RECAP FROM THE FIRELIGHT MEDIA AND OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS SEMINAR: "Creating Social Impact through Story in a Transmedia World."Last month, Firelight Media and The Open Society Foundations (OSF) co-hosted our third annual seminar: "Creating Social Impact through Story in a Transmedia World." The event was declared a great success by the over 80 attendees who took part in the two-day event on May 7th and 8th, 2012.
The seminar included loads of information for everyone. The programming included broadcasters, independent producers, television and festival programmers, community organizers, and technicians. Presenters showed film clips, talked about social justice issues and gave tips and information on craft, fundraising and transmedia, to stimulate thinking and discuss strategies.
Highlights included the opening keynote kick-off with the Producer of the critically acclaimed film Bully, Cynthia Lowen. Cynthia was interviewed by filmmaker and comic book writer, Greg Pak. Cynthia discussed her film and its impact on increasing awareness about the problem of bullying. She shared tips on fundraising, the importance of partnerships and non-traditional approaches for funding support, and the ways in which she gained access to some of the characters in the film.
Following Cynthia’s presentation, there was a panel on content development which included executives and programmers from a range of broadcast entities, including The History Channel, PBS’s Frontline, the Discovery Channel, COMCAST and IFP. The Panel was deftly moderated by Jacquie Jones, Executive Director of The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). The panel explored questions around content diversity in broadcast and outlined how selections for programming are made. Film Curator Chi-hui Yang talked about how tablets and iPads as well as VOD will be key to the distribution of documentaries and independent films, using innovative applications for curated films. They also addressed the importance of managing one’s digital rights with respect to VOD and digital platforms.
Two popular presentations followed. Angela Tucker presented a case study on the making of Black People Don’t..., the popular online series which has been mentioned in Jet Magazine. Firelight Media’s Community Engagement Specialist, Sonya Childress, designed and moderated a session entitled “Story Leads to Action”, which addressed working with community partners to create a community engagement campaign using Yoruba Richen’s new film, The New Black. Along with Yoruba and Sonya, a panel of LGBTQ activists and community leaders went through a mini-strategy session to give filmmakers an example of ways to engage organizations in the formation of their community engagement campaigns.
The final presentation of the day featured Pat Aufderheide of the Center for Social Media, who addressed copyright and fair use doctrine. She also explored ways to lower clearance costs, risk assessment and maintaining rights as a filmmaker.
An opening reception gave everyone an opportunity to network, relax and get mentally prepared for the next day.
Day 2 opened with a session that included various independents working on social justice media, moderated by Firelight’s own Deputy Director, Loira Limbal. The discussion brought together the sometimes disparate elements involved in the creation of a great story and the presentation of social justice issues. Alex Rivera, Michelle Stephenson, Ronit Avni, and Peter Kinoy, engaged the audience in a thoughtful and passionate discussion about story, social justice, and the impact of new media.
Bradford Young, cinematographer, and Bill Toles, Sound Designer, led a spirited and information-laden panel and workshop facilitated by Sound Technician, J.T. Takagi. One of the most popular and highly rated presentations, this panel explored new techniques in sound and cinematography, cost, and specific tools and equipment to use for specific effects.
During lunch Rashid Shabazz shared a video on his work with the Black Masculinity project at OSF, followed by Stanley Nelson, Executive Director of Firelight Media who introduced Donald Thoms, Senior Vice President at PBS. Thoms shared a general overview of what PBS is looking for in terms of content and how they work with independents, and opened the floor for questions. The discussion included the status of the Independent Lens/POV scheduling and the diversifying PBS’s offerings.
Finally, there was the Pitch Panel, which consisted of six panelists including funders, national and international producers, and was moderated by film curator, Michelle Materre. This session provided an opportunity for the audience to see producer/directors pitch their work and take questions and suggestions from the panel. A diverse range of projects, formats, stages, and directors led to rich and nuanced discussions around various topics, styles and engagement strategies around each sample shown.
The seminar ended with a summary and thank you by conference coordinator and Producers’ Lab Director Mable Haddock with additional comments by Firelight's Executive Director Stanley Nelson, and Rashid Shabazz, from Open Society Foundations.
Check out some of the comments from participants taken directly from the evaluations:
" Exciting and inspiring."
"I had a great time and feel like I walked away re-energized as an independent filmmaker. Fantastic experience. I loved the open atmosphere, which allowed for dialogue between participants and panelists."
" Great conference, wonderful vibe, excellent speakers, well presented."
" Insight into what programmers were or are looking for was super helpful!
" These events have more value than can be imagined prior. Personal, professional, spiritual. Loved the emphasis on the craft."
" Always am super-pleased, inspired and excited for the conference, networking and info shared."
"The diversity of content and opinions was very strong."
"Sensational moderators, great panelists, interesting stories!"
"The most inspirational part was the gathering of all the filmmakers."
" I love these seminars. Thank you so much."
"Great networking, great info shared, well organized, high quality speakers."
"Loved this conference. I could praise over each panel. Loved watching the “Story Leads to Action”. The camera and sound panel I could have listened to all day."
"Angela Tucker’s Presentation was extremely important – actually seeing a transmedia project, “Storytelling in Action” also incredible."
"This was really awesome and inspiring. The community building is great, superb panelists who are accessible."
"Wonderful, love connecting and reconnecting; wonderful keynote, loved food, loved panel with programmers."
"Black folks Don’t… was sensational. Great to see a case study of filmmaking for the web; clever and innovative."
"Loved what I saw! We need more, more, more of these spaces and platforms."
"Excellent, excellent, excellent. I feel rejuvenated, motivated, and ready to work. So grateful and can’t thank Firelight and Open Society enough. Thank you for making space for community, creativity, career development, friendship and mentorship."
"Keynote kick off was very inspirational and motivating and engaging. ”Black Folks Don’t…” was such a great humorous presentation. It was a great example of what to do! Bradford Young was very informative in terms of the technical side of production. "
"You cannot put a dollar amount on it. It was excellent! Panelists were phenomenal!" Photos: Firelight Media and OSF Seminar, May 2012
Photos taken by: Cyrille Phipps