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Working Films Provides Tactful Support to Public Education

February 5th, 2014 by Andy Myers


The New Public, a film by Jyllian Gunther is the most recent addition to the Reel Education co-hort. The film follows an ambitious group of teachers who create Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM) a small, public high school in an under served neighborhood of Brooklyn. The film provides a close-up look at the struggles teachers face in and  outside of school.

In North Carolina, a state where teacher pay is ranked at 46th in the nation and public funds are being diverted to private schools, Working Films connected The New Public to the Tarheel Alliance of Classroom Teachers (tACT).  TACT is a new organization that works to unite public educators in North Carolina in order that they might assume a more active role and voice in the decisions made that impact public schools and the students enrolled in them. They seek to promote teacher respect, recognition, compensation as well as improvements in public education as a whole.
tact logo

With support from Working Films tACT held screenings of The New Public in key cities across the state. In addition to promoting awareness of the struggles and triumphs in public education, the screening series raised tACT’s profile and helped grow its membership. Specifically the screenings resulted in Sixty new members joining this new and growing organization.  TACT staff and board members said that putting the series together helped them to establish or strengthen existing  alliances with prestigious, well established state and national organizations including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), UNC CH Education Law & Policy Society, Public Schools First of NC, Women AdvaNCe, NC Justice Center, and the NC Association of Educators. The screenings were also used to collect audience information on working conditions and challenges for North Carolina teachers to help inform tACT’s agenda for the school year.

Sandy Younce, a board member for tACT, said the discussions following each screening were overwhelmingly fruitful. Participants “agreed that a free public education for all children is basic to the maintenance of a free and democratic society.” Out of the many complex issues depicted in the film, one of the major takeaways is the incredible burden on public school teachers to be all things to all people. According to Younce, “Public educators are expected to do everything for their community. Teachers are expected to be mothers, fathers, moral guides, nursemaids, and administrators.” tACT is working hard to create recognition of the challenges educators in NC and across the country face and to assure that teachers are given credit for their commitment to their students, knowledge and professionalism. Working Films is proud to have been able to support them in using film to advance these goals.

Keep your eyes open for further collaboration with tACT on additional screenings of education films this spring!

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January 27th, 2014 by Charlon Turner

Working Films is excited to be a Community Partner of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI)’s 10th Annual Media That Matters Conference in Washington, DC February 6 -7, 2014.

Media That Matters is an annual symposium presented by the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University. It is designed for established and aspiring filmmakers, nonprofit communication leaders, funders, and students who want to learn and share cutting-edge practices to make their media matter. The conference opens Thursday February 6th with workshops on fair use of copyrighted material, designing for impact, and incorporating transmedia theory into media projects. Friday’s agenda will include a keynote address by Alden E. Stoner, Vice President of Social Action Film Campaigns at Participant Media. The conference will also feature networking opportunities and sessions focused on digital games, using play for social impact and graphically visualizing policy, history, news and more.

Media Matters Conference

Register now to be a part of this awesome opportunity!

The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, formerly the Center for Social Media, is an innovation lab and research center that studies, designs, and showcases media for social impact. CMSI focuses on independent, documentary and public media, the Center bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners across media production, media impact, public policy and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and academic research; convenes conferences and events; and works collaboratively to understand and design media that matters.

To learn more about Media That Matters and the Center for Media & Social Impact:
•   Read the Rapporteur’s Report from the 2013 conference.
•   Visit the Center for Media & Social Impact‘s website.
•   Follow CMSI/Media Matters on Facebook and Twitter (@cmsimpact, #MTMDC).

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Movies For a Moral Movement

December 13th, 2013 by Molly Murphy

Working Films’ home state of North Carolina gained national attention this year for its Moral Monday protests, when thousands gathered at the capitol building every Monday from April through July to protest the regressive actions of the state legislature. From cuts to unemployment insurance, to tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest citizens, loosening of environmental regulations, to suppressing the right to vote – a multitude of harsh new policies are threatening the social safety net, education, the economy, voting access, women’s health, and the environment.

We’ve responded with a plan to position and leverage Reel Engagement films to support and build on the momentum of the Moral Monday/Forward Together movement.

Participants at the NC Engagement Strategy Convening October 2013.

Participants at the NC Engagement Strategy Convening October 2013.

On October 29th, in collaboration with stone circles, the North Carolina NAACP, the North Carolina Justice Center, Clean Water for North Carolina, and Democracy NC, we hosted a full day training and strategy convening among nonprofit leaders from around the state. The meeting was designed to offer best practices and specific guidance in using film to advance organizing for social and environmental justice, and to facilitate strategy development across multiple issues with film at the center of those efforts.  Participants left with specific plans to take back to their organizations and to pursue in partnership with each other. In particular, we devised ways to use films, online and off, to reach the “movable middle”. These efforts will unfold as part of a screening series and tour in 2014.

After the convening, in partnership with Responsible Wealth and stone circles, we hosted a closed-door sneak-peek screening of Citizen Koch. The event brought together individual donors, representatives of giving circles and community foundations with leaders of the Moral Monday mobilization, including NC-NAACP President, Rev. William Barber.  Citizen Koch is a new film by award winning filmmakers Tia Lessen and Carl Deal that highlights the ways in which big donors are influencing elections and gaining control of the entire political process. After the screening, audience members had an opportunity to speak with NC-NAACP, NC Justice Center, and Democracy NC organizers about specific ways they can be supportive through giving and as spokespeople.

The day energized us and reinforced our commitment to fight alongside our allies in the state to protect the people and the environment in North Carolina. Stay tuned to our blog in the new year for updates on our work build power and participation among citizens in the Tarheel State for a brighter and more sustainable future.

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Help Stories Lead to Action!

December 9th, 2013 by Anna Lee

Since 1999, Working Films has harnessed the humanity, power and vision of nonfiction filmmaking to educate viewers and mobilize communities for positive social change — at home, on the street, and in the halls where public policy gets made.

We’re asking you to give today to support Working Films’ unique approach to making “stories lead to action.”

2013 has been a year of transition. In June we tragically lost Robert West, our beloved co-founder and executive director, to brain cancer. Although deeply saddened, we renewed our commitment to carry out Robert’s vision for Working Films.  With the extraordinary support of our board, our co-founder Judith Helfand, our dedicated staff, and long-time allies in the field we have begun the next chapter for Working Films, and we’re reaching out now for your help.

In 2013 we watched a growing number of states become battlegrounds and testing-sites for ultra conservative policies that are eroding social safety nets, damaging the environment and threatening voting rights.  Working Films’ home state of North Carolina is a prime example!  We responded by putting our Reel Engagement initiative to work in the states, where change is happening.

Reel Engagement supports  organizations, issue leaders and on the ground organizers to use collections of films to reach critical audiences and achieve meaningful impact on some of the biggest issues of our time: climate change (Reel Power), education (Reel Education), the economy (Reel Economy), the growing aging population (Reel Aging) and Reproductive Justice (Reel RJ).

For the past year we’ve had our ear to the ground while field testing ways in which state level organizations working for social and environmental justice can use award-winning Reel Engagement films to build their base, strengthen their efforts, create coalitions, and actively address the critical issues at play. Here are some highlights of that work in 2013:

Strategic, sneak peek screenings of Inequality for All and Citizen Koch launched our Reel Economy campaign – now unfolding in Florida, North Carolina, and beyond.

With filmmaker Josh Fox, we designed a Southeast tour of the Reel Power film Gasland 2. The tour spotlighted the work of local organizations and anti-fracking networks in Texas and North Carolina.

We worked with film festivals like True/False, CIFF and Cucalorus to design and lead strategy summits among leaders in the fields of aging and reproductive justice.

In the last three months alone, we’ve convened over 80 organizations in states across the country to identify shared goals and specific strategies for using Reel Engagement films as a central component of new coalition efforts.

We’re excited about our progress, and we need your help to keep going!

In 2014, we’ll expand the Reel  Economy campaign in North Carolina, Florida and other states in partnership with United for a Fair Economy. We’ll use new Reel Power films like Come Hell or High Water, Bidder 70, and Gasland 2 in Texas and North Carolina to fight fracking and advance clean energy solutions.

We’ll help to strengthen the Moral   Monday/Forward Together movement in our home state of North Carolina, using documentary films from the Reel Engagement cohorts to educate citizens on important issues like fracking, economic inequality, education budget cuts and threats to reproductive rights and justice.

We’ll also train hundreds of social justice and environmental organizers and nonprofits in states around the country on how to make the best use of documentary films to advance their critical work.

Please consider a donation to support these efforts.

$50    helps cover a training session with a nonprofit partner.

$100  helps pay for screening rights fees for under-resourced groups and organizations

$500  helps support a strategic convening of filmmakers and organizers working to advance progress in states where the issues are at a critical tipping point.

We are trying to raise $20,000 in individual donations by December 31, 2013.  Please contribute today.

Thank you for your support of and belief in Working Films!

We wish you, your loved ones and your community a healthy, peaceful and hopeful holiday season.



Anna Lee and Molly Murphy

Interim Co-directors

P.S. Make an even bigger impact with a recurring monthly donation to sustain our work in the new year.

If you would like to make you contribution  in honor of Robert West’s life, vision and legacy, you can donate directly to the Robert West Reel Engagement Fund. Like Robert, the work supported by the Fund is nimble, creative and responsive to the needs and opportunities for social change.

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Reel Power at Power Shift 2013

November 20th, 2013 by Kristin Henry
Photo by Project Survival Media

Photo by Project Survival Media

Working Films brought Reel Power to Power Shift, the largest national youth climate conference, which took place in Pittsburgh, PA this year. Wearing his Peaceful Uprising t-shirt,  Josh Fox gave a keynote address on Friday night where he told the crowd, “There can be no democracy until we have freedom from fossil fuels.” The audience couldn’t agree more. Check out Josh’s keynote online (with the Reel Power trailer starting at 46 minutes), where he makes the interconnectedness of the issues clear and calls everyone to find their role in the movement.

Reel Power, Come Hell or High Water and Gulf Coast activists and journalists

Reel Power, Come Hell or High Water and Gulf Coast activists and journalists

Reel Power films were featured over the weekend. Bidder 70 was accompanied by Peaceful Uprising board advisory member and youth climate leader Lauren Wood, with the Q&A discussion focusing on Tim’s story and the larger issues of using civil disobedience as a tactic. Gasland Part II included young socially conscious rappers, the Earth Guardians to give hope after the film. Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek’s sneak peak featured a Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan, film subject and Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans, as well as Bridge the Gulf contributors Cherri Foytlin and Bryan Parras leading a conversation on environmental justice and serious grassroots organizing. We also included a sneak peak of Reel Economy film Citizen Koch that had a Q&A with expert Nick Surgey, Director of Research at the Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed to lead a discussion on money in politics. Read Come Hell or High Water’s blog about the filmmaker’s experience at Power Shift.

Katrina Ritaville Express PS 2013 Leah Mahan

Derrick Evan’s KatrinaRitaVille Express FEMA trailer was freshly decorated by Power Shift participants for the march on Monday, photo by Leah Mahan

Students are now planning a Reel Power Spring Film Series on their campuses to recruit new members, host a social event with a purpose, and advance the goals of their groups. Want to host Spring Film Series in 2014? Our Campus Screening Toolkit provides a framework to help walk you through the steps.

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Gasland Part II Event in NC

November 1st, 2013 by Charlon Turner

Gasland Part II screened at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC on October 7th to a packed house! Working Films’ Reel Power initiative and Clean Water for NC coordinated this effort with the Gasland team to grow the anti-fracking movement in the state at this critical time. Below is a photo blog of the event, community, groups, conversation and action.


Hope Taylor instructing volunteers

Clean Water for NC prepares volunteers before doors open


Working Films – Reel Power info table
Director Josh Fox and Frack Free NC

Director Josh Fox with members of the Frack Free NC Alliance


Volunteer signing petition

Attendees signing the petition to keep NC Frack-Free!


The crowd enjoying the food trucks


Working Films’ staff before screening


Bring Reel Power films to your community!


Standing ovation for filmmaker Josh Fox as he plays banjo along with the credits


Gasland II draws an energetic audience at the Carolina Theater of Durham! Photo by Lee Ziesche, Gasland II

Gasland Part II draws an energetic audience at the Carolina Theater of Durham!
Crowd says “I’m from NC, not from Gasland.” Photo by Lee Ziesche, Gasland Part II


Q&A with moderator Anna Lee of Working Films, Josh Fox of Gasland Part II, and Hope Taylor of Clean Water for NC



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Reel Power Films: Come Hell or High Water Screens Sunday at Power Shift

October 20th, 2013 by Kristin Henry

Sneak Peak of Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, Sunday at 10:15 am in room 407
Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan, film subject/Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans and other contributors to

Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Derrick and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals including Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.

“This intimate film tells a gigantic story — about race, power and so-called development. But it is also a saga of community, resilience, resistance, and hope. It’s about everything that matters in our society.” -BILL BIGELOW, Rethinking Schools

Turkey Creek residents are descendants of emancipated slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s. They have been stewards of the creeks rich wetland habitat for generations, and have farmed, fished, hunted and been baptized along its banks. Today, Turkey Creek is surrounded by an airport, a Walmart, highways and an industrial canal that threaten the community and its fragile wetlands.

This is an inspirational story of how one community banded together to save their land and culture. Filmmaker Leah Mahan worked with Derrick Evans and the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health to create an interactive website and network of bloggers called Bridge the Gulf. This network links environmental justice activists, writers and others concerned about resource extraction, climate change and a sustainable future for the Gulf Coast region.

The film will be screened as part of the Reel Power film series at Power Shift today at 10:15 am in room 407 with a Q&A with filmmaker Leah Mahan and film subject/Gulf Coast organizer Derrick Evans; Bridge The Gulf Project organizer Cherri Foytlin; and T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) organizer Bryan Parras.

Come Hell or High Water premiered this month at the New Orleans Film Festival. Currently a network of Gulf Coast community leaders and national environmental and civil rights organizations are planning a series of screenings of the film at regional and national convenings of community leaders, activists, academics and philanthropists working on environmental justice, human rights and sustainable development.

Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film to your campus or community.

Find more about Reel Power films at

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Citizen Koch Screens Sunday at Power Shift

October 20th, 2013 by Andy Myers

Sneak Peek of Citizen Koch on Sunday at 10:15 am, room 406
Q&A with Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed

America – They’re Coming for You Next!

That’s the warning featured in the documentary Citizen Koch which comes from a Wisconsin state employee after her union rights were destroyed by a Republican governor funded by corporate and billionaire donors. Citizen Koch explores what the Wisconsin playbook and the U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed a new era of unbridled special-interest spending mean for us all. And it poses a crucial question: Who owns democracy in America?

Join us for a sneak peak screening at Power Shift on Sunday at 10:15am in room 406. The film, which is at the heart of the public television censorship scandal was directed and produced by academy award nominated filmmakers of Trouble the Water. Stick around after the screening for a Q&A with Nick Surgey, Director of Research at the Center for Media and Democracy / ALEC Exposed. According to Nick, “Through the lens of my home state of Wisconsin, Citizen Koch brilliantly details the problems of a political system awash with cash, which serves to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the many and the environment. Its not quite Halloween, but this film is pretty scary.”

Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film to your campus or community. Find more about Reel Power films at and about Citizen Koch at

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Bidder 70 screens Saturday at Power Shift

October 19th, 2013 by Kristin Henry

Bidder 70 Saturday, 11:30am in room 406
Q&A with Peaceful Uprising

Bidder 70 centers on an extraordinary, ingenious and effective act of civil disobedience demanding government and industry accountability. In 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher committed an act which would redefine patriotism in our time, igniting a spirit of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice.

The film will be screened at Power Shift as part of the Reel Power film series today at 11:30 in room 406 with a Q&A with Peaceful Uprising advisory board member Lauren Wood.

The film is being used on campuses as part of the students’ fossil fuel divestment campaigns, including Harvard where Tim DeChristopher is now attending divinity school.

Although, last week, Harvard University President, Drew Faust, justified the university’s decision not to divest from the energy industry saying: “Harvard fights climate change through its research on it; Harvard needs fossil fuels to run its campus, so isn’t divesting disingenuous?  Harvard should be an academic institution, not a political one.”

Tim’s response: “Drew Faust seeks a position of neutrality in a struggle where the powerful only ask that people like her remain neutral… She touts all the great research on climate change that is done at Harvard, but she ignores the fact that the fossil fuel industry actively works to suppress or distort every one of those efforts.”

Tim at PS2011“The students’ call for divestment was a call for help by the young people who will reap the consequences of the climate crisis.” -Tim DeChristopher

Bidder 70 has earned over 20 awards at film festivals and screened in communities churches, schools and colleges motivating groups and individuals to engage in peaceful direct action to secure a livable, sustainable future. Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film and filmmakers to your campus, community or place of worship. Bringing Tim DeChristopher’s message of courage and commitment, Bidder 70 inspires individuals and groups to work together to create the change they want to see.

Find more about Reel Power films at

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Gasland Part II Screens Saturday at Power Shift

October 19th, 2013 by Andy Myers

Gasland Part II, Saturday 11:30 am, room 407
Q&A with grassroots coordinator and film subject/local organizer

Last night, Gasland Part II director Josh Fox told the Power Shift crowd, “There can be no democracy until we have freedom from fossil fuels.” The audience couldn’t agree more.

The film will be screened as part of the Reel Power film series today at 11:30am in room 407 with a Q&A with Gasland’s grassroots coordinator Lee Ziesche and former Pittsburgh City Councilperson and Gasland Part II and The Sky is Pink subject, Doug Shields.



In this explosive follow-up to his Oscar-nominated film Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox uses his trademark dark humor to take a deeper, broader look at the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil, now occurring on a global level (in 32 countries worldwide).

Gasland Part II, which premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and broadcast on HBO, shows how the stakes have been raised on all sides in one of the most important environmental issues facing our nation today. The film argues that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a myth and that fracked wells inevitably leak over time, contaminating water and air, hurting families, and endangering the earth’s climate with the potent greenhouse gas, methane. In addition the film looks at how the powerful oil and gas industries are in Fox’s words “contaminating our democracy”.

From the beginning, Gasland‘s been more than just a movement to protect our environment and health. This is a movement about protecting our democracy and right to decide the future of our country. Join us today to make sure decisions are made by the people and not the fossil fuel industries. Watch the film, discuss the issues and sign up to bring the film to your campus or community.

Find more about Reel Power films at

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