By Vincent Stehle, Media Impact Funders
Many funders are coming to appreciate that the decline of daily newspapers has resulted in a critical gap in coverage and have begun to support journalism as a way to insure transparency and accountability of major government and social institutions. And foundations are increasingly interested in public media, social media, and all types of digital media – from digital games in education to targeted health messaging in high-risk communities. As foundations embrace new media opportunities they have remained critically important funders of documentary film.
At the ASF National Conference, participants are invited to explore how two exceptional documentaries and their corresponding outreach and social media campaigns have created huge impact and triggered significant social change. See the full lineup of film events and filmmaker meetings.
Marquee directors Lee Hirsch and Steve James, who have made two of the most influential documentaries in current circulation, will be speaking with ASF conference participants (on Sunday and Monday, respectively) and discussing their philanthropic partnerships and outreach strategies. Their films do more than simply document problems; they are in fact part of the solutions.
Award-winning filmmaker Steve James, who also directed the classic documentary Hoop Dreams, will discuss The Interrupters with outreach expert Sonya Childress, talking about the remarkable impact the film has had, as well as the challenges of delivering this message to the broadest possible audience. The Interrupters is a powerful documentary that chronicles the efforts of violence “interrupters” working the streets of Chicago for an initiative called CeaseFire (now known as CureViolence).
Watch the film in its entirely online on Frontline, and join us on Monday for an evening screening and dessert with the director.
Violence also afflicts our nation’s young people, frequently manifesting itself in cases of bullying. All too often, bullying has been treated as a harmless prank. But increasingly it is being seen for the serious problem that it is, in large part due to the remarkable success of the recent film Bully, which will be discussed with star director Lee Hirsch.
Joining Hirsch will be Jack Weinstein, San Francisco Bay Area Director for Facing History and Ourselves, an educational group that uses media and history to teach tolerance to millions of students around the world. Weinstein and Hirsch will talk about their efforts to encourage students to talk about bullying openly (often for the first time) and take the pledge not to bully their peers.
The film’s critical success and robust outreach campaign, The Bully Project (which aims to get 1 million kids to see the film) is having an impact. For example, San Francisco recently hosted a two-day anti-bullying summit with Mayor Ed Lee and Superintendent of Schools Richard Carranza, complete with a screening of Bully. In addition nearly all of Oakland’s middle and high school students have been taken to see the film, so they can begin the work of ending bullying among students.
As small foundations look for targeted ways to create big social impact, media projects like documentary films offer a tested model of successful collaboration for both production and outreach activities.
I look forward to seeing ASF National Conference attendees in San Francisco and at the various documentary events taking place.
Vincent Stehle is executive director of Media Impact Funders (formerly Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media), a network of funders working broadly on media issues to create social impact.