By Robert West, Working Films
Dec 3, 2004, 10:55


Wilmington, NC, New York City, North Adams MA -- Working Films, a nationally recognized bridge between high quality documentary filmmaking and serious social change, in partnership with MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary arts in the United States, is offering a five-day workshop and residency for documentary filmmakers. The Content + Intent Documentary Institute is designed to develop comprehensive, timely and relevant outreach and community engagement plans for independent documentary films-in-progress.

The five-day residency workshop will guide 10 documentary filmmakers and 5 advanced documentary film students through the development of outreach plans for their individual documentary film projects. Ensuring that a film¡¯s broadcast and release has an impact is as important as its production. The focus of the workshop, modeled on Working Films projects, is to link documentaries-in-progress to concrete and long-term initiatives for progressive social change. Participants will create a specific, timely, and relevant outreach and audience development/engagement plan for their films; identify community partners; and develop support materials, effective timelines, budgets, and implementation strategies. Additional work will include conceptual plans for web sites, fundraising tactics, press strategies and the development of evaluations focused on quantifiable outcomes.

This residency workshop is tied to a celebratory four-day festival at MASS MoCA in recognition of the five-year anniversary of Working Films. The films in the festival, and the stories they tell, will be connected to local grassroots efforts ¨C and audience members will be invited to engage in local initiatives around issues raised in each film. A number of screenings will be both national and regional premieres. Films to be shown and supported by activism during the festival include THIRST, GIRL TROUBLE, DEADLINE, WHERE DO YOU STAND?, MAQUILOPOLIS, ONE IN EIGHT: JANICE¡¯S JOURNEY, and the Peabody-winning TWO TOWNS OF JASPER. Special events will include attendance by some of the filmmakers, premiere of the DVD of BLUE VINYL with activist extras and works-in-progress from documentary filmmakers based in New England. Support for MASS MoCA's Working Films¡¯ festival has been provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the MetLife Foundation Museum Connections Program.

Working Films¡¯ co-founders Robert West and Judith Helfand will be the lead instructors in the workshop. Joining them will be two activists with long and successful histories of developing and sustaining organizing campaigns for social justice.

The institute will run from March 2nd to 6th, 2005. Filmmakers will reside in MASS MoCA ¡¯s artist housing (within walking distance to MASS MoCA), which is included in the $500 fee. Some scholarships are available. Participants will be selected from applications available at . Before the five-day session, selected participants will be invited to submit rough-cut tapes or trailers and written materials. Working Films will draft preliminary outreach and community engagement campaigns for each project that will be more fully developed at the institute. Application deadline is January 31, 2005.

Housed on a restored 19th century factory campus in North Adams, Massachusetts, MASS MoCA is the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country. Dedicated to the creation and presentation of provocative visual and performing arts pieces, and works that blur conventional distinctions between artistic disciplines, MASS MoCA functions as a laboratory for the contemporary arts, fostering experimentation by artists, encouraging collaborations among institutions, and allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process.

Working Films is a national non-profit organization based in New York City and Wilmington, NC, that links independent documentary filmmaking with community education and organizing to ensure that documentary films reach their fullest potential. National press coverage on their successful outreach campaigns has included The Village Voice, International Documentary, LA Weekly, The Nation, the Independent Film and Video Monthly, In These Times and The Progressive. Now entering their fifth year, they claim extraordinary successes ¨C creating new models for the field on documentary distribution, outreach organizing and education strategies that support measurable impact. Working Films served on the Sundance Film Festival¡¯s first Outreach panel in 2002 and were on their outreach roundtables in 2003, 2004 & 2005.

Their outreach efforts have been funded by the Ford Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Open Society Institute, Rockefeller Family Fund, Ben & Jerry¡¯s Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Beldon Fund and others. Budgets for their funded outreach campaigns range from $35,000 to $500,000. To see descriptions of these campaigns and examples of press coverage go to .

Contact Working Films to request an application, or go to the website:

Robert West
Working Films
602 South Fifth Avenue
Wilmington NC 28401
910 342-9000

"If industry-wide caution came to mark this year's festival, the efforts of Robert West and Judith Helfand, the co-founders of Working Films, brought to Sundance a new kind of high-stakes positioning, one that dared to venture beyond the festival's crucible of hype and commerce to connect with the community that surrounds it."
– Paul Malcolm of the LA WEEKLY, writing about Working Films' organizing at Sundance

Comments from Participants at Past Content + Intent Workshops

"Extremely innovative approach to outreach; articulate, enthusiastic and passionate! Great ideas about making film & screenings useful towards social justice change with measurable results."

"I hoped to get specific ideas and strategies for alternative outreach for my film ¨C my expectations were surpassed! I was inspired."

"Clear, thorough and intelligent in its organization and approach. It specifically addressed my needs. Inspiring!"

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