As the weather on the balmy North Carolina coast hits 85º here today (hello climate change!), I am packing for London and then on to five intense days at the Sheffield Doc Fest. Starting 4 November, this international festival “celebrates the art and business of documentary filmmaking” and includes industry sessions, a marketplace, pitching opportunities, discussion panels and in-depth filmmaker master classes, as well as a wealth of inspirational documentary films from across the globe.
While the focus of the panel is on effective impact, the successes we’ll share are really about creating new pathways to reach audiences and turning them into impassioned viewers – so when the lights come up they are ready to act.
Last week Working Films, The Fledgling Fund and Chicken & Egg Pictures hosted a 3 day workshop where 6 filmmakers came together to create audience engagement plans so that their films result in Reel Change. All of the films tell the stories of and touch on issues that affect girls and young women. During the first 2 days, the filmmakers worked on their “community engagement mission statement” so-to-speak. Each filmmaker answered the question “What impact do you want your film to have?” We challenged filmmakers to get specific about the outcomes they wished to see from their film, prompting them to also answer the question, “So what?… So what if your film is broadcast and many people see it? Or, so what if you have community screenings? What will the measurable difference in the lives of girls and young women be when you film is used strategically?
By the end of the two days filmmakers had drilled down to much more specific answers to these questions. Here’s a sampling of some of the concrete ideas.
Jesse Epstein of Body Typed wants to use her series of short films on body image to engage men and boys in a conversation and shift their attitudes about the role of the media in shaping our perspectives on beauty. She believes that we not only have to build girls’ media literacy skills and self esteem by deconstructing false images of themselves but that boys and men have to be challenged to do the same. One idea she has for reaching this audience is to hold community screenings in neighborhood barbershops.
Stephanie Wang-Breal’s film Wo Ai Ni Mommy is about more than just Chinese adoption, it is about questions of identity as well as a redefinition of exactly what is the new Chinese American family. Through Fang Sui Yong (who is renamed “Faith” by her Jewish-American family) we see how quickly shifts in culture and identity can happen for young adoptees and other immigrant children immersed into a completely new culture. Stephanie wants to use her film to educate adoptive and potential adoptive parents of the cultural gains and losses that result from their adoption and their impact so they are better prepared to work through the questions of identity that their children face. She also wants to work with organizations to set up workshops for adult adoptees based around the film. Interestingly over the course of the residency Stephanie began to think about immigrant families as an additional potential audience for her film that could also benefit from structured workshops or Q&As around cultural and ethnic identity questions facing their children.
Selena Burks, of the film Saving Jackie, used her time at the residency to focus in on how her film can be a tool to serve youth who have experienced many of the same abuses that she did growing up in a home with parents addicted to drugs. To date Selena has had success using the film as an educational tool for foster parents, social workers and other adults that work with youth in these situations. But at Real Girls, Reel Change she came up with some solid ideas about creating a screening toolkit that organizations working with youth in the foster care system or other at-risk groups could use so that the film becomes a prompt for young people to share their own stories of hardship and resiliency and to get access to resources that they might not have known existed. In particular Selena was introduced to the idea of targeting youth that are aging out of the foster care system and using the film as a jumping off point for them to learn about resources available to them. Selena had a chance to test out this model of using the film with youth immediately after Real Girls, Reel Change, with a screening for young women at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Manhattan on the same night as the workshop.
These are just a few examples of ideas that came from the Real Girls, Reel Change workshop. And this is only the beginning of a much larger collaboration among these films and NGOs. You would think with all these filmmakers in the room there would be competiveness, but the 3 days were nothing but a supportive and encouraging environment. All of the filmmakers shared their experiences of what works and hasn’t worked for them and learned much from one another. There were talks of how all of the films can be used in one big collaborative effort, an idea that was also championed by the NGOs and foundations that participated on the final day of the residency.
On the last day held at 92YTribeca, the filmmakers did a marvelous job of presenting their ideas and pitching their films to numerous NGOs and foundations. A group of young women from NYC based writing program Power Writers were also present to observe and compose poems to summarize the things they learned over the course of the day. The poems were extremely powerful and were a testament to the impact that these films can make in the lives of girls.
Everyone left the day with concrete ideas on how to incorporate media and film into the current work they are doing and with some specific goals to start working towards with these films and filmmakers. And the best part of it all is that this is only the beginning!
Gregg Mitman thought Tales from Planet Earth would be a one-shot deal. The UW-Madison history of science professor and interim director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies was a principal organizer of the 2007 environmental film festival. “Opening night, there was a line two blocks long waiting to get into the Orpheum,” he remembers. He had anticipated 500 people might show up that first night. Instead, more than twice that number turned out. By the end of the festival, total attendance was estimated at 3,500.
Success like that has a way of turning one-shot deals into sequels. Scheduled for Nov. 6-8, this year’s expanded edition of Tales from Planet Earth represents a significant leap in ambition. Driven by the strong attendance of two years ago, plans for the 2009 festival have grown to set almost double the number of films on a cornerstone theme of “Justice.” Tales 2 also engages in close partnerships with nine community organizations, endeavoring to broaden the definition of environmental to include social aspects of the word.
“I would say you can’t tease those two apart,” Mitman observes. “We’re really trying to get people to reconceptualize environmental and social justice,” he continues, “emphasizing the idea that the environment is not just about wildlife and public lands but the places where people live, work and play.”
Two days of intensive workshops, sharing and, ultimately, caring for one another’s projects at the REAL GIRLS REEL CHANGE retreat made for a riveting final day at the 92Y Tribeca. Here, the six filmmakers were given opportunity to share and “pitch” their projects to interested nonprofit organizations and funders invited by Working Films.
Stephanie Wang-Breal (Wo Ai Ni Mommy) takes us through the day:
In the morning, each of the six filmmakers were given 10 minutes to present a clip from their work and talk about their community engagement plans:
After lunch, the filmmakers had “Quick Quality Time” (Speed dating without the awkward connotations) with attending nonprofit organizations and funders to brainstorm about possible collaborations:
At the end of the day, both the filmmakers and attendees were asked to share what they learnt from the workshop. Kate Gottlieb Kingswell, from Girls Scouts of the USA, really summed up the sentiment we wanted involved parties to be able to derive from the experience.
We are really proud of the progress our filmmakers made over the course of three days, as evident in Stephanie’s thoughts here.
But that’s not all! Working Films had invited a group of students from the Bronx, who write and perform poetry, known as the Power Writers to come and witness the day. They listened, engaged and ended our day for us with some poetry they had written from what they had learnt. Yes, they had written this over the course of a few hours – not a single person wasn’t left unmoved by their extraordinary abilities.
Check them out on the Chicken & Egg Youtube Channel here.
Thanks to my colleagues at Working Films, Chicken & Egg Pictures, The Fledgling Fund and 92Y for really creating a space for filmmakers to say “I don’t know” and nonprofits to say “I can help!”
There’s something stirring here in Chappaqua on day two of REAL GIRLS REEL CHANGE as six filmmakers begin to move beyond the brainstorming sessions we held yesterday in order to create some very concrete, specific asks to pose to potential partners on the final day of our 3 day workshop tomorrow.
When asked how their approach had evolved thus far, the Seneca Falls team exclaimed: “you can outreach all you want but I realized that the people you are talking to will say “so what?”, outreach is about reaching – not grabbing.”
The growing, stretching, learning and confidence-building we have been doing over the last two days will culminate tomorrow at the 92Y Tribeca where non profits and funders will have a chance to meet, learn and get on board with these brilliant projects with extraordinary messages.
Tomorrow we will:
• Introduce and illustrate to non-profits and funders working on girls’ issues the effectiveness of film as a tool for advancing their organizational priorities and mission, emphasizing the wide range of ways in which film can be used and viewed.
• Explore partnerships between filmmakers and non-profits, and between non-profits that are not yet working together, that will result in real change in the lives of girls.
• Learn from non-profits about the incentives and barriers that exist to their use of media to advance their organizational priorities.
The first day has been high energy and really productive. Each filmmaker was asked to share what impact they want their film to have. There were some great ideas that came from the discussion and we were able to narrow down some broad concepts to concrete and realistic goals. From there, we explored the targeted audiences of each film and different ways to plug the films into those groups. The atmosphere throughout these discussions was very collaborative and supportive. Everyone had really helpful suggestions for one another, and there was excitement about the possibility of combining all of the films into a girl’s film festival.
Staff from the The Lower Eastside Girl’s Club joined us for the day and gave us an overview of the amazing work with media that they incorporate into all of their programs and projects. To see a sample of their amazing work see their podcasts, videos and blogs. They are a great example of an organization that works with girls and uses media in fun and engaging ways.
Some exciting things have been happening with the Including Samuelcampaign this month – Disability Awareness Month – from broadcast dates to cutting-edge articles, research, curriculum, essays and more on inclusion.
There are two NEW Including Samuel Screening Toolkits, one for adults and one for teens (right). The Toolkits provide all the information you need to host your own Including Samuel screening event. Toolkits contain discussion questions, actions for inclusion, a suggested agenda and much more! The Teen toolkit features a letter from Isaiah, Samuel’s older brother.
Also, if you are between the ages of 12-21 and you host an Including Samuel Movie Party, you may win a trip to the National Youth Inclusion Summit in Washington DC. Visit http://www.includingsamuel.com to find our more on how to become eligible.
The first day of REAL GIRLS REEL CHANGE has been long but already Working Films is helping the Chicken & Egg/Fledgling Fund filmmakers recognize how to think, talk about and strategize for their films.
REAL GIRLS REEL CHANGE is an innovative three-day workshop that will nurture the work of non-profit organizations, filmmakers, and funders that are focused on supporting the physical, emotional, and social well being of girls and young women.
Today we have been identifying what “impact” looks like to each film. In doing so we hope to move filmmakers’ expectations away from being able to “change the world” and instead narrow their focus down to some very specific audiences and goals. The idea is to present a model that will make a sustainable movement towards change. One of the main problems with being able to do this was identified today as “the environmental movement has strength in its urgency. How do we get to talk about girls issues, without falling into the historical “bore” of womens’ history, with a sense of urgency and importance?”
Judith Helfand and Anna Lee of Working Films have been leading discussions in this as they believe that it takes more than one great film on a topic to support sustained social change. Working Films understand that real impact takes time and strategic use of many types of resources, and Real Girls, Reel Change was born out of our desire to develop a new format in which we can explore how multiple films that address similar issues can be used collectively and independently to advance the work of organizations working in a particular arena.
Dawn Valadez, co-Director and Producer for Going on 13 here talks about some great ideas she has come up with as a result of today’s sessions.
The powerful documentary film, A New Kind of Listening will play one night only—Thursday, October 15, at 7:30 pm at the Carolina Theatre’s historic Fletcher Hall in downtown Durham, NC, located at 309 W. Morgan St., Durham 27701.
The event is free and open to the public and the theater is wheelchair accessible.
A New Kind of Listening follows Chris Mueller-Medlicott, a young man with cerebral palsy who was mislabeled profoundly mentally retarded because he could not speak. Chris breaks through into stunning self-expression in this moving and inspiring film. The hour-long documentary, by Durham filmmaker Kenny Dalsheimer, takes viewers inside the creative work of the Community Inclusive Theater Group, the cast of which is made up of members with and without disabilities, as they create and perform an original stage piece. Together they prove that a small community arts project has the power to transform lives. A New Kind of Listening weaves together deep feelings, playfulness, vulnerability, and unexpected loss in a joyful, painful celebration of our connection to each other. The result is a groundbreaking film with the power to change beliefs about intelligence, disability and what it takes to be heard.
Launching nation-wide on October 15th, the Garbage Dreams‘ Tour is a community-based screening campaign aimed at demonstrating the true value of trash and the cost of throwing out the expertise of the Zaballeen, Egypt’s “garbage people,” who recycle 80% of everything they collect.
“Garbage Dreams is a moving story of young men searching for ways to eke out a living for their families and facing tough choices as they try to do the right thing for the planet. Mai Iskander guides us into a ‘garbage village,’ a place so different from our own, and yet the choices they face there are so hauntingly familiar. Ultimately, Garbage Dreams makes a compelling case that modernization does not always equal progress.”
10% of all proceeds from the Garbage Dreams Tour will go to The Spirit of Youth Association, a non-governmental organization of Zaballeen, that run the Recycling School profiled in Garbage Dreams.