Community Engagement Media Conference a Success!Firelight Media, The Open Society Institute (OSI) and the National Center for Media Engagement (NCME), held a highly successful two-day conference on March 30-31, 2011. Over 60 producers and 30 panelists and speakers attended this gathering entitled: “How to Develop Community Engagement Strategies for your Media Project.” There were in-depth workshops, stimulating and engaging panels, inspiring speakers and great interaction between panelists and producer participants.
Some highlights follow:
Our keynote, Al Letson, actor and activist, spoke to us about the meaning of community and reminded us how important it is for filmmakers to truly connect with their audiences.
Byron Hurt, Producer/Director, Sonya Childress, Firelight Media Outreach Specialist, and Jennifer MacArthur, of NCME, kicked things off with a conversation and workshop using Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes as a case study for teaching community engagement techniques. This was followed by our inspiring luncheon speaker, WNYC’s Director of Community Engagement and Audience Development at New York Public Radio, Brenda Williams-Butts. Brenda talked about WNYC’s performance space, the difference between outreach and audience development, and how she increased diverse voices and staff to the station.
Our afternoon started with a robust session on Transmedia Storytelling led by Ann Bennett, a multi-media producer and filmmaker. Projects that were showcased included a mapping project, a second life project which allowed guests to tell their stories about lynching of African Americans, a digital diaspora photography project, and Pete Nicks’ The Waiting Room—a multi-platform project around a struggling inner city hospital.
This session was followed by a networking reception where funders and executives mixed with producers and directors for a lively and fun networking experience.
The Intersection between Advocacy and Engagement
The next day opened with the panel: “The Intersection between Advocacy and Engagement” moderated by Robert West of Working Films and some of the most experienced station and independent workers in the biz.
Following the advocacy workshop, there were two panels on fundraising respectively moderated by Lisa Cortes (Precious), and Rashid Shabazz (Campaign for Black Male Achievement, OSI), dominated the next three hours. Funders included Orlando Bagwell, Ford Foundation; Maureen Knighton, Cummings Foundation; Kathryn Washington, CPB; Clara Aguilar, ITVS; Slava Rubin, Indigogo; Wendy Ettinger, Chicken’N’Egg; Bruni Burres from The Sundance Documentary Program, Sandi DuBowski, The Good Pitch; and Diana Barrett, The Fledgling Fund. They all pitched in to give the participants a good glimpse into the world of funding and how a producer can assess funds from their respective organization for community engagement.
Speed Dating with a Funder
The conference also included the return of our popular session “Speed Dating with a Funder” where participants spent 10 minutes with a funder pitching their projects. Participants included Indigogo, Chicken’NEgg, NBPC, POV, ITVS, NCME, Firelight Media, Tribeca All Access, OSI, Ford Foundation, The Jerome Foundation, and several others. Both producers and funders expressed satisfaction with the process.
And finally, The Pitch!
The final panel and the most awaited was “The Pitch”. Producers from four projects were selected to pitch their films to a prestigious panel led by the formidable, Robert Byrd, senior program officer at the Jerome Foundation. The brave producers included Carol Bash, The Lady Swings the Band: The Mary Lou Williams Story, Neyda Martinez and Laura Checkoway for Lucky; Kamal Sinclair, Hank Willis Thomas and their team for the film Question, Bridge; and Can directed by Pearl Park.
Thanks to all who participated in this two-day seminar. We are also grateful to our funders and partners which include: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), The Fledgling Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies, National Center for Media Engagement (NCME) and Open Society Institute (OSI).
Below are some comments from some of the attendees:
"This is a safe place where we can be ourselves, without competition or intimidation, but highly professional and perfectly executed."
“I thought the conference was an amazing mix of talented media making professionals. Very cool. I was very honored to participate.”
"Thanks to Mable and Stanley –and the Firelight Team–for putting together such a dynamic, smart, and engaging 2-day workshop”
"It’s a beautiful thing that Firelight is doing to support producers of color.”
"Overwhelming amount of information but incredibly useful. Thanks!”
"Thank you Mable for putting together such a stimulating and productive two days. The panel was invigorating, and there were so many interesting projects in the room!”
Note: Mable Haddock and Stanley Nelson spearhead the Producers' Lab at Firelight Media, a mentorship program for talented producers of color.