Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Mar 10, 2018 at 10:00 am

Partnering for Impact

What Creatives, Advocates, Funders, and Distributors Should Talk about Before Tying the Knot

As media storytelling is increasingly a central tool for social change efforts, filmmakers, activists and funders are working even more closely. Social issue documentary filmmakers who want to make a lasting impact are creating partnerships with funders, advocacy groups and distributors. Yet, these communities don’t necessarily share language, culture, expectations, or even a common vision. Too often, miscommunication gets in the way of great collaboration.

So how do you find the right partners? And how do you ensure that you are all on the same page before you get too far? This day-long intensive workshop will outline how to ask the right questions when partnering with organizations to support your work. Learn how to make an effective film while retaining your artistic voice.

This workshop – developed after years of research at Active Voice/Lab – will address the issues posed below:

Filmmakers want to be part of an ecosystem, but they must also strike a balance between their artistry, income, and activism.

Advocacy allies want more clarity, strategy, and shared expectations when working with filmmakers.

Distributors must compete in fluctuating markets and need a lot of control over who sees what, when, and where.

Funders and donors realize that stories are essential to social change, but often want to know about the storyline, the impact potential, the timelines and other hard-to-predict factors before they can commit.

Led by Ellen Schneider, the founder and director of Active Voice/Lab, participants will learn how to navigate the conflicts that arise when making a documentary on a social issue.

This theoretical and practical workshop is designed for a small group of professionals (25 people maximum) and will expose participants to a broad range of analysis and creative approaches to creating a working collaboration between filmmakers, advocacy groups, distributors and funders.

Over the course of the day, we will go over case studies of successful partnerships that pushed an issue forward. Participants will come away with a solid foundation on which to build productive future partnerships. Guest instructors include Leslie Fields-Cruz (Executive Director at Black Public Media), Joe Brewster (Director, American Promise), Kirsten Kelly (Director, The Homestretch) and more.

The cost of this workshop is $125.


Open to everyone, though the workshop setting is best suited for filmmakers, media artists, advocacy groups, funders and distributors working (or hoping to work!) with social issue films.

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a BYOL, i.e. bring your own laptop. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until February 22nd. After February 22nd, the fee is non-refundable. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a canceled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Saturday, March 10, – 10:00a

Welcome and Warm up with Ellen Schneider. She’ll review of Active Voice Lab’s Ecosystem of Change, collaboration spectrum and present the 4 M’s (Mission, Method, Money, Mobility)

11:00a - 1:00p

Partnership role play with Leslie Fields-Cruz, Joe Brewster, an advocate and a distributor.


Lunch on your own

2:00p - 3:30p

Conversation and case study with filmmaker Kirsten Kelly




Wrap up and questions


Ellen Schneider has been a leader in social justice media strategies for over 20 years. In 2001, with support from MacArthur and Ford Foundations, she founded Active Voice, one of the first teams to leverage story-based media to put human faces on complex social and policy issues. Ellen was formerly the executive producer of P.O.V., PBS’ original series of independent non-fiction film, where she expanded P.O.V.’s parent company American Documentary into production, (Right Here, Right Now, a pilot for one of PBS’ first reality series) and strategic community engagement (High Impact Television® and the Television Race Initiative). She speaks widely about the role of media in public life, from Harvard’s Neiman Foundation to Cambridge University; from the Council on Foundations to Netroots Nation; from Sundance Film Festival to the National Endowment for the Arts. She has worked closely with media-savvy pioneers like Atlantic Philanthropies, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Participant Media.

Producer and Director, Joe Brewster is a Harvard trained psychiatrist who uses his psychological training as the foundation in approaching the social issues he tackles as an artist and filmmaker. Brewster, in conjunction with his Rada Film Groupco-founder, Michèle Stephenson, have created stories using installation, narrative, documentary and print mediums that have garnered support from critics and audiences internationally. He is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Film Institute, BAVC, MacArthur Foundation, and most recently the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Brewster is a Spirit Award and three-time Emmy Award nominee. His recent documentary film AMERICAN PROMISE was awarded the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement inFilmmaking at Sundance and the African American Film Critics’ Association Award. Brewster’s outreach accomplishments include a Revere Award and the 2013 NAACP Image Award for the best selling companion book Promise’s Kept and a BritDoc Prize for developing one of the most innovative outreach campaigns in 2014.

Kirsten Kelly is an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, award-winning theatre director and arts educator. Her recent documentary film, The Homestretch, about homeless high school students in the Chicago Public Schools, appeared on PBS’ Independent Lens in April 2015 and won a 2015 Emmy Award for Outstanding Reporting. The Homestretch has screened at over 800 federal policy events, educational institutions, conferences and community events. She was awarded the ‘2015 Spirit of Youth Award” from the National Runaway Safeline for her work on the film. She continues to present the film and advocate for homeless youth across the country.

She is currently is Senior Producer at Transform Films, where she focuses on new documentary development and production for shorts and features and where she is directing Salaam Shalom: Muslim and Jewish Women Unite Against Hate. She is also a Consulting Producer with Wavelength Productions on several exciting new projects in development. Her current independent projects, with longtime film partner Anne de Mare, include The Girl With the Rivet Gun an animated new media documentary project based on Rosie the Riveter, and This Is The House Where I Learned Not To Sleep a feature film examining the traumatic effects of domestic violence on men and boys who’ve lost mothers, sisters and daughters and breaking the cycle of male violence.

Her projects have been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Sundance Institute, ITVS, Kartemquin Films, Good Pitch, The Bertha Foundation, Chicken and Egg and The Fledgling Fund, among others. Kirsten is a Fellow at the Sundance Documentary Institute and a graduate of the Master’s Directing program at Juilliard.

Leslie Fields-Cruz is the producer of 180 Days a documentary following students, teachers, and administrators through a year in a D.C public school. As the Director of Programming for the National Black Programming Consortium, Leslie suggested the creation of a documentary series to highlight the variety and depth of the global black experience. The series, AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, is now in its 9th season and is the only national public television series focused solely on stories from the black experience. In the fall of 2014, Leslie was appointed to serve as NBPC’s third Executive Director. Though she keeps the pulse on the development of program content and its distribution across public media platforms, she is focused on growing NBPC’s resources to enable it to support more stories about the black experience.

+ Register


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Tickets are no longer available

Support UnionDocs!
Make a tax-deductible donation
or become a member today.


Mar 10, 2018
10:00 am


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
+ Google Map

Support UnionDocs’ next phase and new building by becoming a member

Peek in the window of our bustling building in NYC and tune into the ideas and energy bubbling up from the UNDO Center.

Tune into cutting-edge, powerful and poetic documentary programs and connect to conversations with the artists and thinkers passing through.

Now available at the Apple Store and on Roku.



Unlimited access to all of our monthly offerings for the price of two espressos.



Keep it simple and save. Unlimited access to our sweet offerings for a reduced, annual fee and receive some added benefits.



In the neighborhood, a working artist, student or senior? This membership is for you. Fill out a quick form for a discount code to an annual membership.



Get all of the benefits of the Annual UNDO Membership plus an annual subscription to UnionDocs Editions, a set of publications, merchandise or special objects.

UnionDocs is grateful for support from:

Break Out ’23 — Artistic Differences

Can we generate a public space for a better conversation around documentary film?


Peek in the window of our bustling building in NYC and tune into the ideas and energy bubbling up from the UNDO Center.