Resources | News Flash



by Maya Lilly

For the seventh year in a row, the Artivist Film Festival will take place in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theatre from Dec. 1st-4th. It will screen 45 narratives, documentaries and shorts from around the globe, while awarding the best films. Peter Fonda will be honored this year for his work as an activist. Films featured include “ReGeneration”, narrated by Ryan Gosling; “Hempsters”, which begins with Woody Harrelson’s arrest for planting hemp seeds; and “Play Again”, a film focuses on the average American child’s connection to playtime, be it video games or nature. The festival describes its mission as strengthening the voice of advocate artists, or “Artivists”, while raising public awareness for global causes.

Artivist has faced criticism in recent years due to their sponsorship by Petrobras, a Brazilian fuel company. Although Artivist emphasizes that Petrobras is one of the largest distributors of Ethanol Fuel, and also the only energy company part of the Global Compact Board of the UN, criticism has occurred because Petrobras is first and foremost an oil company, with 16 refineries and 30,000 kilometers of oil pipelines producing around 14 billion barrels of oil. According to Amazon Watch, Petrobras also has a record of drilling in pristine areas of the Amazon rainforest, including on territories of uncontacted indigenous peoples. This raises the age-old question of changing institutions from within or without: is socially responsible investing possible with industries as destructive as the oil industry? Should Artivist re-examine their sponsorship by Petrobras, or is this exactly the means to encourage the social responsibility of these companies?

Despite this controversy, which has caused the boycott of the festival by celebrities such as Q’Orianka Kilcher (who spoke with me personally about this at the LA Get-Off-Oil Event at City Hall), Artivist Film Festival continues to be a noteworthy activist presence in Hollywood, hosting the premieres of Academy Award winner “Born Into Brothels,” as well as Academy Award nominees “Super-Size Me,” “Zeitgeist,” and “Fast Food Nation.”

Laura Riddlehoover | May 20, 2010

Mainstream media has been teeming with coverage, stories, and updates about the April 20th Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, the real dialogue is happening on social media platforms around the web. Citizens have expressed outrage and concern in their status messages, and have posted countless articles to spread awareness and bolster public sentiment around the issue. Surprisingly, both the government and BP Oil Company have entered the social conversation. “Someone said BP must not be let off the hook” tweeted EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson. The very next day BP tweeted: “Safety is the #1 priority. We’re going to figure out what happened & that is going to help the industry get safer.” (NY Times, May, 3 2010).

In addition to the social media outpouring, wildlife supporters are leveraging the web to raise awareness about the consequences of such a massive oil spill and to fund the clean-up efforts. The National Wildlife Federation has set-up a text donation program on their website, and other sites are reaching out to their readership for crowd sourced solutions for the clean-up.

Crisis like this one are complex, with no easy outcome or solution. However, it is clear that social media – be it Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, etc. – is helping to create a transparent dialogue and foster an environment where creative solutions can surface.

Emily Meyers | May 20, 2010

The Making Your Media Matter folks have it going on. American University’s Center for Social Media really pulled out all the stops to create an amazing line-up for the conference.

The filmmakers of The Reckoning started the day with a keynote that stole everyone’s heart. Then Pat Aufderheide gave an insightful presentation on ethics in doc filmmaking and led an innovative exercise that forced us to think through some tough issues and recognize the need for a set of guidelines for the field. Remember all of Pat’s exceptional work on fair use? Well watch out, there’s more where that came from.

Jessica Clark showed her smarts with a strong presentation on impact measurement tools. What an exciting, important area of research. Keep your eye out for more groundbreaking findings from Jessica. This lady has it going on.

Then yours truly, Emily Meyers, participated in a panel on “fiction for change” with John Schreiber from Participant, Lisa Cortes from Precious, and Claudia Myers from American University.

We explored the immense opportunity to use fiction to make change whether you are working on the web, television, film or a transmedia project. As storytellers, we’re able to tap into fiction’s unique capacity to reflect deep individual and collective hopes, fears, and desires in an intense, immediate way. The limits are really those of your own imagination. How cool is that?

I shared a presentation called Powerful Not Preachy (download slide deck) that gives a sneak peak of some pivotal findings beginning to emerge from quantitative analysis we are conducting on our Meaningful Movies Database. I’ve uncovered some startling performance trends for the genre as a whole and categories of films centered on specific social issue themes. Learning about the dynamics underpinning these trends will help us secure support for our projects, make more informed decisions & measure results. To do this we must develop a more systematic understanding of the interrelationship between variables that contribute to the success and failure of media projects. Sound important? It is, so stay tuned for more.

It’s clear the Making Your Media Matter group has awesome momentum. I hope you hop aboard and join us next year.

Contributed by Emily Meyers, Founder and Executive Director of Meaningful Media and President of Eyes of the World Media Group.

Tara Finglas, Frankie K. Foster and Marisa Murgatroyd | March 12, 2010

The role of film in society is quickly changing from a night at the movies to one in which audiences are educated and encouraged to get involved in social action. Many of this year’s top films confronted issues head on. Best Picture, THE HURT LOCKER is just one of 20 nominated films with a social issue at its core, showing once and for all that it is possible to do good, make money and gain recognition.

Let’s see the core issues each nominee takes on.

Features with a Message

The six domestic and foreign feature films listed below seamlessly weave a central social message through their storylines.

THE HURT LOCKER (Academy Award Winner, Best Picture) follows an army bomb disposal team in Iraq who become addicted to the ’high’ of staring death in the face on a daily basis.
(127 minutes, Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro)

AVATAR takes place on the planet Pandora, where a corporation from Earth attempts to drive the native Na’vi off the land in order to mine the valuable minerals that lay beneath the surface. The company’s plan to send in high-tech avatars (half-human, half-Na’vi creatures) to infiltrate Na’vi society goes awry when Jake Sully finds himself more at home with the Na’vi then in his own culture.
(162 minutes, James Cameron and Jon Landau)

THE BLIND SIDE follows the transformation of a homeless African-American teenager into one of the NFL’s most gifted football players. Based on the real-life story of Michael Oher, who’s life changed after he was adopted by the Tuohy’s, a middle-class suburban family.
(129 minutes, John Lee Hancock, Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson)

DISTRICT 9 chronicles a race of aliens who come to Earth and are forced into Apartheid-style refugee camps. Ghettoized and ostracized from society, they fight back.
(112 minutes, Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham)

PRECIOUS is an overweight teenage girl living in Harlem who is abused by her mother and impregnated by her father. She uses her imagination to distance herself from the dark realities of her life, ultimately breaking free from her family.
(109 minutes, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness)

THE MILK OF SORROW or LA TETA ASUSTADA is a Peruvian film nominated in the Foreign Language category. It reveals the lasting consequences of rape committed by the armed forces during the political violence that rocked Peru in the 80’s.
(95 minutes, Claudia Llosa)

Socially-Relevant Shorts

These hard-hitting live action and animated shorts creatively tackle pressing social issues.

LOGORAMA (Academy Award Winner, Animated Short) follows a crime story through a logo-saturated corporate landscape. Even the characters who populate the film embody brands: AOL Yellow people aimlessly roam the streets and the Pringles guys dual over the affections of an Esso girl.
(16 minutes, Nicolas Schmerkin)

GRANNY O’GRIMMS SLEEPING BEAUTY is a sweet old grandmother’s radical retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.
(5 minutes, Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell)

THE DOOR tracks the emotional and physical aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster decades later.
(17 minutes, Juanita Wilson)

KAVI tells the story of a young Indian boy and his parents who are forced into labor in a brick kiln to pay off a debt.
(19 minutes, Gregg Helvey)

Docs on a Mission

A record 10 of 10 Oscar nominated short and feature documentaries spotlight powerful social themes. Many of these films also have social engagement campaigns that allow you to take action on the films’ issues.

THE COVE (Academy Award Winner, Best Documentary) exposes the shocking story of a secret cove in Taiji, Japan where thousands of dolphins are slaughtered. Since THE COVE was released dolphin meat, which is high in toxins, has been taken off school lunch menus in Taiji.
(92 minutes, Louie Psihoyos & Fisher Stevens)

Participant Media has created a Social Action campaign around the film. Get involved by visiting the site or by texting DOLPHIN TO 44144.

BURMA VJ follows a secret group of Burmese video journalists as they film the 2007 protests in which thousands of Buddhist monks marched against the repressive regime. The footage is smuggled out of the country and broadcast back into Burma and around the world, exposing the secrets of a police state.
(85 minutes, Anders Ostergaard & Lise Lense-Moller)

FOOD, INC. is an expose of America’s corporate controlled food industry that prioritizes profit over consumer health, worker safety, and the environment.
(93 minutes, Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein)

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS the story of one of America’s most famous whistle blowers who courageously risked imprisonment to expose the governmental lies leading up to the Vietnam War.
(92 minutes, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)

WHICH WAY HOME follows unaccompanied child migrants on their dangerous journeys across Mexico in an attempt to reach the United States at all costs.
(82 minutes, Rebecca Cammisa)

MUSIC BY PRUDENCE (Academy Award Winner, Best Documentary Short) tells the inspiring story of a 21-year-old Zimbabwean Singer Songwriter, Prudence Mabhena, who struggles to overcome poverty and the discrimination caused by her disability.
(33 minutes, Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett)

CHINA’S UNNATURAL DISASTER: THE TEARS OF SICHUAN PROVINCE portrays the grief and fight for answers of the thousands of parents who lost their children when poorly-constructed schools collapsed across China during the disaster 2008 earthquake.
(38 minutes, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill)

THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF GOVERNOR BOOTH follows ex-Washington Governor in his campaign to pass a controversial assisted suicide ballot initiative, as his health deteriorates from Parkinson’s Disease.
(38 minutes, Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher)

THE LAST TRUCK: CLOSING OF A GM PLANT is the heartbreaking story of a group of factory workers finishing their last days at a General Motors plant before it shuts down.
(40 minutes, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert)

White House holds Briefing on Arts and Social Change
posted by Sarah Ingersoll | May 13, 2009

The Obama campaign mobilized an unprecedented amount of activity from the creative community. Musicians, actors, comedians, filmmakers, graphic designers, painters, sculptors, and others applied their talents to registering, educating, and engaging voters. Shepard Fairey, the Obama Girl, Oprah, and were critical to branding an unfamiliar candidate and making us feel connected to him.

While there has been a tremendous amount of discussion about the role of technology and new media in winning the election, and its role going forward in the new Administration, there has been little talk about the role of culture. Until now. Yesterday, more than 60 artists and creative organizers engaged in civic participation, community development, education, social justice, activism, and philanthropy came together in the White House for a briefing on arts and social change. This meeting appears to have been setting the stage for the announcement today of Rocco Landesman as the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Instigated in part by Yosi Sergant, the man who promoted Shepard Fairey’s "Hope" poster, the purpose of the briefing was to learn about key Obama Administration initiatives and other action campaigns that might be advanced through the engagement of artists. The goal was to share examples from the field and facilitate the inclusion of dynamic cultural strategies as an integral part of the Administration’s agenda for economic recovery, community renewal, and civic engagement.

White House speakers at the event included Tina Tchen, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement (OPE); Mike Strautmanis, Chief of Staff for OPE; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of OPE; Joseph Reinstein, Deputy Social Secretary for the White House; Rooper Sanders, Assistant Policy Director for Office of the First Lady; and Kareem Dale the point person at OPE who will move the arts and culture agenda for the Obama Administration.

The racially and ethnically diverse participants at the briefing were familiar faces to veterans of both the 2004 and recent presidential campaigns. Ian Inaba, director of the documentary American Black Out and one of the most powerful online videos by a musician (Eminem’s Mosh), was there. Davey D, The League of Young Voters, Air Traffic Control, Voto Latino, SEIU, and the Hip Hop Caucus represented. Some, like State Voices and the Center for Rural Strategies, are organizers. Others, such as Active Voice, Provisions Library, and Youth Speaks are producers, aggregators, or curators of art and media. But all recognize the role of the creative community in making a difference.

As reported by attendees, the meeting was very preliminary, but it is an important first step with far-reaching implications. In convening this discussion, Obama embraces a legacy of Presidential leadership in the cultural space that has:

· Changed policies addressing poverty (Roosevelt’s Farm Security Administration photographs).

· Produced thousands of jobs and initiatives that define our nation’s heritage (Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration which established the Federal Art Project, The Federal Music Project, The Federal Theater Project, The Federal Writers Project and many other New Deal cultural programs).

· Educated and moved millions (President Lyndon Johnson’s National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities which include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, NPR, PBS and the Smithsonian Institution).

These Presidential initiatives supported the uniquely powerful voice the arts have in our culture and made the voice of our democracy louder and clearer.

During the Clinton Administration, we combined culture with nascent technologies to broaden our reach. We produced White House events that were linked nationwide to hundreds of local satellite teleconferences that featured celebrities and artists getting across our message. At the U.S. Department of Justice, we formed an award-winning partnership between the Department and MTV, with an 800 number answered by celebrity Carson Daley and an interactive conflict resolution CD-Rom with music from Lauren Hill, Back Street Boys and others. We created youth-focused web sites and held live chats with artists. The Obama Administration has a tremendous opportunity to take this legacy one step further. The groundswell of creative support coupled successfully with new media technologies could transform public awareness of and citizen engagement in the Administration’s agenda and solve some of our nation’s most pressing issues. To accomplish this, we must:

1) Create a system to organize a vibrant network of creators, advocates, and distributors of socially-relevant art and media.

2) Strategically use technology and new media to connect these creative resources to nonprofit/grassroots communities around key social issues.

3) Highlight exemplary work, where cultural strategies are effective and truly reach into the deepest, most disaffected parts of our country.

How do we direct a vast amount of diverse, creative activity toward effective action? The Obama Administration -- with the help of some smart philanthropists and strategists -- is asking the right questions, and has started a dialogue that could unleash the unparalleled creative power of culture to make a real difference.

Celebrity Ambassadors and UN Creative Community Outreach Initiative
posted by Abigail Nocon | April 22, 2009

Do "celebrity diplomats" have a beneficial impact in addressing global issues? On April 21, Academics and insiders met to discuss this question at a workshop hosted by USC’s Norman Lear Center and Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School of Communication. At the event, Eric Falt, the Director of the Outreach Division announced the UN’s new Creative Community Outreach Initiative (CCOI) which aims to engage the creative community in promoting peace and raising awareness of critical global issues.

Created by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008, the objective of CCOI is to provide film, new media, television and documentary producers worldwide with access to information about the UN’s work, its priority issues and services. The initiative will provide script-related assistance, host seminars and background briefings, organize tours to UN field activities, act as a clearinghouse for brand-related and legal issues, grant access to archival film and photos, offer high-profile screenings, connect creatives to UN system contacts who can provide expertise and logistical support, post a stream of stories on the web, identify opportunities for Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors, and provide outlets for creative’s who would like to support the UN in other ways. z

The day’s events started with a a panel discussion on the effectiveness and value of celebrity diplomacy. The panel discussion featured Andrew Cooper, the Center on Public Diplomacy Fulbright Visiting Research Chair and author of "Celebrity Diplomacy," and Douglas Kellner, the George F. Kneller Philosophy of Education Chair at UCLA and author of "Media Spectacle." The discussion featured an introduction to celebrity diplomacy from moderator and USC Clinical Professor Chris Smith, an introduction to Cooper and Kellner’s books and a question and answer session. Both discussed their positive views on celebrity diplomats and praised celebrities like Bono who have worked hard to make a difference.

The panel was followed by a roundtable focusing on the role of the agents, advisers and administrators who work with and advise celebrities behind the scenes. The members of the roundtable along with Eric Falt were Donna Bojarsky, Director of the Foreign Policy Roundtable; René Jones, Director of the UTA Foundation; and Rob Long, writer, producer and KCRW personality. They addressed the limits and opportunities, as well as the impact on careers and the causes for which celebrities work from an insider’s point of view.

The roundtable focused on what makes a good celebrity advocate or diplomat and whether awareness and momentum for a cause results in advocacy and action. Falt said the UN identifies a good celebrity advocate as someone who, among other qualities:

· Has reputation of integrity and is knowledgeable and articulate regarding UN issues, goals and activities.
· Is recruited at the height of their career, rather than using their association with the UN to boost a flagging career.
· Is truly committed and not exploiting their relationship with the UN to support a personal or political agenda.
· Is relatively low maintenance, as the UN is not in a position to offer the ’perks’ to which most celebrities are accustomed.

Bojarsky, Falt and Jones agreed that awareness and momentum are critical to engaging the public in taking action on global issues. Long, on the other hand, felt that celebrity diplomats are not effective and argued for less media spectacle.

The Candidates on Art
Posted by Marisa Murgatroyd | October 28, 2008

ArtsVote2008 released a summary of the presidential candidates positions on art policy. Their web site includes Senator Barack Obama’s comprehensive arts proposal as well as Senator McCain’s statement on arts education.

Arts Vote 2008 Chart

Celebrity Impact
Posted by Sarah Ingersoll | October 25, 2008

Celebrity endorsements have emerged as an effective political strategy for engaging younger voters and getting them to the polls, according to a newly published study by researchers at Washington State University. The study, published in the most recent issue of the journal, Mass Communications and Society, indicates that celebrity-based GOTV campaigns may produce real benefits to the political process, regardless of celebrities’ grasp of the specific issues at hand.

Lights, Camera, Eco-Action!
Posted by Raffi Sarkissian | July 25, 2008

Tired of summer blockbusters that lack a meaningful message? Well, we’re here to tell you that an increasing amount of high-profile films, including this summer’s "The Happening" and "Wall-E" as well as upcoming remakes of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "The Edge of Darkness" (with Mel Gibson attached to star), carry substantial eco-conscious themes. To find out more about current and upcoming films with a green spin, read the full article at Grist.

Planet Green vs. Sundance Green
Posted by Emily Meyers | July 25, 2008

Discovery Networks launched "eco-lifestyle" channel, Planet Green in June. Line-up features shows like Greenovate (all things eco-renovation) and Wa$ted (more ways to reduce your carbon footprint). Wondering how Planet Green stacks-up to incumbent Sundance Green programming strip? So were we. Check-out the comparison chart below to find-out. Looks like they have some growing to do but could eventually give Sundance a real challenge.

Docs, Get a New Game Plan
Posted by Raffi Sarkissian | July 25, 2008

To our dismay, documentary films have consistently turned in dwindling box office receipts so far this year. From the upbeat "Young@Heart" to the latest from Academy Award winning filmmaker Errol Morris, "Standard Operating Procedure," what was seen as a surge of interest in documentaries only a few years ago with such successes as "March of the Penguins" and "An Inconvenient Truth," now seems to be fading quickly. This recent and insightful Los Angeles Times article, while spotlighting the recent steroid documentary "Bigger, Faster, Stronger," explores some of the reasons for many of today’s failing docs. Are audiences shying away from controversy? Is blockbuster escapism overshadowing the rest of the marketplace? Is the growing gap between the rich and the poor in America influencing the box office? Read more about it here.

A Health Message Listeners Can Relate To
Posted by Lara Sulzman | April 21, 2008

Soap operas can be pretty vapid in the scheme of things. Admittedly, we all love to indulge in hearing who did what with who (in where?!?) but they’re just that, a guilty pleasure. Except this one. This one is just as juicy, just as indulgent, just as delicious, except with half the fat, lowered cholesterol, and reduced diabetes risk! Using the stories of Roz and Vanessa, two women dealing with family, financial, and health issues, the students and faculty at the University of Alabama have created a weekly radio soap opera that gets listeners to take action against their own health problems. Finally, a combination of something that’s good for your body and just plain good. If only ice cream could also tell us to go the gym while we ate it.
Read more about it.

Pangea Day Hosts Extravaganza of Socially Conscious Media
Posted by Lara Sulzman | April 4, 2008

We’re excited to announce that for four hours on May 10, Pangea Day will give the world the opportunity to watch short films, listen to music and speakers, and come together for something really significant. The vast selection of meaningful films is sure to facilitate conversation and communication, putting inspired viewers in touch with active organizations. Choose from 6 locations, 7 languages, and 4 exhibition platforms. Regardless of the choices you make, one should be a no-brainer: choose to take advantage of this valuable resource and let us know what you think. Read more.

Natalie Portman Unites with Participant Productions to Form Socially Conscious Media Production Company
Posted by Lara Sulzman | April 4, 2008

We are happy to announce the partnership between Natalie Portman and Participant Productions, unifying an actress whose work is consistently entertaining, intelligent and inspiring with the producer of such socially relevant films as "Syriana" and "An Inconvenient Truth." The union of Natalie Portman and Participant should be celebrated as the beginning of a new era in Hollywood: one in which stars not only talk about what’s going on in the world, but also use their popularity and influence to do something about it. Read more.

Steven Spielberg Pulls out of Beijing Olypmics in Response to China’s Handling of the Darfur Crisis
Posted by Lara Sulzman | April 4, 2008

We all know Steven Spielberg is a very smart man. Recently, he’s acknowledged that there is a force greater than the UN, greater than NATO, greater than the American government: the force of the masses. By declining to participate in the Beijing Olympics, he is wielding this power wisely. The economic and political dynamics between China and the Sudan are often drowned out by their complexity and, thus, irrelevant to the movie-going public. Yet now, thanks to the integrity of Mr. Spielberg, the crisis in Darfur not only has an advocate, it has an attentive audience. Read more.

The United Nations Creates a $100m Fund to Dispel Negative Stereotypes in Films
Posted by Lara Sulzman | April 4, 2008

Wouldn’t you think it’s unlike the UN to work directly with the movie industry? We would assume It would be challenging for them to be making deals with YouTube while there are borders to be patrolled, children to be fed and negotiations to be held. Well, not anymore. With the support of numerous production companies, popular personalities, and bank accounts, the UN is creating a $100m fund to dispel stereotypes in movies. Recognizing the fact that negative images and labels are seeds of conflict, the UN is fighting injustice and intolerance using preemptive tactics. Such a proactive project is refreshing and inspiring for the organization, which has recently faced criticism for its effectiveness (or, some say, lack thereof). Perhaps the first stereotype that the UN will be dispelling with this project is its own. Read more.

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