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Across the US we are seeing stronger and more frequent climate-fueled disasters, exposure to environmental racism, and threats to our democracy – all compounded by the breakdown of civil discourse and community relationships – face to face dialogue, whether in-person or virtual, is critical for civic engagement. We also know that changemakers in rural areas and small towns are consistently under-resourced and must exercise everything in their toolbox, and film screenings are a powerful tool for organizers to gather their community and move them to action. Hosting these events is a unique way for organizers to share stories on screen that mirror the environmental problems they’re facing, as well as showcase successful organizing tactics that could be replicated locally. With all of this in mind, we’re 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 US in using film screenings as a resource in their work for environmental justice and protection. In 2023, we will be selecting 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 more sustainable approaches. 

The program will support participants in holding a live community film series that engages their communities and advance their environmental justice goals over the course of one year. These events will create spaces for residents to come together (in-person and/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 trainings, technical assistance, film screening equipment, a mobile solar battery to run the equipment, a $2,500 honorarium, and additional monetary support to hold film screenings in their community to support their goals throughout 2023.

Five community organizations will be selected through an application process. Applications are due on Tuesday January 31st. The following are key elements of the program, which will begin in March 2023.

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Virtual Training Institute

We will provide four, two-hour virtual training sessions for selected applicants focused on best practices for using documentary film as an organizing, educational, civic engagement, and advocacy tool. These trainings will provide space for two representatives from each selected community to come together to learn how to utilize film screenings to move their community to action and ultimately advance their advocacy goals. This training will lay the groundwork for extensive ongoing support for each group’s film series. A few examples of training topics include: how to plan a community film series centered around key goals, audiences, and community actions, how to use the film screening equipment, how to work with drive-ins/how to create your own, & how to host in-person events and virtual events. 

Ongoing Support & Training

We will provide ongoing, individualized training and consultation (in the form of regular check-ins) with participating community leaders as they incorporate film screenings into their work over the course of the year-long program. Working Films staff will work with each leader to identify specific goals, select films, and plan its strategic use in multiple public events (in-person or virtual) in their community over the course of 2023. Working Films will provide monetary support for community leaders to use for hard costs like venues, refreshments, screening rights fees, virtual tech support fees, speaking honorariums for filmmakers and other panelists, advertisements, etc.

Film Screening Equipment & Solar Equipment

We will provide each selected community with a full package of screening equipment that can be used for outdoor or indoor in-person events. This includes an inflatable screen, projector, sound system, and control console provided by Epic Outdoor Cinema. Also, since the goal of these screenings is to take action toward environmental justice solutions, each organization or individual will also receive a solar battery that will help power the film screening equipment. This equipment will permanently stay in each community. Recipients will be able to keep all of this equipment after the Rural Cinema program has ended for further use long into the future.


Organizations working in a rural area or small town that can be described in at least one of the ways below, are eligible to apply:
–  an area directly affected by polluting industries or climate disasters
– an area abandoned by extractive energy industries
– An area transitioning from, or trying to transition from, extractive energy industries to more sustainable approaches.


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 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 and organizing leaders and selections will be made based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment of an organization’s mission with the stated focus area of addressing environmental issues in their community.
  • An 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 organization has been able to come up with a vision and clear goals for their series, even if it is just a first draft. We know that sometimes overall vision and goals change throughout the course of the trainings.
  • Capacity to attend the trainings and devote time to organizing a series in their community.
  • The extent to which an 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 February For a full timeline of the trainings and program see the FAQ


To apply, we strongly suggest you first check out this document of frequently asked questions, and then 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 here. If you have any additional questions in the meantime, please email


We held a webinar Q&A on December 15th, check it out below!