co-production of Two Tone Productions, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and the National Black Programming Consortium, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Sally Jo Fifer, Executive Producer for ITVS.
Banished focuses on a subject of American race relations that has received little attention. In addition to the horrible history of lynchings, many towns in the United States drove away entire black communities and seized their land without payment. The narrative tension in this documentary revolves around the search of the filmmaker and several black families today to track down what happened to their relatives and their land that was seized in the wake of mob violence. The film follows their quest from town to town and library to library, where they interview mayors and other officials and current residents of the towns. The white residents of these towns insist that they know nothing about it and claim that they are innocent because all this happened before they were born. The film illuminates this shameful episode of racial cleansing on American soil, and the legacy of loss and wounds that remain.
Held on May 7, 2009, in Toronto at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Good Pitch North America is a partnership between Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, generously supported by the Fledgling Fund. Working Films is acting as an outreach consultant on the Good Pitch. Specifically, we have invited NGO’s and non-profit partners to participate in the event and we are training filmmakers accepted into the program for their individual “good pitch”.
Although we wrapped up the Content +Intent Documentary Institute just under a month ago, I wanted to take a moment to share some photos from the event in the hopes of giving you a glimpse into the inner workings of the residency and, if you are a filmmaker, peak your interest in participating in future Working Films’ residencies and workshops. The 5 days that we share with filmmakers at MASS MoCA each year is re-energizing for me because I get a chance to interact with both the folks making these powerful films and with people who put them to good use. It’s an intense time of hard work and discussion, but as you’ll see from the pictures below it’s lots of fun as well.
Everyone fueled up with an array of breakfast choices at our home away from home in North Adams, The Porches.
Every filmmaker had an hour of the residency dedicated solely to the discussion of her (or his) outreach plan. Here, filmmaker Luisa Dantas and Robert West, Working Films' ED, discuss her project Land of Opportunity.
Filmmakers got to see Working Films' model in action at this community event built around the film The Hunger Season. Filmmaker Beadie Fenzi and Judith Helfand, Working Films Co-founder, discussed how the film could be used to make change with representatives from the local food bank in North Adams.
At The Hunger Season event audience members got to sample the corn meal that is depicted in the film and is sent to Swaziland as Food Aid.
Several funders of creative media and outreach campaigns were generous enough to spend time answering our residents' questions.
All of the filmmakers at the residency, including Marcia Jarmel pictured here, spent time working on their individual outreach plans with input from Working Films staff, like Deputy Director Molly Murphy.
In the midst of all of this work residents got a chance to check out the art at MASS MoCA.
Thanks so much to participating filmmaker Ashley Yorkfor these photos!
Judith and I just announced the Full Frame / Working Films Award at the barbecue. Our award, sponsored by Chicken & Egg Pictures and the Ettinger Foundation, is for the film that holds the greatest potential for supporting serious grassroots organizing, equity, justice and human rights.
This year we gave the award to a film which much of it was shot with small digital camcorders. It is an instructive, how-to, inspiring primer on what citizen journalism is all about. It speaks to the power of individuals using what ever recording device necessary to capture the depths of human-rights abuse and the heights of human courage. It is also a lesson in how we as filmmakers can organize and work with each other — across the great divides of race, boarders, class and politics — passing the media baton one to another until it reaches the networks, the official reporters and the world’s stage to say “We are here… Do Something!”
We are proud to give this year’s award to Burma VJ. We are thrilled that it also won the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award as well as the Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award.
Working Films is excited to announce the opening of Working Films UK, a London office in partnership with the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation – extending the services of Working Films to filmmakers in the United Kingdom and Europe. Since 2007, the Working Films team has collaborated with BRITDOC on filmmaker trainings, strategy summits for feature documentaries, festival workshops and, most recently, the foundation’s very first North American Good Pitch at Hot Docs.
Held at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on May 7, 2009, in Toronto, the Good Pitch is a partnership between BRITDOC, Hot Docs and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, generously supported by the Fledgling Fund. Working Films is acting as an outreach consultant on the Good Pitch through NGO partner cultivation and “good pitch” training for the filmmakers accepted into the program.
Beyond the collaboration on the Good Pitch at Hot Docs, there are additional opportunities for filmmakers in the U.K. to participate in this new partnership. Together, Working Films and BRITDOC are hosting the 2nd annual Films for Good workshop in London, June 5-7, 2009. This pioneering weekend is designed to assist filmmaking teams in creating effective, strategic outreach campaigns that extend and strengthen the social impact of their documentaries. Of the films submitted, BRITDOC and Working Films will shortlist a maximum of 10 teams for places in this year’s course. (In 2008, 70 projects from both award winning filmmakers and new talent were received; eight projects were accepted in the workshop.)
“Like our own organization, the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation is committed to creating models for strong, savvy and strategic audience engagement, interactive distribution and campaigns that are tied to measurable change and impact at all levels of society,” says co-founder and Executive Director Robert West. “We are excited to be taking our nearly 10 years of experience strategically linking social-issue documentary filmmaking with cutting-edge activism in the United States, and partnering with BRITDOC to reach filmmakers in the U.K. and Europe.”
Says Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation Director Maxyne Franklin, “We’ve been following Working Films’ great work for some years and are incredibly happy to be working with them as part of their expansion into the U.K. Our philosophies around creating real films that can make real change in the world have wonderful synergy and this bonding of organizations is the next natural step for us.”