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Reel Power at Power Shift 2013

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
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.

Reel Power Film Festival Review

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Our core effort for Reel Power 2012 was the Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF) – a series of targeted grassroots screenings and events to build solidarity among frontline communities and push for renewable energy alternatives. The films in the series offer new points of entry for difficult conversations about changes that need to be made at the local, state and national levels. Through grants to on-the-ground organizers and nonprofit groups, we connected to those leading change in affected communities and encouraged them to cross-pollinate their strategies for environmental justice.

Our goals for offering the Reel Power Film Festival mini-grants were to:

  • Reach frontline communities where natural resource extraction such as mountaintop removal and fracking, or coal-fired power is made and the residents are leading the organizing efforts. We also included backyard communities where alternative energy solutions are being led by the residents.
  • Select groups that were working on urgent issues and had tangible ways to engage the community in advocating for just and sustainable practices.
  • Provide access to the collection of films for grassroots groups that needed funding assistance in order to be able to host the Reel Power Film Festival.
  • Increase cross-pollination of organizing strategies across issue focus so that groups can learn from other struggle, build solidarity, and explore where they fit in the bigger picture.

Midway through the effort, I posted an update on the events to date, and would like to share more highlights below:

Green Paw Aggies, NC A&T Greensboro NC

Green Paw Aggies is a new organization at North Carolina A&T University that is working to engage students in the green movement and helping to make the sustainability efforts in the Triad more inclusive. They kicked off their RPFF with Gasland in March 2012 and plan to show Sun Come Up in March 2013. They are using the festival to engage their student government association, student activists, and local residents to get involved in issues of fracking, climate change and supporting sustainability efforts.

New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, Albuquerque NM

NM Interfaith Power & Light works with nearly 200 faith communities throughout the state to oppose new coal-fired power plants and natural gas fracking in the state. They also assist faith communities to become sustainable and energy efficient by planting community gardens, installing CFLs and weatherization materials, updating furnaces, cooling systems and appliances to more energy-efficient models, and identifying funding sources for solar installations. NM Interfaith Power & Light partnered with Canterbury Campus Ministry, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and St. Mark’s on the Mesa Episcopal Church for the RPFF. During the month of October, they used Sun Come Up, Gasland, Split Estate and Dirty Business to motivate audiences to call on the Governor to support the pit rule, a law that requires oil and gas companies to line their pits of toxic waste to avoid ground and water contamination.

Preston Citizens’ Alliance for Resources and Environmental Safety (Preston CARES), Kingwood WV

Preston CARES is a grassroots organization in north-central West Virginia fighting the development of a waste separation facility and industrial landfill for hydraulic fracturing waste. They are also resisting the industry’s push to expand fracking into their community. They partnered with local groups including Whiteday Creek Watershed Association, Friends of Deckers Creek, and Friends of the Cheat to host the RPFF on Sunday, October 14th. Screenings supported their efforts to engage area residents on landowner rights, the public health risks and technology behind hydraulic fracturing, and the impacts of gas development on the land and water. Audience members shared what they had learned at an industry-friendly “Town Hall” meeting the following Tuesday. At the meeting, two people with fracking on their property spoke out to industry representatives to change the course of the one-sided pro-industry dialogue, asking hard questions and demanding that decision makers protect citizens and the environment.

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS), Wise VA

SAMS works to stop the destruction of local communities from irresponsible surface coal mining and improve the quality of life in the coalfields of southwest Virginia. In August and September, they showed Split Estate, Gasland, Sun Come Up, Dirty Business, and Deep Down to encourage people to join efforts to stop the Coalfield Expressway – a plan to use mountaintop removal mining to flatten an area throughout Southwest Virginia to make way for the road while the coal companies keep the profits from what they extract. This taxpayer-financed road (a.k.a. strip mine) could potentially receive $2 billion in federal funds.

Sustainable Tompkins, Ithaca NY

Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based organization laying the groundwork for the transition to a resilient local economy. They are focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, greening heath care, and economic/ecological justice. Their initiatives are on the leading edge of new systems for sustainable living. They launched the RPFF with Sun Come Up in Owego, NY early this month. They plan to use the festival to boost support for regional battles against fracking and to share positive stories about building a better future through truly sustainable communities.

The Texas Drought Project, Corpus Christi TX

The Texas Drought Project works to involve Texans in climate change issues through the lens of diminishing water resources. They used the RPFF in Corpus Christi in partnership with South Texas Alliance for Peace and Justice, Texans for Peace, the Clean Economy Coalition, and Corpus Christi Progressive Caucus.  Special guests and experts participated: Sharon Wilson of Texas OGAP for Split Estate; Dr. Al Armendariz, former EPA regional administrator and now Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign for Dirty Business; Bruce Melton, Engineer and filmmaker on issues related to climate change for Sun Come Up; and Flavia de la Fuente of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign for Deep Down. At the screenings, audience members were invited to continue their interest and participation in the issues by joining demonstrations against Corpus Christi becoming a major terminal for coal export, a costly venture in terms of pollution and taxpayer dollars. They were also invited to participate in two town halls: one against a liquid natural gas conversion plant, and the other about fracking in the Barnett shale and the Eagle Ford shale.

The Future of Reel Power
We’re excited to take what we learned in the past two years with the Reel Power collaborative and build on this work to strengthen the movement for climate justice and a clean energy future. Contact campaign director Kristin Henry for partnership opportunities or to host a Reel Power screening event: khenry [at]

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.


Working Films goes to the Emmys (vicariously!)

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

We’d like to congratulate the teams behind Gasland, Good Fortune and Freedom Riders on their Emmy Awards!

Good Fortune co-director Jeremy Levine was a former Working Films fellow.
Josh Fox of Gasland is a part of our Reel Power initiative.

Many other film projects we’ve worked with or that participated in our residencies were also nominated: Monica & David (Ali Codina), Off and Running (Nicole Opper), Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy (Stephanie Wang-Breal), Deep Down (Jen Gilomen & Sally Rubin), and A Village Called Versailles (S. Leo Chiang). Congrats to all!

Reel Power: Strength in Numbers

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

“Being part of this collaboration is saying we can work together to affect a larger issue; to affect change.” – Peter Bull, filmmaker of Dirty Business

As Judith Helfand states in the video, “There’s no silver bullet that is going to fix climate change.” If that was true, An Inconvenient Truth would have stopped climate change. We need many compelling stories from lots of different places to convey a comprehensive picture of the problem and solutions we can pursue. Reel Power films weave together the narratives of the different communities they feature to show the interconnectedness of the issues. Together they give the environmental movement a full picture of our opportunities for a just future.

“What the natural gas industry would like to do is split this movement. The natural gas industry would like to drive a wedge straight through environmentalism. Don’t let them fool you! As filmmakers, we have to make sure that we’re working together as one force because the whole point is to move to renewable energy.” – Josh Fox, filmmaker of Gasland

This spring Reel Power participated in Power Shift, the nation’s largest youth climate conference, where the films were screened throughout the weekend culminating in a filmmaker panel. A discussion on the ways film screenings can be used to generate action at the grassroots level energized both the crowd and the directors. The Reel Power team left inspired by commitments from some of our country’s brightest youth leaders and are now working with college campus organizers to bring screenings and actions that support the movement for a sustainable and just energy future.

Working Films is continuing to build alliances among related issue filmmakers and NGO’s . We are opening up new opportunities and foster stronger communities. Learn more about our thematic field building or connect with Reel Power and learn how to set up screenings on your campus or in your community:

“What an amazing thing to join forces, and to share our ideas and to share resources and get that message out there.” Jennifer Redfearn, Sun Come Up

Reel Power at Power Shift

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

“We’re here at Power Shift. We get down to business. We get down to action.”
– JOSH FOX, Director of Gasland

Before a packed house of 8,000 youth climate activists, Gasland Director Josh Fox welcomed the enthusiastic crowd with his banjo and a call to action. Josh’s message was simple – natural gas is not a transition fuel away from coal, and we must stand united for truly clean alternatives.

Josh was at Power Shift, a national gathering of over 10,000 high school and college climate justice organizers. Along with fellow filmmakers, Josh introduced students to Reel Power: Films Fueling the Energy Revolution.

Reel Power films were screened throughout the weekend of Power Shift, culminating in a filmmaker panel. A discussion on the ways film screenings can be used to generate action at the grassroots level energized both the crowd and the directors. The Reel Power team left inspired by commitments from some of our country’s brightest youth leaders and can’t wait to start working with more college campuses to bring screenings and actions that support the movement for a sustainable and just energy future.

Will you join us? To connect with Reel Power and learn how to set up screenings on your campus or in your community visit the Reel Power page.

Host an Oscar Party for Change!

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Two films involved with the Reel Power film series are nominated for Oscars this year! Gasland, a film by Josh Fox about the dangers of the natural gas industry, is up for Best Documentary. And Sun Come Up, by Jennifer Redfearn about the exodus of some of the world’s first Climate Refugees, is nominated for Best Short Documentary. Make this Oscar broadcast a meaningful experience with actions that will help stop climate change, protect our country’s drinking water and produce a clean, safe energy future.



Tune into the Academy Awards on ABC on February 27, 2011 at 8p.m. EST and cheer on these great films. You can take these steps to ensure your Oscar night is focused on more than just the red carpet’s best dressed list:

1. Get Reel! Have a computer accessible so your guests can immediately watch the Reel Power film trailer at commercial time and sign up to join our email list. Joining Reel Power: Films Fueling the Energy Revolution will help you stay up to date with more world-changing documentary films like Gasland and Sun Come Up.

2. Stop Fracking! Ask your guests to email the President or you can pre-print the letter supplied by Gasland for your guests to sign.

4. Raise the Roof! Let your Oscar Party double as a House Raiser for the Carteret Islanders by taking donations to help build a new home for a family forced to relocate because of Climate Change. Learn more about how you can be an official House Raiser at the Sun Come Up website and email Stephanie Bleyer at bleyer [at] to sign up.

5. Keep the party going! Host a screening of Gasland in March and Sun Come Up in April so your family and friends can see the full versions of the films. To learn more about hosting screenings sign up for the Reel Power email list.

March’s Reel Power Film: GASLAND

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

“One of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years.” – Variety
“On the want-to-see- scale, GASLAND tops the list” – Washington Post
“Riveting” – LA Weekly
GASLAND just might be the best film of the year.” – The Huffington Post

The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. The Reel Power film for March, Gasland, asks the important question- Is fracking safe?

Gasland started as a personal journey when filmmaker Josh Fox was asked to lease his family land in Pennsylvania for drilling. Determined to find the truth, Josh embarked on a cross-country odyssey with a camera and his trusty banjo, uncovering a trail of secrets and contamination. It was an odyssey that would change his life and culminated in a critically acclaimed and now Oscar-nominated documentary. Since it’s premier on HBO, Fox has been tireless in his campaign to raise awareness about the dangers posed by the natural gas industry. Recently he and Oscar-nominated actor and Gasland fan Mark Ruffallo held a press conference in Washington D.C. and spoke with members of Congress about the need for a National Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing to protect our nation’s drinking water.

Get Involved!:
1) Tune In to the Academy Awards on February 27th on ABC at 8p.m. EST to cheer Gasland on and Take Action during the broadcast with your friends by writing President Obama a letter asking for his support of the FRAC Act and for a National Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing.

2) Spread the word by Hosting a House Party of Oscar-nominated Gasland in March. A house party is a great way to engage your community with the issue of hydraulic fracturing while providing important information about the recent boom in gas drilling across the nation. Use the home screening toolkit to help plan your party.

3) Stay Connected to the Reel Power Film series and plan ahead. Our April featured film will be Sun Come Up.

And the Oscar goes to….
The Gasland team has put together a great how-to guide to help you plan and execute a stellar Oscar party that will lead to meaningful actions by your friends and community:


February’s Reel Power Film: Dirty Business

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

February’s Reel Power featured film, Dirty Business: “Clean Coal” and the Battle for Our Energy Future, is an in-depth look at the coal industry, ‘clean coal’ technologies and the future of renewable technology. Produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting, and narrated by Rolling Stones reporter Jeff Goodell, the film takes audiences on a journey from MTR sites in Appalachia to the coal explosion in China. Dirty Business explores the true cost of our dependence on coal for electricity in the age of climate change.

Politicians and corporate interests have mounted a formidable public relations campaign promoting “clean coal” as a solution to our energy/climate problem. Despite major concerns on the part of scientists and environmental groups, there has been little public education about this issue, which is a central element of President Obama’s energy policy. Dirty Business is the first major public media project to explain and demystify “clean coal” and to explore the extent to which increased energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar thermal power might make “clean coal” unnecessary and uneconomical.

Take action with Reel Power and Dirty Business to educate your community about the truth behind “clean coal.”

Here’s how:

1) Host a Community Screening or House Party of Dirty Business during the month of February.  Use our screening guide and other resources to help make your event a success.
2)  Join the conversation on Facebook to let your voice be heard on energy issues.
3)  Plan ahead for March and get ready to host a screening of the Oscar-nominated Gasland.

For a solid piece of investigative, in-depth reporting on the full costs of coal, it really doesn’t get much better than Dirty Business. Interest in the film is truly amazing, as is the feedback that we have been getting from people who have shown the film. Here is a recent quote from the Northeast:

“Our Coal Night with Wellesley College was a great success in large part because of the screening of Dirty Business. The 45 students in attendance all enjoyed the film and asked incredible questions of our panel after. I have a few other campuses interested in screening the film, and I am excited to share it with them. Thank you for this opportunity!”
– Drew Grande, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer

People all over the country are screening Dirty Business to help educate their communities and to inspire audiences into action! In Kansas, community organizers hosted screenings to help build local awareness of the dangers of coal pollution in opposition to the construction of another coal plant in their area. In Iowa, students at Iowa State screened Dirty Business to inspire more students and administrators to get their campus off coal. In Georgia, Dirty Business was shown at the EcoFocus Film Festival.

Reel Power Films Take Center Stage

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

During last night’s State of the Union, President Obama called for a clean energy future, but then rattled off a list of our dirty energy past with clean coal and natural gas leading the pack. The films involved with Reel Power: Films Fueling the Energy Revolution uncover the truth behind these so-called “clean” technologies, showing the damaging effects of climate change on populations across the globe, and offering real energy solutions.

And for their efforts and artistry the films are being recognized in big ways!

It was announced on Tuesday that Gasland and Sun Come Up have both been nominated for Oscars. Gasland, about natural gas drilling and the threat it poses to the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States, is nominated for Best Feature Documentary. Sun Come Up, a story that follows the relocation of some of the world’s first environmental refugees, is nominated for Best Short Subject Documentary. Congratulations to directors Josh Fox, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger!

Another Reel Power film receiving a distinguished honor this month is Deep Down: A story from the heart of coal country, which premiered on the Emmy-award winning PBS series Independent Lens in November. The filmmakers of Deep Down have received a major honor from the U.S. State Department in being selected for the American Documentary Showcase. The film’s participation in this prestigious cultural diplomacy program will draw international attention to the subject of mountaintop removal coal mining and community organizing in Appalachia.

These films are extending their reach and receiving critical acclaim, exemplifying the important role documentary films play in social justice movements. Join us and help educate your community by signing up to screen a Reel Power film today. Our film for February is Dirty Business, an exploration into the science and politics behind “clean coal.”