center for media & social impact school of communication american university
This is about every single woman all over the world who are stuck in these situations. It’s about all of us collectively who have suffered, and it’s time people understand it’s OK to talk about it, and communities can be part of making change. If one woman in prison can start a movement by starting the first abuse support group in prison in the nation, why can’t a woman’s church group and other women make the same difference?
No one listened for so long, and to actually believe that someone really wanted to make a difference, to share these women’s stories, but to hopefully be able to make a difference for someone else so they wouldn’t end up in the same circumstance as the women featured in the film...
Libby Spears started out as a filmmaker but now has become an advocate and expert about the sexual exploitation of children, and I just love that. How could you ever make the story without caring about the outcome?
Thank you for your inspiration that led to this hearing today, and I hope it leads to new laws that will protect these children and deal with them in the right, humane way. This documentary opened the eyes of Senator Wyden and myself and many others.
The commitment from filmmakers to do this level of advocacy and policy becomes a full-time job, so the difference was that we were willing to put in the time to promote policy change, and work with advocacy experts like ECPAT-USA. We had goals beyond just circulating the film, and we really wanted to a make long-term impact.
There were meetings we had with policymakers where literally the chiefs of staffs’ jaws would be open.
The higher profile the film becomes, the more likely it is to affect the legislative process. If the film goes to a festival and gets an award, if the filmmaker is in a magazine story, anything that elevates the story and makes it more relatable and visible, it helps. Legislative staffers are just like everyone else, responding to the information they are given.
The messages in Coal Ash Stories resonate throughout Tennessee’s coal mining communities, particularly in Kingston where so many have been affected by the disastrous TVA spill of 2008.
These films illustrated what was really happening, including the lack of movement in the legislature.
People were shocked at every [screening] event that this problem could have gotten so big. They were outraged that Florida has done nothing to stop utilities from storing coal ash so dangerously. They were ready to take action right then and there.
The film was part of building momentum to get to the place where cities wanted to take that step.... It became something that the organizations used to build awareness and real political momentum.
The comedy aspect of the film is important because it’s really disarming, particularly for people who are already a little resistant about this kind of messaging.
Having a national group come in and dictate what should happen on a local level generally doesn’t work with local policy advocacy... A national group can put more eyes on something that’s happening, but it should partner with local groups and people as much as possible, so there are still people on the ground when the national group leaves so the local people have [local advocacy partners] to work with. The local people still need to be in charge on the local level.
Movies & Grassroots Community Engagement: Documentary Films & State and Local Public Policy in the United States is the second in a two-volume investigation about the role of documentary films in legislative and regulatory change and influence in the United States. Volume 1 focuses on the federal level, and this report, Volume 2, focuses on state and local levels. Both volumes were directed and written by Caty Borum Chattoo and Will Jenkins for the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C. This investigation was funded by the Fledgling Fund (www.thefledglingfund.org). For the Center for Media & Social Impact, American University graduate student fellows Elise Bell, Elisabeth Drabkin, Kelsey Tate, Hannah Sedgwick, Nesima Aberra, and Michele Alexander provided invaluable research support.
About The Authors
Caty Borum Chattoo is Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) and Executive in Residence at
the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. She is an award-winning communication strategist, documentary film/TV producer, and scholar working at the intersection of social change, documentary, and entertainment storytelling.
Borum Chattoo’s social justice documentaries have aired internationally and nationally on Net ix, the Sundance Channel, Pivot, NDTV (India), PBS World, Link TV, KCET, DirectTV and theatrically. She has produced two documentary feature films (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and The After Party), a TV documentary and transmedia series (Stand Up Planet, starring Hasan Minhaj from The Daily Show), a multi-part documentary TV series focused on global poverty (ViewChange), a seven-part environmental justice documentary TV series (Sierra Club Chronicles), and PSA campaigns designed for social change on issues ranging from global poverty to climate change to HIV. Peer-reviewed research is featured and forthcoming in top journals in communication and the humanities, and she has been a featured presenter, speaker, and workshop leader on the intersection of entertainment, nonfiction storytelling, and social justice at leading academic conferences (International Communication Association, National Communication Association), professional social-change conferences (Skoll World Forum, TEDx, Frank Conference for Social Change), international film festivals and convenings (Tribeca Film Festival, AFI DOCS, DOC NYC, European Documentary Network, Doc Impact Academy Netherlands), and other professional gatherings. She serves on the board of directors for Working Films, a non-pro t organization working at the intersection of documentary storytelling and community engagement, and Kartemquin Films, a leading social-justice film production company.
Will Jenkins has more than a decade of communications and policy experience at the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress. Over the years, he has also worked with many filmmakers and media organizations to help them understand and engage in public policy. Jenkins has spoken and led workshops on films and policymaking for the the Sundance Institute, the South by Southwest Festival, the Tribeca Film Institute, BRITDOC/Good Pitch, SilverDocs/AFI Docs, the International Documentary Association, the Fledging Fund, Docs in Progress, and Women in Film & Video. In 2010, Jenkins wrote a guide to public policy for filmmakers for Documentary magazine (http://www.documentary.org/magazine/filmmakers-guide-capitol-hill).
In 2012, he was Policy Director for the Impact Film Festival at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, where he coordinated screening discussions with politicians, filmmakers, celebrities, and reporters for the films Butter, Electoral Dysfunction, The House I Live In, Hunger Hits Home, and The Invisible War. In 2013, he developed the American Film Institute’s first “Political Bootcamp for Filmmakers.” During his time in the federal government, Jenkins has served as a spokesperson to local, national and foreign news outlets. He has planned high-profile events and policy rollouts featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA TODAY, and The Washington Post and managed appearances for government officials on “Meet the Press,” “Morning Joe,” and “The Colbert Report.”
Jenkins has overseen the planning and evaluation of a wide range of communications products and campaigns by multiple federal agencies. As a legislative aide in Congress, he guided from introduction to enactment the first legislation to protect American military members from the health effects of toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has been called “this generation’s Agent Orange.” In 2007, Jenkins founded the Democratic Communicators Network, the professional association for Democratic communications staff in Congress and the Administration, which provides mentoring, networking and training for hundreds of members. He was also elected to serve on the board of the Congressional Legislative Staff Association, a bipartisan staff association in Washington.
About The Center for Media & Social Impact
The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) at American University’s School of Communication, based in Washington, D.C., is a research center and innovation lab that creates, studies, and showcases media for social impact. Focusing on independent, documentary, entertainment, and public media, CMSI bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners who work across media production, media impact, public policy and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and research, convenes conferences and events, and works collaboratively to understand and design media that matter. www.cmsimpact.org