Impact campaign support for underrepresented documentary filmmakers
For a documentary film to make a difference, a solid strategy for audience engagement and strong partnerships are key. Filmmakers often lack time to do this work themselves or the expertise and the funds to pay for it. Emerging filmmakers, creators of color, and underrepresented artists can face the biggest hurdles, despite the potential of their projects. Working Films’ response to this challenge is the Impact Kickstart, a program offering in-kind partnership and strategy development to underrepresented documentary directors with feature films in progress that hold great promise to catalyze action to address important and current social issues.
Now in its sixth year, the Impact Kickstart program has helped underrepresented filmmakers create strategic goals for impact and specific plans to engage future partners, funders, and audiences in meaningful ways. Impact Kickstart was created to fill a gap in support for the impact campaigns of underrepresented filmmakers, including directors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), undocumented, LGBTQ+, nonbinary, transgender, disabled, and female directors with a majority female and/or underrepresented film team.
Two films will be selected for Impact Kickstart in 2023. Each selected filmmaker will receive an Impact Kickstart from Working Films that includes the planning, facilitation, and reporting of a day-long strategy summit with potential partners and key collaborators. This summit will leave filmmakers well-positioned to carry out an impact campaign with a clear strategy, goals, partners, and a report that can be used for engaging supporters. Impact Kickstart recipients will also receive impact campaign funding of $60,000
To read highlights of our work with past Impact Kickstart recipients, scroll below.
2019 Impact Kickstart Films
EATING UP EASTER Directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu
The iconic statues and sensationalized “mysteries” of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) have drawn the interest of the world for centuries, attracting curious visitors to its shores. Today, this tiny, barren island is experiencing an economic boon as tourism skyrockets. Yet the indigenous culture and the island’s fragile environment are suffering.
Eating Up Easter, directed by native Rapanui filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu, explores the dilemma his people are facing. Crafted as a story passed down to his newborn son, Sergio intertwines the authentic history of the island with the stories of four islanders. In their own voices, these Rapanui reveal the reality of modern life and the actions they are taking to preserve their culture and environment amidst rapid development.
GOING TO MARS: THE NIKKI GIOVANNI PROJECT Directed by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster
Going to Mars is a feature length documentary film in which Nikki Giovanni, one of America’s greatest living poets, orators and social commentators, will compel audiences to laugh and cry using her poetry and biting social commentary. As a social commentator Nikki Giovanni stands toe-to-toe with the best. She has the satirical wit of a Will Rogers and the comedic timing of David Letterman. She has influenced both her contemporaries, from Muhammad Ali to Maya Angelou, as well as today’s hip-hop artists such as Kanye West. She in turn demands, using a contrarian point of view, that we question our assumptions about race, gender, equity and privilege and challenges us to hope and dream for a better tomorrow.
THE FIRST RAINBOW COALITION Directed by Ray Santisteban
In 1969, the Chicago Black Panther Party began to form alliances across lines of race and ethnicity with other community-based movements in the city, including the Latino group the Young Lords Organization and the southern whites of the Young Patriots organization. Banding together in one of the most segregated cities in postwar America to collectively confront issues such as police brutality and substandard housing, they called themselves the Rainbow Coalition. By 1973, the coalition had collapsed under the weight of relentless harassment by local and federal law enforcement. Although short-lived, it had an outsize impact: Breaking down barriers between communities, it created a permanent shift in Chicago politics and an organizing model for future activists and politicians across the nation. The First Rainbow Coalition tells the movement’s little-known story through rare archival footage and interviews with former coalition members.
WARRIOR WOMEN Directed by Christina King and Elizabeth Castle
In the 1970s, with the swagger of unapologetic Indianness, organizers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) fought for Native liberation and survival as a community of extended families. Warrior Women is the story of Madonna Thunder Hawk, one such AIM leader who shaped a kindred group of activists’ children – including her daughter Marcy – into the “We Will Remember” Survival School as a Native alternative to government-run education. Together, Madonna and Marcy fought for Native rights in an environment that made them more comrades than mother-daughter. Today, with Marcy now a mother herself, both are still at the forefront of Native issues, fighting against the environmental devastation of the Dakota Access Pipeline and for Indigenous cultural values.
2018 Impact Kickstart Films
ALWAYS IN SEASON by Jacqueline Olive
As the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present, Always in Season follows relatives of the perpetrators and victims seeking justice and reconciliation in the midst of racial profiling, police shootings, and heated national debate about the value of black lives.
Down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers. Crip Camp explores summer camp awakenings that would transform lives and shape the disability rights movement, and America, forever. Told from the point of view of former camper Jim LeBrecht, and steeped in the humor and music of the era, the film traces the journeys of campers up to the present day, in this untold story of a powerful journey towards inclusion.
As cities today struggle with gentrification and social inequity, Decade of Fire offers an intimate historic portrait of the burning of the Bronx in the 1970’s, transcending era and geography. Set against irrefutably insurmountable odds, and told from the perspectives of the people who survived it, the film’s heroes demonstrate the lengths to which everyday people will go to save their communities; in this case – defending and rebuilding their neighborhoods with their bare hands.
NAILED IT by Adele Pham
Nailed It chronicles the genesis and 40 year legacy of the Vietnamese nail salon and its influence on an $8 billion-dollar American industry. For mixed-race Vietnamese filmmaker Adele Pham, it’s personal as she confronts her conflicts with the culture and discovers a place within a trade seen by everyone but known to few.
Impact Kickstart is a program of Working Films supported by the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.