What will you do when the lights come up? One of our earliest taglines and our charge from day one is now ubiquitous in the field of documentary for change. And over the last eighteen years, we’ve remained committed to answering this question in ways that are meaningful for documentary film audiences and that serve the broader movements for social and environmental justice.

We’ve changed a lot over the years. We’ve taken big risks, we’ve failed forward, and we’ve followed our hearts.

We have been privileged to work with many of the most renowned and talented documentary filmmakers and social change makers of our time. And we’ve evolved nuts and bolts methodologies to hold the two together and help them reach beyond the choir in the places that matter most. In the last 5 years, we have worked to strategically flipside our approach, with a focus on serving movements. We have partnered with hundreds of organizations across 18 states to distribute compilations of short films that support issue education, organizing, and advocacy.

Today we are thrilled to announce Docs in Action, the next evolution of our work made possible by generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, whose grant will allow us to:

Move beyond curation to creation

We are launching a new fund to support short documentaries that address critical issues of social and environmental justice in states across the nation. We will be a new source of finishing funds for the makers of shorts that are responsive and accountable to the needs of changemakers, while maintaining the highest caliber of cinematic quality and journalistic integrity.

Scale up our thematic issue campaigns and increase the benefits to participating filmmakers

Working Films compiles short films on a single issue and deploys them across states to inform and involve the public at critical policy and regulatory moments. We are now going to work in more states and diversify the issues our campaigns address. We are also increasing the consultation with and compensation to filmmakers whose projects are featured in our campaigns.

Offer free impact campaign development to under-resourced and underrepresented filmmakers

We are offering impact campaign strategy free of charge to four films annually that hold great promise to serve as tools for civic engagement. We’re prioritizing underrepresented creators, including filmmakers of color, women, non gender conforming artists and emerging creators.

Field Building

We will share our best practices with the field, providing trainings and workshops at documentary convenings and gatherings of advocates who can and apply our methodology and lessons learned to their work.

Working Films is deeply grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for providing this support, and to our allies in communities across the nation with whom we partner. We are proud to be among a stellar cohort of fellow grantees whose work is supporting professional nonfiction media makers from diverse backgrounds.

Read Working Films’ official press release here.

Read the MacArthur Foundation’s announcement here.

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