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As the southern and eastern U.S. reels from a record breaking hurricane season and rural communities across the West have been devastated by wildfires – it’s clear, the impacts of climate change are not some distant possibility. It is unfolding before us now. The coming year will be a time when organizers, particularly those in rural areas and small towns with fewer resources, will need to exercise everything in their toolbox to move people to action. With this in mind, we are excited to announce the next round of Rural Cinema.

Rural Cinema is a training institute and community engagement program aimed at supporting leaders from rural areas and small towns across the United States in using films as a resource in their work for environmental justice and protection. In 2021, we will be selecting individuals and organizations in five locations that are directly affected by polluting industries or climate disasters, as well as areas transitioning from being economically fueled by extractive energy industries to adopting other more sustainable approaches.

The program will support participants in holding live community film events that engage their communities and advance their goals over the course of one year. These events will create spaces for residents to come together (in-person or virtually), discuss issues affecting their communities, learn and be inspired by the visual content and one another’s experiences, and generate solutions that address their needs and priorities. Each individual or organization selected to participate will receive virtual training, technical assistance, a $2,500 honorarium, and additional monetary support ($4,000-$5,000) to hold film screenings in their community to support their goals throughout 2021.

Five community leaders and/or organizations will be selected through a competitive application process. The following are key elements of the program, which will begin in April 2021.

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Virtual Training Institute

Working Films will design and provide four virtual training sessions for selected applicants focused on best practices for using documentary film as an organizing, educational, civic engagement, and advocacy resource. Featuring Working Films’ staff, these trainings will provide space for two representatives from each selected community to come together to learn how to utilize film (including how to use screening equipment, how to work with drive-ins, how to host film screenings virtually, etc) to advance their work. This training will lay the groundwork for extensive ongoing support for individual organizations.

Ongoing Support & Training

Working Films will provide ongoing, individualized training and consultation with participating community leaders as they incorporate film into their work over the course of the year-long program. Working Films staff will work with each leader to identify specific goals, select media, and plan its strategic use in multiple public events (in-person or virtual) in their community over the course of 2021. Working Films will provide monetary support for community leaders to use for hard costs like screening equipment for in-person events (if appropriate), screening rights, virtual tech support fees, honorariums for filmmakers and other panelists, advertisements, etc.


Individuals and organizations working in a rural area or small town that can be described in at least one if the ways below, are eligible to apply:
–  an area directly affected by polluting industries or climate disasters
– an area transitioning from being economically fueled by extractive energy industries to adopting other more sustainable approaches

The deadline for applications has been extended to Monday, March 1, 2021 at 11:59pm ET.

Applicants must commit to assigning two individuals to lead their participation in Rural Cinema. These two individuals must attend each of the four, two hour virtual training sessions to be held throughout the spring. The individuals will also be the primary liaison with Working Films’ staff as we support the community leader/organization in planning and implementing screening events over the course of the year. This does not preclude participation by other individuals/staff members.

Applications will be reviewed by a team of nonprofit, film, and organizing leaders and selections will be made based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment of an individual’s/organization’s mission with the stated focus area of addressing environmental issues in their community.
  • An individual’s/organization’s demonstrated enthusiasm and interest in using film in their work (Previous use of film is not a requirement).
  • The extent to which an individual/organization has been able to come up with a vision and clear goals for their series.
  • Capacity to attend the training and devote time to organizing a series in their community.
  • The extent to which an individual/organization reflects and/or shows accountability to the communities they organize and work with. 

Applicants will be notified as to the outcome of the selection process in mid-March 2021. For a full timeline of the trainings and program see the FAQ.

To apply, complete our online application using submittable.  You’ll create a quick login so that you can work on your application and have your information saved. Before you get started you can find a preview of the application questions in this PDF. Please also check out this document of frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, check out the webinar below and/or please email

Otherwise, click APPLY NOW below to apply!

Rural Cinema Application Webinar 2021 from Working Films on Vimeo.