Robert West at Reel Economy

Fireworks on Independence Day start the month of July out with a bang, but for Working Films the real excitement came at the end of the month. That’s because we had the pleasure of hosting our Reel Economy residency and convening July 23-26.

Supported by and presented in collaboration with Chicken and Egg Pictures and The Fledgling Fund, Reel Economy brought together six documentary projects that tell personal stories of the most pressing economic issues with a group of nonprofit organizations, foundations and other allies that are working for economic justice. The featured films in Reel Economy were American Winter, Citizen Corp, Escape Fire, Solarize This, We’re Not Broke, and Xmas Without China.

We're Not Broke Roundtable at Reel Economy

After the residency, the filmmakers and economic justice organizations met for a day of networking and strategizing about how these films can fit into the ongoing work of these allies. The diverse groups of participants included Green For All, Jobs With Justice, National Physicians Alliance, Institute for America’s Future, Moms Rising, and many others.

Leading up to the final convening day of Reel Economy we spent three days in Arlington, VA with just the filmmakers, where we enjoyed this awesome view of the Potomac:

Aside from enjoying a change of scenery from the Wilmington office, we helped the participating film teams plan the nuts and bolts of their audience engagement strategies.

While at the Reel Economy residency, filmmakers got practical advice about engagement campaigns. For example, they heard from Barbara Abrash, a Working Films board member and longtime expert in the field, about evaluation strategies.  They also had the chance to explore the new Sparkwise platform for sharing a film’s impact and heard from Kickstarter’s director of film projects, Elisabeth Holm, about best practices for crowd sourcing. Much of the residency included opportunities for filmmakers to think strategically about how they want to engage organizations as long-term partners with their campaigns. All this work led to the final convening day of Reel Economy when they presented their projects to key organizations.

We had a great guest instructor that joined us for the week. Steve Schnapp of United for a Fair Economy was our expert in residence and helped to ground our strategy in the needs of organizations that are at work on these critical economic and social justice issues.

Steve Schnapp at Reel Economy

Most importantly, the filmmakers were also able to learn from one another. Some films in the group, such as We’re Not Broke and Escape Fire, have been out since early 2012 and have partnerships that others could build upon. The flip side is that some of the films are still in production, but with the residency have already begun the process of engaging with partners and planning for audience engagement. That’s the beauty of these thematic residencies; it’s truly a space for folks to collaborate rather than compete, and we find that the filmmakers gain critical lessons from one another’s experiences.

American Winter Roundtable at Reel Economy

Between their support for each other, Steve’s preparation from the organizing perspective, and Working Films’, the Fledgling Fund’s, and Chicken & Egg Pictures constant message to the filmmakers of viewing their film as a gift and resource for the folks working on these issues, all of our work paid off on the final convening day. After hearing pitches from the filmmakers, the participating organizations suggested concrete ways they might use these films. From screenings of American Winter at gatherings of the National Association of Social Workers to creative uses of Solarize This in the upcoming campaigns of Green For All, the organizations discussed specific ways that these films could be used to advance their work.

We are looking forward to launching a collaborative effort that over the next few months will feature these multiple films that will build a stronger movement for economic justice and support the work of these individual organizations.

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