Donate to the Robert West Reel Engagement Fund
In fall 2012, Working Films’ Co-founder and Executive Director Robert West was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), an aggressive and terminal brain cancer. This news has come as a shock to our board, staff, and the entire Working Films community. Robert has embraced it with immense courage, grace, and honesty. He remains passionate about Working Films but, in order to focus on his health and well-being, he has decided to step down from his role as Executive Director.
In honor of his visionary work, we have created the Robert West Reel Engagement Fund. The funds raised will be used to support and advance Reel Engagement, the flagship initiative Working Films developed and evolved under Robert's leadership. The motto: it takes more than one good film to move the dial for social change. Reel Engagement embeds collections of powerful story-driven media (and all the distribution opportunities that come with them) into strategic grassroots organizing campaigns to achieve progress on the issues of our times.
We are encouraging donations to the fund now, so Robert can witness the wide community of support that surrounds him and the organization he has built.
All contributions are 100% tax deductible.
Or you can mail a check directly to:
602 South Fifth Avenue
More on Reel Engagement
The charge that inspired Robert West and Judith Helfand to found Working Films in 1999 can best be summed up in nine words: “What will you do when the lights come up?”
Fourteen years later, Working Films continues to run with this challenge. Film by film, we have forged best practices for linking great nonfiction storytelling to stellar grassroots organizing and movement building – what the field has come to call “audience and community engagement.” Our operating motto is “Story leads to action.”
Under Robert’s leadership, Working Films has developed and implemented comprehensive social-issue documentary engagement campaigns, curated and facilitated strategy meetings for filmmakers with leading organizations and advocates, and developed trainings for filmmakers and activists through intensive workshops and residencies that focus on the nuts, bolts and philosophy of audience engagement. These methodologies are now part of the parlance of making, using, funding and distributing films, nationally and increasingly internationally.
Over the years, we’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as a cinematic silver bullet. Be it public education or global warming, it takes more than one good story-driven film in the hands of boots-on-the-ground organizers to catalyze long-term systemic change.
Since 2009, Working Films has been bringing together multiple filmmakers addressing the same theme or issue from different points of view. Imagine eight, very specific, very local, personal yet universal stories that explore an issue from 360 degrees. Imagine these stories being screened in diverse venues, online and off, and used in targeted campaigns individually and collectively over several years. Imagine the potential for impact. We have, and we call it Reel Engagement.
Reel Engagement Developed And Evolved Under The Leadership Of Robert West
We know that nonprofits and activists need dynamic stories to animate their work and motivate target audiences to take action at local, state and national levels – the Reel Engagement initiative was developed to meet this need.
Whether it’s Reel Power in Texas advancing climate justice initiatives in drought-stricken areas, or Reel Education in North Carolina where films are being used to bring together community stakeholders to improve education for all students, Reel Engagement uses collections of award-winning media to address critical issues of our time, such as climate change (Reel Power), education (Reel Education), the economy (Reel Economy), and a growing aging population (Reel Aging).
A Dynamic Fund Dedicated to Innovation
This fund is not a fixed academic “chair”, nor an endowed scholarship or an annual award…At least not yet. This fund is dedicated to innovation, strategy and on-the-ground implementation. Just like Robert West, we want it to be nimble, creative and responsive to the core elements necessary for social change.
This past November 2012, we all witnessed how state-level campaigns can have national implications. From wins for marriage equality and the DREAM Act, to rejections of the Affordable Care Act, keeping the death penalty and rejecting affirmative action, to the most intense battles over reproductive health and justice -- all of these major societal shifts occurred in the states. We have come to see the states as laboratories – and our work as a catalyst -- for transformation.
We believe that Reel Engagement can play a decisive role in changing hearts, minds and attitudes, which is key to the development of innovative new policies.
We think there is strategic value in working at the state level and we have plans to do so in 2013. We are particularly eager to road-test Reel Engagement in the South, where we are based.
Where Your Funds Will Go
Funds raised for the Robert West Reel Engagement Fund will be used to support this next critical phase of campaign development across our current Reel Engagement film collections (Reel Power, Reel Education, Reel Aging and Reel Economy), including:
• Strategy convenings where filmmakers are brought together with issue-based coalitions focused on developing state-wide campaigns, with a particular focus in the South;
• An online hub for Reel Engagement media screenings and activism at ScreeningHQ.org; and
• Screening/licensing fees to ensure that all grassroots groups and organizations have access to the award-winning films and that the filmmakers are fairly compensated.
We are encouraging donations to the Fund now, so Robert can witness the wide community of support that surrounds him and Working Films. We are deeply inspired by the tremendous care, concern and support expressed by so many during the past several months. We look forward to continuing our efforts, strengthening Working Films, ensuring that story does indeed lead to action and honoring the work, vision and legacy of Robert West.