Based on the coast and mountains of North Carolina, Working Films has a long history of work in the regional South and non-metropolitan areas throughout the country. At a time when the nation faces ongoing threats to public health, the environment, civil rights, and democratic participation – and compounded by the fact that civil discourse is being challenged by divisiveness – in-person assembly in rural communities is critical for civic engagement. With this in mind, we are excited to announce Rural Cinema!

Rural Cinema is a training institute and community engagement program aimed at supporting rural leaders across the United States in using films as a resource in their work for environmental justice and protection. In 2020, we will be selecting individuals and organizations in five locations directly impacted by polluting industries or transitioning from being economically fueled by natural resource extraction to adopting other more sustainable approaches.

The program will support participants in holding live community 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 face-to-face, 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 host selected to participate will receive in person training, technical assistance, and monetary support to hold film screenings in their community to support their goals throughout 2020.

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 2020.


One Day Training Institute

Working Films will design and provide an initial one-day training for selected applicants focused on best practices for using documentary film as an organizing, educational, civic engagement, and advocacy resource.  Held at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky on Saturday April 4th, and featuring Working Films’ senior staff, this training will be a space for two representatives from each selected community to come together in person to learn how to utilize film (including how to use screening equipment: projectors, pop-up screens, etc.) to advance their work. This training will lay the groundwork for extensive ongoing support for individual organizations. Working Films will cover travel and lodging.

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 their community over the course of 2020. Additionally, Working Films will provide monetary support for community leaders to purchase screening equipment (projector, screen, etc.) that they can use during and beyond our work together. Monetary support will also be available for other hard costs like venue fees, screening rights, pizza/food at events, flyers, etc.


Individuals and organizations working in a rural area that is directly affected by polluting industries or that is transitioning from being economically fueled by natural resource extraction to adopting other more sustainable approaches are eligible to apply. 

Applications are due February 19, 2020 —- The deadline has been extended until February 21st!

Applicants must commit to assigning two individuals to lead their participation in Rural Cinema. These two individuals must attend the one day initial training. 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.

Working Films will cover the costs of participation in the training institute and will also support costs for screening events – including venue fees, screening rights, projectors, and other related costs.

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 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 (note that 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.


Applicants will be notified as to the outcome of the selection process in mid-March 2020. Please email if you have any questions.


This project is supported by The Kendeda Fund, The Putnam Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation.