Working Films’ Co-founder, Robert West was awarded with the 2013 Frank Harr Community Service Award, presented by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington LGBTQIA Office. The award recognizes a person or organization promoting visibility and understanding of LGBTQIA issues and who are working towards improving the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Wilmington, NC and surrounding areas.
Robert was nominated for the award because of his tireless effort with Working Films’ Reel Equality campaign in 2012, launched in response to the proposed ballot measure which placed a ban on same-sex marriage and legal recognition of domestic partnerships in the NC constitution. With the goal of turning audiences into supporters of statewide efforts to fight the ban, Robert led the curation of six films to educate citizens on how bans like this can have devastating consequences. These include: The Campaign, Sole Journey, Gen Silent, Marriage Equality, Out in the Silence and Freeheld.
The award was presented at a ceremony on May 4th, honoring Robert’s determination to fight the ban and his unrelenting commitment to the rights and equality of the LGBTQIA community.
by Dan Habib, Filmmaker in Residence Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire
The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut caused shock and grief across this country that lingers – as it should – into this new year. We may never know what caused Adam Lanza to take those horrific actions.
What is possible to determine, based on research, are the educational practices that can help identify and support youth with a variety of emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Although his diagnosis is unclear, reports from Newtown indicate that Lanza was isolated, rarely left his home and was clearly experiencing psychological distress. Many students with emotional and behavioral disabilities – which can include depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and many other diagnoses – feel disconnected from their schools and communities.
Lanza’s violence is the exception, not the rule. Students with emotional and behavioral disabilities are more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. There is a far more widespread crisis for youth in the United States with emotional and behavioral disabilities: low rates of graduation and high rates of incarceration.
Less than 50 percent of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities graduate from high school, and these students are twice as likely as students with other types of disabilities to live in a halfway house, drug treatment center, or on the street after leaving school. A University of New Hampshire study found that 73 percent of the incarcerated youth at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, NH, had a diagnosed disability.
Effective school-based interventions can ease the pain of these students, raise graduation rates and help students connect with their community through mentors and peer groups.
Unfortunately, many schools still focus primarily on punitive discipline policies like “zero-tolerance,” which emphasizes the use of suspension and expulsion, and neglect to examine the root causes of problem behavior. Students who are suspended or expelled often drop out of school, which frequently leads to juvenile delinquency, arrests and prison. Zero-tolerance policies do little to improve school safety and disproportionately impact students with emotional and behavioral disabilities as well as students of color.
These grim statistics for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities fueled my desire to create a film that could be a resource to help educators, families and mental health professionals better understand and serve children with behavioral and emotional challenges.
The film Who Cares About Kelsey? focuses on Somersworth (NH) High School student Kelsey Carroll. When Kelsey entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. She had a diagnosis of ADHD and carried the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, along with actual scars of self-mutilation. As a freshman, she didn’t earn a single academic credit and was suspended for dealing drugs. Many wrote her off as a “problem kid” – destined for drug addiction and jail.
During Kelsey’s freshman year (2006), Somersworth High School had one of the lowest graduation rates in the state (nearly 1 in 10 students dropped out), and discipline issues were rampant. That year, the school implemented a proven approach called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to develop a concise outline of the behaviors that were expected of all students, establish clear guidelines for addressing discipline problems and create systems for identifying students that needed more intensive supports.
For students like Kelsey who were at the greatest risk of dropping out of school, Somersworth also implemented a youth-directed planning model called RENEW (Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education, & Work).
The results were dramatic: by 2010, Somersworth High reduced its dropout rate by 75 percent, and behavior problems were down by 65 percent.
Who Cares About Kelsey? is the story of Kelsey’s transformation from a defiant and disruptive high school student to a motivated and self-confident young woman who is living on her own and attending college.
It’s too late to reach Adam Lanza, who serves as a horrific example of a gap in our society’s ability to effectively identify youth in crisis, and intervene with services and supports. But it’s not too late to reach and support more than two million other young people in the United States with emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Who Cares About Kelsey? is screening across the country in 2013. For more information about the film and related mini-films, go to www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com. Dan Habib is Filmmaker in Residence at the UNH Institute on Disability and created the Emmy-nominated film “Including Samuel.”
Two million young people in the United States that have emotional or behavioral disabilities. 60% of those students are likely to drop out of school. African American students over 3 1⁄2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers.
These are sobering facts, but there is good news. Many people and organizations from community organizers, to national associations of mental health professionals, to educators are working to change the way schools approach discipline and teaching in order to improve outcomes for all students. And even better, those folks now have a collection of new media resources from the Who Cares About Kelsey? project to help them in their efforts.
A few months ago we introduced you toWho Cares About Kelsey?, the project from Dan Habib (creator of Including Samuel). The documentary features Kelsey Carroll. Kelsey lived with homelessness, self-mutilation, abuse and ADHD. She was a likely high school dropout — until she encountered an education revolution that’s about empowering, not overpowering, teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities. The overall project also includes nine mini-films documenting the lives of kids with emotional and behavioral disabilities and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed.
In mid-October I facilitated a strategy summit where two dozen leaders in educational justice, mental health, substance abuse and educational reform worked together to hone the outreach and engagement strategy for the film.
Together with Working Films, Dan had laid excellent groundwork for the summit. We came into the meeting with a draft outreach and engagement plan that was crafted through input from several of the organizations that attended the meeting and their allies. Through small group breakout sessions, dialogue and interactive exercises we generated a list of primary objectives for the campaign, honed the list of target audiences, and created key strategies for the campaign that will advance the specific objectives.
Importantly these strategies are tied to the existing work of the organizations in attendance. For example, the folks in the room that do policy advocacy work at the national and state level will be the organizations that Dan works with to pursue our legislative advocacy strategies for the film project. This includes possibly producing one additional short form piece of media highlighting alternative, positive approaches to school discipline that could be used by these groups in constituent meetings or policy briefings along with accompanying data.
All of us that were in the room together for the WCAK meeting left energized and ready to collaborate. As Dan pursues collaboration with them individually and as a group we will track the impact of the WCAK project media in schools and communities across the country. Look for another update on the project in 2013 right here. In the meantime check out where WCAK is screening or watch short videos from the project at www.whocaresaboutkelsey.com
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.
For kids in our hometown of Wilmington, NC that love chess, even a summer thunderstorm couldn’t keep them from coming out to play the game in the park and watching an outdoor screening of Brooklyn Castle. Thanks to our co-hosts for the event, Cape Fear Independent Film Network, we had four big tents to keep us dry while students from local elementary and middle schools competed against one another on the chess board. The kids and their families had a great time competing before the film, and by the time we were ready to start the movie the skies had cleared.
This Brooklyn Castle screening was part of our work with the Reel Education collective. We’re supporting the work of nine documentary filmmaking teams whose films are engaging educators, parents, youth, and policy makers in actions to improve the quality of education in their communities and in the nation as a whole. This screening certainly advanced the mission of the project. In addition to being a lot of fun, the screening helped make connections between organizations which will ultimately lead to more kids being exposed to chess and other high quality enrichment programs in the Wilmington community.
The audience heard from teachers George Preiss and Doris Flowers about how the students at Noble Middle School and Pine Valley Elementary benefit from being part of their chess clubs. Then, principal Eric Irizarry and enrichment coordinator Cameron Bolish from newly reopened D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, a public middle school serving inner city Wilmington, talked to the crowd about how they need additional support and advisers for their fledgling chess club. Steve Morales, head of the Wilmington Chess Club, was there and willing to provide assistance to them and other schools in the area that are starting clubs. He and the other members of the club are trying to do more to support scholastic chess in Wilmington, and the Brooklyn Castlescreening was a great way for him to network with folks, like the leaders from Virgo, who could use their help. Things will get more exciting on the local scholastic chess front this fall. Mr. Morales announced a sanctioned scholastic tournament that the group is hosting at nearby Wrightsville Beach in November, and that some of the kids who played chess at the screening will be participating. We also had youth from DREAMS, an amazing after-school program that serves many kids from across our school district, represented at the screening. Students from their teen council volunteered to setup at the event and got a shout out before the screening.
It was a fun evening for all involved, where a sizable crowd got to see this amazing film and make connections to after-school programs in our community. We’re looking forward to doing more screenings of other Reel Education films to support efforts to improve education for all kids in our local area.
While most of our work is both national and international, Working Films has a high profile in our small coastal town of Wilmington, NC. We’re in a landmark 1912 brick firehouse and contribute to the vibrancy of local efforts, including environmental efforts and support for the LGBT community. On Friday, August 24th, Working Films hosted the 3 year anniversary of Port City TakeOver, an organization that brings together the LGBT community and our straight allies as a way to socialize and network. As take of this celebration, we invited local gay and gay-friendly organizations in Wilmington to share who they are, what they are working on, and how people can get involved in each group. Community organizations included Wilmington Pride, Wilmington Pride Youth Group, PFlag, and the Children of Pride, check out the photos here:
Last March, Working Films announced the fourteen mini-grantees for the Reel Power Film Festival, a series of documentaries that bring you stories from the frontline of our energy future. Organizations hosted Reel Power events to encourage cross-pollination of grassroots organizing strategy and to inspire their communities to leverage local resources and networks.
Here are some of the exciting report backs that we’ve received from the first screenings:
Frack Free Catskills is a group fighting fracking in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Communities, as well as throughout New York State. They organized a conference that brought together organizations opposing coal, gas, nuclear energy, and tar sands in order for various communities to gain strength and inspiration from each other in similar struggles. The Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF) kicked off their conference. They screened Dirty Business and hosted a panel discussion afterwards withfilmmaker Peter Bull along with Donna Branham of Keeper of the Mountains, Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountain Keeper, Manna Jo Greene of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, and Duncan Meisel of 350.org. The conversation revolved around local actions needed to resist coal and other fossil fuels. They will continue to show the films in a series in order to keep the local energy and participation high.
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance is a 30-year old nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable. The RPFF screenings of Dirty Business and Gasland engaged audiences in their work to support the development of community-based wind and solar projects, as well as their efforts to make the state coal-free. The mini-grant supported action events, including a tour of a wind turbine, voter education on energy legislation and an opportunity for audience members to sign up for green electricity.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is a statewide organization that works to end mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses. The first of their 4-part RPFF series kicked off with Gasland earlier this summer. They used the opportunity to educate the audience on public hearings scheduled to discuss the issue of surface mining.
Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS is a relatively new organization that provides opportunities to learn, experience first-hand, and find new ways in improving lives through sustainable choices. Gaining Ground, in partnership with the Students for Sustainable Campuses, hosted screenings of all of the Reel Power films and trailers in conjunction with the community and university Earth Week events. Each film included a Q&A where audience members were invited to join the organization’s sustainability efforts, with several folks signing on as new members.
Clean Water for NC works to promote clean, safe water and environments as well as empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians. Gasland and Split Estate were screened by CWFNC with Yadkin Riverkeeper and the Dan River Basin Association in two rural communities that are currently gaining the interest of gas companies. The local news covered their first screening where a local resident commented: “I think watching [Gasland] should be a requirement before allowing anyone to sign a lease allowing fracturing on their property. It just makes no sense to think about maybe trading a little energy now for no water forever.” Several volunteers signed up to approach local government officials in nearby towns and counties about passing resolutions against fracking and 60 people, representing most of the households present, signed up to receive weekly “Frackupdates” about state and national events, advocacy opportunities and news summaries.
If you would like to catch one of the RPFF’s screenings, be sure to check out the Working Films Calendar for updates.
September 13th, 7 pm Dirty Business 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 16th, 6:30 pm Deep Down Historic Oak Hill School
140 School Street, Oak Hill, WV 25901
Hosted by Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition with a discussion and ways to get involved. September 17, 6 pm – 10 pm Reel Power Film Festival at Union College
Union College Student Center
310 College St, Barbourville, KY
September 20th, 7 pm Deep Down 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 28th, 7 pm Split Estate Unity by the Sea, 901 Brawner Parkway, Corpus Christi, TX 78411
Hosted by the Texas Drought Project and a Q&A with special guest Sharon Wilson, Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project and more.
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.
Working Films is proud to announce the documentary projects selected for Reel Aging: Real Change, an initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. These eleven compelling documentary films and transmedia projects explore aging from varied perspectives and will be tied to the ongoing policy work and grassroots campaigns supporting older populations.
The collaborative of Reel Aging projects was curated to include films that reflect the highest caliber of film-making, feature the most pressing issues facing older adults, and celebrate elders.
These projects tell inspiring stories of active, engaged elders who are changing our culture’s typical perception of aging as well as stories that powerfully illuminate the personal and societal decisions most of us will face as we care for ourselves and our loved ones. Equally important, Reel Aging includes films focused on justice for often marginalized populations that are aging.
Age of Champions (Director: Christopher Rufo) is the uplifting story of a group of athletes—a 100-year-old tennis champion, 86-year-old pole vaulter, octogenarian swimmers, and team of basketball grandmothers—all chasing gold at the National Senior Games.
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs(Director/Producer:Grace Lee) tells the story a 96-year-old Chinese-American activist and philosopher inDetroit 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 tell an unexpected story of how one woman changed herself to change the world around her.
Coming of Age in Aging America(Director: Christine Herbes-Sommers) is a multi-platform project that explores a social transformation unfolding across our – and other modern – societies. America is an aging society, and it’s not just about old people. This phenomenon will change everything: how we approach education, work, health, housing, transportation, technology, medical care, and the economy.
Communities for All Ages (Director: Yoruba Richen)is a work in progress that will document five diverse communities where older adults, teens, and young parents identify and take action on issues affecting multiple generations such as health, safety, life-long learning and immigrant integration.
The Genius of Marian (Director: Banker White) follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease as her son, the filmmaker, documents her struggles to hang on to a sense of self.
The Graying of AIDS – Stories from an Aging Epidemic (Director/Co-Producer: Katja Heinemann) is a multi-media, multi-platform documentary project and integrated educational campaign centered on a series of digital video portraits that draw attention to a startling fact: By 2015, half of all Americans living with HIV will be over the age of fifty.
Kings Point (Director/Producer: Sari Gilman) is a short documentary that portrays the complexities of life in a typical retirement community through the experiences of six of its residents, providing a bittersweet look at our ambivalent relationship with freedom, self-reliance, and community.
Old People Driving (Director/Producer: Shaleece Haas) is a short documentary film chronicling the adventures of 96-year-old Milton and 99-year-old Herbert as they confront the end of their driving years.
Parenting 102: The Sandwiched Generation Speaks Out(Director/Producer:Mary Katzke) explores issues common to families caught between caring for their elderly parents, their own younger children, and their careers.
Prison Terminal(Director/Producer: Edgar A. Barens) is a feature-length documentary that breaks through the walls of one of America’s oldest maximum security prisons to tell the story of the final months in the life of a terminally ill, elderly prisoner and the hospice volunteers—they themselves prisoners—who care for him. The film provides a fascinating and often poignant account of how the hospice experience can profoundly touch even the forsaken lives of the incarcerated.
Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary (Director: PJ Raval) traces a year in the lives of three LGBTQ seniors, and a lifetime of experiences, and confronts the realities of aging in the LGBTQ community.
Reel Aging: Real Change will begin with a four-day residency for these media makers to be held from March 23 – 26, 2012 near Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, March 27, the media makers will present their projects to regional, national and global NGOs, funders, government agencies, activists, and policy makers – all leaders in the field of aging who have a track record of supporting the rights, respect and health of elders. Together they will explore the ways in which the documentary film and new media projects can be used to protect and enhance the rights of older adults and advance personal and policy changes that will improve their and our lives.