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.

Documentaries and Community Organizing

Encouraging people to engage in civic practice is the everyday work of movement building, equity, justice, and democracy in action, and is embodied in local organizations and their leaders. In this context, documentary films have a long history of engaging with social movements by telling their stories and empowering community action, and by introducing the reality of human struggle and triumph in nuanced, intimate ways that can invite connection and solidarity. Through the case study of Working Films’ initiatives, Putting Films to Work and Stories Beyond Borders, CMSI explores the use and value of documentary films as a means of grassroots engagement.

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