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The Waiting Room needs your help!

Monday, July 2nd, 2012


The Waiting Room, supported in part by our friends at The Fledgling Fund, is a film and hyper-local media project that presents a day-in-the-life perspective for patients and their caregivers in Highland Hospital’s E.R. waiting room. The film by Pete Nicks recently picked up the Special Jury prize at Silverdocs and is described by Variety as a “rock-solid vertié docu that provides ample evidence why our national health care system needs fixing.”Currently, tens of thousands of patients are not receiving the medical attention they need due to lack of health care as well as hospitals being underfunded. The Waiting Room is set for theatrical release this September and will premiere in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The team behind The Waiting Room needs your help in getting the voices of both the patients and caregivers heard to a wider audience across the nation. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund The Waiting Room Storytelling Project with a deadline of July 27 to reach their goal. Help call attention to the thousands of underserved patients by making a pledge here.

The Waiting Room poster

Reel Power Film Festival: Grassroots Mini-grant Opportunity

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Do you live in a community that has been impacted or likely to be by mountaintop removal, fracking, or a coal-fired power plant? Are you in a community where alternative energy solutions are being implemented?

Or, have you already hosted one of the Reel Power films and would like to explore the related issues around coal, gas, climate change and renewable energy solutions with your community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the Reel Power Film Festival may be for you.

Working Films is pleased to announce the launch of the Reel Power Film Festival and a Grassroots Mini-grant Opportunity. Reel Power is a collection of films that tell stories from the frontlines of our energy crisis and into our energy future and have the power to get your community talking and taking action. While anyone can host a Reel Power Film Festival, organizations and grassroots groups that are impacted by natural resource extraction, climate change or are tapping into renewable energy solutions are invited to apply for one of fourteen mini-grants to support their event.

We’ll offer mini-grants to frontline groups that are interested in bringing two or more of the films to their community this Spring or Summer. These grants of $250 cash with $500 additional in-kind will cover screening fees and other resources needed to put on a stellar event (such as venue rental, get the word out materials, etc.). Two to four of these events will receive a higher level of in-kind support valued at an additional $2500.

For more information on the Reel Power Film Festival, mini-grants and how to apply, please visit Contact Reel Power director Kristin Henry at khenry [at] if you have additional questions along the way.


Eleven Films to be part of Reel Aging: Real Change

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

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 peopleThis 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.





A Homecoming for “Our School” A Guest Blog by filmmaker Mona Nicoara

Friday, June 24th, 2011

After starting in festivals in Europe and the US, Our School finally had its premiere in Romania – a homecoming of sorts for the film and an event that we have been anticipating for almost six years.

We shot in a small town in Transylvania, a very real place in Northern Romania. Our intention was to begin to understand, and hopefully improve, race relations between majority Romanians and the Roma ethnic minority by showing under a magnifying glass the story of three spirited Roma children involved in a school integration project in Targu Lapus. After four years of production and two years of editing we ended up with a paradigmatic story of hope, squandered opportunities, and infuriating cultural and institutional inertia. And racism, quite a bit of racism. Some intentional, some merely reflexive, yet all of it profoundly familiar to all Romanians (ourselves, the filmmakers, included). This is precisely why we were bracing so hard and for so long for the Romanian premiere. We knew that in Romania, even more than in other places in Europe or the United States, Our School would be holding a mirror up to its audience – an unflattering one at that. And there are few things as counter-productive and virulent as unexamined, defensive racism.

We did what we could to prepare for the premiere in terms of press, NGO partners on the ground, and the main characters themselves. The NGO partners were as nervous as we were and chomping at the bit to use the film for their own purposes. The characters got to see the film on their own terms before the festival premiere, on the principle that it is cruel and unusual treatment to see your own story projected on a very large screen with a large audience before absorbing it privately. The kids had never been to the cinema before, so they were extra nervous. Our youngest participant, Alin, helped to lighten the mood by eating three ice-creams in rapid succession and contently throwing up right before the screening.

The press was lukewarm, understandably, since they had not seen the film, and the international success of the new Romanian cinema over past ten years has made them unimpressed with projects with the kind of international festival success that Our School has had). The online comments to the advance press coverage came exclusively from people who had not seen it, but assumed that no film on Roma would ever help. They made violent threats and personal attacks against our team for “destroying Romania’s image abroad.” We imagined they were people who had too much time on their hands, but we were still put on notice: Our School had the potential of generating a strong backlash, and that was the last thing we wanted to happen.

Matters were not helped much by the great folk at the Transylvania Film Festival who programmed us in the largest cinema they had: 750 seats. We worried that the seats would remain empty or would be filled with people who do not like what they seen on the screen.

We worried about everything.

Whatever fears we had were dispersed in the first five minutes of the screening. The huge audience laughed loudly at even the smallest jokes in the film. They clapped after particularly poignant lines, making the projectionist worried that they would not hear the soundtrack. They started sniffling, visibly moved towards the end. And, when the credits ended and we all lined up on the stage, we found them giving the children a standing ovation. For five whole minutes.

Alin turned to me and whispered: “Are all of these guys Romanian?” Yes, they were. And they were applauding the courage, resilience, spirit and sass of Alin, Dana, Beni – and all the Romanian friends they managed to make, despite all odds, along the way. The audience had connected to the kids, managing to see themselves in our film without defensiveness or rancor. They found ways to process and understand what they could change in themselves by the time the credits stopped rolling.

After the film…

A teacher confessed to treating her Roma students as inferior. I wanted to put her in touch with the New York teacher who confessed during our Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival that she had been tracking immigrant children in special education programs because she herself lacked support and know-how to integrate them.

A local mentioned a case of segregation next door to the screening venue – an activist invited the audience to investigate the case, right then and there. A journalist mused about what the Ministry of Education should do with the film – we referred him to the principal in Our School, who despite an awareness that the film showed him in a light that was “a little too true” (his words), ended up generously saying that it is an extraordinary tool that should be used to train and inform people not only in Romania, but abroad.

There were also hugs – lots of them. Alin, Beni, and Dana said that they were treated, for that one night, better than they had been treated, cumulatively, their entire life.

The press reaction that came in response to the screening was no less enthusiastic. A journalist confessed an allergy to issue films and declared herself not only surprised, but cured. An editorial talked about how Our School is not only a film about Roma, it is a film about us. A reputed blog said the audience had come in with fixed ideas and had come out with the urge to apologize to Roma children on behalf of all Romanians.

We know this was an ideal audience in many ways – progressive, trained by ten years of challenging festival experiences, and moved by the presence of the children in the room. But having an initial reaction like this from hundreds of people gives us confidence in what this film can do. It gives us trust that the film can accomplish what we always intended: Point to a systemic problem, make us understand it in the most direct, human way, and do the hardest things of all – change hearts and minds and open up a some hope for the future.

Guest post by Mona Nicoara, Director of Our School.

Our School is part of Working Films Reel Education collaborative.

The film screens at Silverdocs this Saturday, June 25th at 5:30pm.

Making the Most of Interns – An Interview with Stephanie Bleyer

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

STEPHANIE BLEYER produces engagement campaigns and raises funds for social issue documentaries. Some of her current and past clients include Academy Award nominees Gasland and Sun Come Up, BBC’s Why Poverty?, The Documentary Group’s 10×10, Errol Morris’ Standard Operating Procedure, Planet Green’s No Impact Man, PBS’ To Be Heard and OWN’s One Lucky Elephant. Stephanie has studied organic farming in Italy, bicycled across Cuba on a grant to study sustainable energy, created a documentary for Oxygen about her social action bicycle trip from Seattle to Washington D.C., produced a 35-city bus tour for the Eat Well Guide to promote family farming, produced an international conference for a 9/11 family group, produced the opening of Mercy Corps’ Action Center to End World Hunger, worked at a performing arts school for street boys in Kenya and managed displacement camps for thousands of tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka. Stephanie holds a Masters of Public Administration from New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Stephanie Bleyer has a lot on her plate. How does she keep up with it all? Here’s what she told us:

I always have at least four interns working with me; they are my tentacles, my foot soldiers and my secret weapon. On average, 25% of the tasks I assign my interns are administrative and the rest of the work is challenging, creative and cerebral. To keep them engaged, I know I need to build their skill set and give them a sense of ownership over their work. I give them a lot of responsibility with minimal oversight, which empowers them and saves me a hell of a lot of time. There’s usually a one-month learning curve, I start out slow with them and then build up so they take on more and more responsibility and require less and less of my time.

Many social issue filmmakers involved in outreach and engagement campaigns would like to work with interns but are worried about quality control. How do you give meaningful work to interns and assure excellent outcomes?

The quality of interns can vary pretty widely but I’ve figured out a few simple ways to insure some quality control:

1. I only hire grad students, never post-grads and rarely undergrads (unless they are experienced and exceptionally mature). Post-grads will either quit on you once they find a paying gig or they will expect you to start paying them within a month of working. My interns work virtually so it doesn’t matter where they live but it does matter to me that they are current students enrolled in quality programs.

2. I don’t hire film students because they rarely care about learning about outreach and engagement. I hire writers and organizers, students studying marketing and communications and young people who are very passionate about the issue that the film addresses.

3. I post my job ad on career boards for the top schools in the country, never on craigslist or on filmmaking job boards and rarely Idealist. I also distribute the job ad through my social network and on the Facebook page for the film so I can find interns who are already familiar with the film.

During a number of our recent trainings and consultations, filmmakers have expressed concern that it takes too much time to train and manage interns. How extensive is your orientation and training of interns?

If you choose the right interns you shouldn’t need more than a one-hour orientation. I require them to read every page on the film’s website before the orientation and I expect that for the first month they’ll need some guidance and that it will lessen over time.

How often to you check-in with them and how do you make sure they are “on track”?

My interns check in every Monday morning and Friday afternoon. We email throughout the week and they call me when they’re stuck. We meet face-to-face maybe once or twice during the internship.

How do you create incentives for unpaid interns to stick with a project?

I incentivize interns in three ways:

1) I organize career building brown bag luncheons twice throughout the semester. During the brown bag I give them an hour lecture about getting, finding and keeping a job. Part two of the career-building luncheon is a one-on-one session where I rip their resumes to shreds and help them rebuild it. They love this.

2) I challenge them.

3) I only ask that they work 10 hours/week.

Are there pitfalls that you have learned to avoid in your experience with interns?

Top 5 lessons:

1) Commitment. I just lost two interns in a two-week time period. Two of these interns were grad students but weren’t receiving credit, and mid-semester they felt overwhelmed with the internship and school and work. If they were receiving credit, it would have prevented them from leaving. I make it very clear up front that I need a four-month commitment, and 99% of the time the interns live up to their commitment.

2) Generation Text. Most of my interns are afraid of calling people up on the telephone and I have to constantly push them to pick up the phone if they haven’t received a response to their emails.

3) Communication. Because my interns all work virtually, I need them to over-communicate with me. I constantly have to remind my interns to let me know where things stand.

4) Overwork. I have a tendency to pile work on my interns expecting they’ll get it all done efficiently and well. I’ll have the rare intern who can’t meet deadlines and ultimately creates more work for me with the quality of their work. They don’t last.

5) Dear Stephanie Bleyer. This is not a pitfall; it’s just a funny thing that every single one of my interns does when they first start with me. They think the proper way to address someone in an email is Dear first name, last name.

To inquire about Stephanie Bleyer’s audience outreach and engagement services, contact her directly at

IMPACT: Deep Down – Make it Local

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

How do you make your documentary film resonate with local audiences and issues? How do you build a bridge between community activist groups and the movements in your film? Watch how Deep Down’s film team is bringing together grassroots leaders from Appalachia with community leaders from across the country engaged in similar struggles.

Deep Down’s protagonist Beverly May, co-director Jen Gilomen, and outreach director Lora Smith traveled to Chicago for an ITVS Community Cinema Screening partnered with members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). The group toured the Little Village neighborhood, a community known as “The Midwest Mexico,” to learn about their struggle to fight the abuses of several toxic industries including two massive coal powered power plant that are poisoning their air and people.

IMPACT is a series of videos created by Working Films and The Fledgling Fund focused on building film campaigns that ignite social change. Previous videos include “No Impact Man: Activating Your Audience” and “IMPACT: A Funder’s Perspective.”

For more information, go to and

New Faces: Bringing a little sanity to conversations about immigration

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

We may not be holding a rally like Jon Stewart did, but we do hope that our newly revised curriculum New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina will bring more sanity to conversations about culture, identity, immigration and globalization in classrooms and communities across North Carolina. With laws like the one passed this spring in Arizona and politicians running ads saying things like “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” it’s clear that anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States certainly isn’t diminishing. There is clearly a lot of education that we need to do.

New Faces Video: From Latin America to North Carolina

Here’s a sample of one of the videos from the New Faces curriculum explaining why a diverse range of Latinos have moved to North Craolina from Latin America.

Unfortunately Latinos are the primary targets of this backlash. When I listen to media reports or even participate in conversations with friends and acquaintances I realize that often this sentiment is fueled by a lack of factual information related to Latino communities and to the subset of Latino immigrants. We need more opportunities to get the facts and to have civil dialogues about these important issues. Our multimedia curriculum, New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina uses documentary film clips, discussion and engaging learning activities to help learners understand more about themselves and about the Latino community in North Carolina. It has been re-designed to spark meaningful conversations and consciousness-raising on issues such as the roots causes of migration, the immigration system, the breakdown of stereotypes and prejudice, characteristics of Latino cultures, and struggles for workers rights. New Faces is a multimedia curriculum for use in middle and high schools classroom and for adults in professional development or popular education settings.

We’ve worked hard to revamp New Faces so that it encourages learners of all backgrounds to reflect on their own cultural identities and immigration histories, giving them important context for learning more about North Carolina’s multifaceted Latino communities. The curriculum was first released in 2007 and well received by educators, human service professionals, and community groups alike. We’ve expanded the curriculum to include 5 units and better indexed the lesson plans so that teachers and community leaders can pick lessons that will be most useful for their particular purposes. We’ve also added new content and shifted the framing of some of the original content to make it more approachable for learners from all walks of life. All the New Faces lesson plans and documentary films clips are available for free at, and a DVD of the films clips is available at no charge for teachers and non-profits in North Carolina

APPLY NOW for Reel Engagement: Managing Social Issue Film Campaigns

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Don’t miss the deadline to apply for Reel Engagement: Managing Social Issue Film Campaigns.

Upcoming next month, Working Films and the Fledgling Fund will lead a field building training aimed at the effective management of film campaigns. This 4 day hands-on workshop is designed for individuals who are interested in developing the skills necessary to be an Engagement Coordinator; designing and managing creative and meaningful audience and community engagement campaigns for independent social and environmental issue documentary films or media projects.

Read more and apply now to Reel Engagement: Managing Social Issue Film Campaigns.
Deadline is October 22, 2010.

Get Engaged with Reel Engagement!

Friday, September 17th, 2010

(Photo by Robbie Gemmel)

Are you interested in developing skills to effectively manage film campaigns on social justice issues? If so, you should apply to our latest Reel Engagement workshop, Managing Social Issue Film Campaigns, which we designed with the Fledgling Fund. This 4 day hands-on workshop is designed for individuals who are interested in developing the skills necessary to be Engagement Coordinators; designing and managing creative and impactful audience and community engagement campaigns for independent social issue documentary films or media projects.

Read more and apply now!
Deadline is October 22, 2010

Earth Week: What’s Your IMPACT?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

As Thursday is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we’re thinking about our impact in the sustainability work that we do, and the change that media projects like No Impact Man can spark.

How do filmmakers create an audience engagement campaign that is unique, yet has ties to a movement that already exists? Gillian Caldwell, Campaign Director of 1Sky, puts it simply when speaking about their partnership with No Impact Man, “It’s important that the relationship be reciprocal.”

Working Films and The Fledgling Fund are excited to bring you the second video in our series, No Impact Man: Activating Your Audience. It illustrates the benefits of mutually beneficial relationships and demonstrates creating opportunities for participation that extends the story beyond the film. Watch the video and find out how No Impact Man and its partners, like 1Sky, worked together to move participants from individual action to collective action.