Inspiring Action Through Film: David Holbrooke on Media That Matters

by Stephanie Brown

david_holbrookeAs we count down the days until Media That Matters 2014, check the CMSI blog to learn more about our #MTMDC panelists and why they engage with media that matters. 

Filmmaker and Mountainfilm in Telluride Festival Director David Holbrooke will be speaking at Media That Matters 2014 in Festival Matters. Here is his story.

1. What do you do? How is your work breaking new ground?

I program Mountainfilm in Telluride, which is a film/idea/arts festival that has taken place every Memorial Day weekend for the last 35 years. It started out in 1979 as America’s first film festival dedicated to documentaries about rock climbing, but smartly evolved to include other outdoor endeavors. Today, we also bring docs about the environment and human rights to Telluride so when all of the world-class explorers, front-line activists and truth-telling artists get together in our intimate mountain-town setting, they inspire the hell out of each other and something magical happens. I am not sure we are breaking new ground with this but I know of no other festival that has this same degree of alchemy.

2. How did you get where you are? What have you done in the past?

I was a TV news producer for more than a decade working at the Today Show, CBS News and CNN. I left CNN for a dot com, which failed but taught me something about being entrepreneurial, a skill I put to use in my production company, Giraffe Partners.

For GP, I directed a Deepak Chopra PBS Special, several short docs and one feature, Hard As Nails for HBO.

3. What current or future projects do you want to tell us about?

Besides Mountainfilm, I am directing a film about my father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, called “The Diplomat.” You can watch a trailer at

4. What do you think makes media a powerful tool for change?

I think that media is at its best and most powerful when it employs strong storytelling. Humans are compelled to act when they are told compelling stories.

5. Have you personally experienced a situation in which media made a positive difference? Tell us about it.

At Mountainfilm, we show a lot of documentaries and I have seen one after another have a real and tangible impact on issues that matter. In 2013 alone, we screened: Blackfish, which has had a huge effect on SeaWorld and changed the way people look at this kind of cruel entertainment; The Crash Reel about the snowboarder Kevin Pearce who suffered a horrible Traumatic Brain Injury and has dedicated his life to trying prevent people from suffering the same fate; and Tiny Houses about the small house movement.

Of course, films can create awareness but my favorites are the ones that inspire action like the ones above.

6. Why do you want to speak at Media That Matters? 

I have wanted to check out Media That Matters for a while, as it seems to be an audience who believe that nonfiction storytelling is important.

Meet David and other innovative media-makers at the Media That Matters conference this February. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit the registration page.


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