Documentary & Independent Media

CMSI chronicles the crucial issues facing independent, documentary and public media – as well as the dynamic evolution in the contemporary media era. Through reports and investigations, CMSI highlights analysis of independent, documentary and/or public media projects, identifies technology and policy trends, and discusses topics necessary to tackle issues central to our democracy.

State of the Documentary Field

CMSI's biennial State of the Documentary Field study, in association with the International Documentary Association (IDA), was first launched in 2016 to investigate the contemporary experiences of all documentary professionals.This initiative is supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts' Media Arts program. In 2020, the survey went global.

Documentaries and Community Conversations Around Racial Violence

CMSI studied why and how documentaries can be used as a platform to organize community events and foster public dialogue about racial violence and injustice. Through a participatory research project funded by the Ford Foundation through the Independent Television Service (ITVS), we employed a multi-method approach of surveys and focus-group discussions with diverse communities across the country who gathered to experience the award-winning film Always In Season, directed by Jacqueline Olive and produced by Multitude Films.

Strategic Communications and Documentary Engagement

In 2020, the historic societal upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted industries and professional life around the world, including film and TV. Documentary storytellers, impact producers, and engagement strategists were affected in countless ways, compelling new strategy lessons and approaches to their work. Documentaries with social impact goals were challenged to move beyond the legacy of physical screenings and community-based event to find audiences, spur dialogue, create partnerships, and forge movements in the virtual world. The Digital Power series, an 8-part masterclass webinar series (September to November 2020), aimed to address these questions by inviting leading communication and marketing strategists to join in conversation with documentary impact strategists and makers around the world.

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