2023 Docs in Action Call for Media to Advance Workers' Rights!Working Films and our partners at Amazon Labor Union,NC State AFL-CIO, Starbucks Workers United, Union of Southern Service Workers, and United Farm Workers are looking for short films that will uplift the surge of workers refusing to remain silent and grow the current wave of worker-led organizing. Together, through the Docs in Action program, we will fund and curate films to support these efforts and resource workers who are fed up and ready to take action.

At a moment when workers are being called ‘essential’ but treated as disposable, and wealth inequality and union busting are on the rise—workers are fighting back by reigniting and reimagining union organizing. To meet this moment, there’s a real need to emphasize why unions matter, highlight worker-led success stories, provide how-tos for new organizers, and build recognition of the historic and contemporary importance of organizing in the South.

Unions offer hope to workers in our economy, are a tool to fight white supremacy in the workplace, and are at the intersection of multiple struggles for justice. We need to demonstrate these truths, showcase the collective power of this movement, and prove that the masses will always be stronger than the few people at the top. Beyond just building empathy and understanding, the films we are seeking to support will galvanize workers to organize their own workplaces and take action in solidarity with the labor movement.

The 2023 Docs in Action program has two tracks for filmmakers:

  1. Apply for up to $30,000 in funding for short documentary films. Only works-in-progress, short documentaries are eligible to apply for funding.
  2. Submit your completed documentary or narrative film to be included in a compilation that will be used to support worker organizing in 2024.

More information and directions for how to apply can be found below. If you have a film that can be described in one or more of the following ways, please apply to one or both of these opportunities.

We’re looking for films that:

  • Expand on the definition of what a union is, how a union can simply be workers coming together and making conditions better. We need to show examples of organizing that are outside of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process, and demonstrate that organizing doesn’t always have to be limited to that one box alone. We need to show the alternative paths of organizing.
  • Highlight success stories and show victories of people organizing their workplace, even when the odds are stacked against them. We especially need to see wins outside of traditional union industries.
  • Demonstrate the difference between people working in a union vs. a non-union job, and the importance of unions and how they improve the lives of workers. These stories should go beyond contracts and should show how organizing gives people a sense of dignity, a sense of belonging, a sense of place, as well as camaraderie with their colleagues – not just one worker being pitted against another.
  • Show the day-to-day process of workers organizing their workplaces, especially in the early stages of a specific campaign. These stories should include the good and the bad, and highlight the raw realities of organizing workplaces.
  • Explain what the laws are/what rights exist for workers right now. There is a particular gap in terms of understanding what’s possible in the South.
  • Expand on the idea of what success looks like. We need a broader understanding of what a “win” is. People are organized, not workplaces. If people go on strike and everyone is fired, those workers now being in the fight is a win. Building militancy in the working class, and workers saying they won’t remain silent is a win.
  • Make clear the importance of organizing in the South and how what happens in the South and what employers get away with in the South creates a framework for them to get away with it elsewhere.
  • Show unions reinventing and renewing themselves to meet this moment.
  • Highlight the importance of women, young people, and people of color in this movement.
  • Demonstrate the challenge workers face to organize. From the racist legislation of the 1930s that excluded farm workers from organizing, to the Jim Crow segregationist “right to work” laws, to the NLRB getting in the way of union efforts – workers face massive hurdles to organizing, and they do so at great risk.
  • Highlight how interracial organizing and fighting white supremacy is integral to the labor movement. A vision for labor should include larger issues of the working class including the struggle for racial equality, and alternatives to capitalism.
  • Share an unsugarcoated day in the life of a low wage worker. We need to highlight the struggles workers face, and how it impacts their physical and mental health.
  • Expose the nature of union busting and anti union conduct of employers, as well as corporate posturing and hypocrisy.
  • Showcase the collective power of this movement, and the historic moment we are in.
  • Demonstrate that unions are a vehicle to raise the standard not just for union workers, but for workers in general. When wages and working conditions are improved at larger employers, then there is pressure on other employers to keep pace.
  • Demonstrate that benefits to workers go beyond the workplace, but to the whole community and society as a whole.

Fund for works-in-progress short documentaries:
Filmmakers can apply for up to $30,000 to support completion of short documentary films, under 30 minutes, that have already begun production. Funding for a work-in-progress can only be applied to the cost of completing the project. The submitted budget must reflect the project’s entire cost and the source of all revenue to-date including in-kind support.

For guidelines on eligibility requirements and how to apply click here. A preview of the application can be found here.

Compilation and tour of completed films:
Filmmakers are invited to submit completed short films, or excerpts of feature length films, for inclusion in screening tours held throughout the U.S. in 2023/2024. Screening rights fees will be paid to selected films. We will also provide free impact consultation to selected filmmakers and offer peer-to-peer networking and support opportunities. An emphasis will be placed on films made by people who are directly impacted by the issues at hand. Please do not apply if your film is not available for public use.

For guidelines on eligibility requirements and how to apply click here. A preview of the application can be found here.

Filmmakers may submit applications for both Docs In Action programs. However, only one project can be submitted for funding per applicant and the applicant must be the director or the producer of the film. If selected, all projects must be fully completed no later than May 1st, 2024. This will enable Working Films to begin scheduling screenings in the summer of 2024.

The deadline for both tracks is 11:59 ET on August 13th, 2023. If you have questions, please contact us at amyers@workingfilms.org.

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