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September 2013

Greetings from the Arts & Democracy Project!


On July 22 the Arts & Democracy Project hosted From Media to Action: Creative Engagement and Organizing Strategies, a national conference call organized in collaboration with the

National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC). 

Presenters included: Darcy Heusel (Fruitvale Station); Allie Hoffman (Herman's House); Luisa Dantas (Land of Opportunity); and Rhonda Anderson, Angie Allen, and Conja Wright (13 in the Hole). Sahar Driver of Active Voice and Molly Murphy of Working Films were respondents.


We chose these examples to represent a range of geography and approaches - narrative, documentary, and transmedia. We included people who had reached out to us at a time when a conversation would be useful for their work. Our intention for the call, and this e-newsletter as well, is to open a conversation about creative community engagement and organizing strategies where media can be an integral part of coordinated campaigns and movement building.


You will find here the call recording and descriptions of projects and resources. This listing is not comprehensive, but we hope that it is catalytic, advancing ideas on how media can help us act together for a more just society.


Herman's House

Herman's House is a documentary film that follows the unlikely friendship between New York artist Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace as they attempt to manifest Herman's dream house. Wallace has been incarcerated for over 40 years, the vast majority of that time in solitary confinement. The filmmakers have partnered with national and grassroots groups to raise awareness about Wallace's case, shine a light on solitary confinement, engage new advocates, and ultimately reduce the number of people in solitary. Click here to get involved.


Fruitvale Station is a narrative film about Oscar Grant, the 22 


year-old Bay Area resident who was shot and killed by police at the Fruitvale BART station on December 31, 2008. Director Ryan Coogler, a first time African-American filmmaker, was devastated by this incident and decided to make a film about it, in part, because "Oscar Grant could have been me." The film, and its awareness building campaign, seek to create a human story, changing peoples' minds about how they perceive African-American men and highlighting our collective humanity.


Land of Opportunity (LOO) is a transmedia documentary project that captures the struggle to rebuild New Orleans post-Katrina and stimulate a broader conversation about urban equity issues in the U.S. LOO is partnering with educators, media makers, and advocates in sister cities to tell stories reflecting a wide range of perspectives and experiences that address the fundamental question: what do we want our cities to look like in the face of crisis? The New Orleans Coalition on Open Governments is among LOO's partners; they are working to introduce media into the campaign to bring participatory budgeting to New Orleans.


13 in the Hole tells the true story of 13 Southwest Detroit 13 in the Hole residents dealing with the health impacts of living within a two block radius of the Marathon Oil Refinery and their fight for environmental justice. The documentary draws connections between this struggle and the development of the Keystone pipeline and other struggles for environmental justice. Rooted in grassroots organizing efforts, community screenings of this film impacted local policy decisions on zoning in the neighborhood. 


Shellshocked is a documentary centered on youth and gun violence. The filmmakers selected five New Orleans teenagers to take part in a documentary class. Each youth spent 15 months creating a short documentary about their life and also gave poignant interviews to the filmmakers, offering a candid look into their life and environment. It is now available online.


Hollow is an interactive documentary and community participation project that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of 30 individuals in McDowell County, West  Virginia. It provides a "lean forward" and "lean back" experience, encouraging each user to not only consume media but also to be an active participant and contributor to the narrative.


Cooked is a documentary film and engagement campaign that asks questions about the politics of disaster, starting with one of the deadliest heat waves in U.S. history. Their handheld mobile app, DECLARE HOME, designed with organizers for organizers, reflects a shared vision for restoring resilience, power, and health to their communities, block-by-block. Critical to this platform will be a set of built-in evaluation and collaboration tracking tools that can measure the value and effectiveness of the work and visualize resilience over time.


Middle of Nowhere is a film chronicling a woman's separation from her incarcerated husband and her journey to maintain her 

marriage and identity. The filmmaker partnered with Participant Media to develop a social action campaign in support of the Campaign for Phone Justice's effort to end predatory prison phone rates. On August 9, 2013, the Federal Communication Commission voted 2-1 to reform the prison phone industry.


Working Films brings persuasive and provocative documentary films to long-term community organizing and activism. Their 

recently launched IMPACT series focuses on film campaigns that go beyond raising awareness to ignite social change. Their Audience Engagement Planning Guide offers an overview of their methodology and process for developing community engagement campaigns with nonfiction films.


Active Voice tackles social issues through the creative use of films. Through the Active Voice Lab (AVLab), they design and road-test innovative new models for using story to advance social change movement building. With input from expert advisors, they create resources that transform concerned citizens into active citizens.


Participant Media creates social action campaigns for feature films and documentaries designed to give voice to the social issues that resonate in the films. They partner with social sector organizations and nonprofits to create specific ways audiences can get involved in creating change.


Borderline Media is a multi-platform communications and engagement consulting firm that helps producers maximize their media to inspire civic participation, social action and impact. #Impact Socials, a partnership of Borderline Media and Civic Bakery, are held on the first Thursday of every month to help creative change-makers develop connections, spark collaborations, and inspire creativity. 

technical assistance including digital storytelling workshops. They work with grassroots groups and public interest advocates to develop and implement communication strategies in support of civic discourse, local problem solving, and social and economic justice organizing

Global Action Project (G.A.P) works with young people most affected by injustice to build the knowledge, tools, and relationships needed to create media for community power, cultural expression, and political change. Through Media in Action, G.A.P. trains youth organizers to incorporate media into their campaign work.


Educational Media Center's Community Engagement programs promote dialogue and social change through the screening of EMC's youth-produced documentaries in collaboration with strategic partners. Their Take Action campaigns provide opportunities for viewers to engage in organizing efforts.


Working Narratives works with social movements  to tell great stories that inspire, activate and  enliven democracy. Their recently published Storytelling and Social Change, based on over 75 interviews with grantmakers, communications experts and storytellers of all sorts, serves grantmakers interested in "narrative strategies." 

As always, we're proud to highlight the great work in this field to support and cross-pollinate an extraordinary network of artists, cultural workers, policymakers, educators, and activists. Please be in touch, and let us know what you think!
All our best,

Amalia, Caron, Kathie, Javiera, and Michelle
Arts & Democracy Project 
In This Newsletter
Film & Media Projects
Engagement & Social Action Organizations
In Memory
Upcoming Events
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Listen to our latest conference call recording!


                      Photo: Robert West
This newsletter is in memory of Robert West, Co-founder and Executive Director of Working Films, and Saul Landau, filmmaker and activist. They inspire us with their powerful commitments to using media to advance social justice and human rights. 



Good Pitch 2013


Good Pitch Chicago 2013

October 22, 2013 

Chicago Cultural Center

Good Pitch connects the world's best social justice films with new allies and partners.


Fledgling Fund supports documentary  films that engage communities on timely issues. 

Letter of Inquiry Deadline

September 17, 2013


A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art 

Letter of Intent Deadline 

December 2, 2013


Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country. 
Upcoming Grant Round: Film/Video and Visual Arts Applications open on
February 3, 2014



Impact Playbook: Best Practices for Understanding the Impact of Media is a practical guide created specifically for use by social issue media makers produced by the Bay Area Video Coalition

Assessing Creative Media's Social Impact and   

From Distribution to Audience Engagement 

are both produced by The Fledgling Fund   


Sundance Institute's Audience Engagement Grant supports creative 

engagement campaigns that go beyond marketing and distribution.  


Chicken & Egg Pictures  supports women nonfiction filmmakers whose diverse voices and dynamic story- telling have the power to catalyze change.


Media Impact Funders is a network of funders working broadly on media and technology issues in order to create social change.

Just Films is a new initiative of the Ford Foundation that seeks to advance social justice worldwide through the talents of emerging and established filmmakers.

Cinereach supports fiction and nonfiction films at the intersection of engaging storytelling, visual  artistry, and vital subject matter.


Impact Partners is committed to financing independent cinema that addresses pressing social issues.


Creative Capital's Real Community Engagement workshop focuses on building sustainable relationships to organize, finance and execute community-engaged art projects.

NAMAC's Interaction with
Transmedia brought together leading figures in filmmaking, games research, journalism, and online culture. The conversation continues
artsENGAGE Blog Salon and artsENGAGE Tumblr

POV showcases documentary films with a point of view. They offer free resources for educators, and have a list of engagement specialists available to support film campaigns.

California Newsreel  produces and distributes cutting edge, social justice films that inspire, educate, and engage audiences. 




The Arts & Democracy Project builds the momentum of a cultural movement that draws on a rich history of arts activism, social justice organizing, and grassroots engagement. Arts & Democracy Project is a sponsored project of State Voices. Thank you to the Nathan Cummings Foundation.