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Saturday, Mar 10 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), Michele Stephenson (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, Michele Stephenson, 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.

As co-founding member of the Rada Film Group, filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson, pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling, deeply personal stories in a variety of media that are created by, for and about communities of color and resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on a variety of broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime and MTV. Her most recent film,American Promise,was nominated for three Emmys including Best Documentary and Best News Coverage of a Contemporary Issue.The film alsowon the Jury Prize at Sundance, and was selected for the New York Film Festivals’ Main Slate Program. Her collaborative film series with New York Times Op-Docs, A Conversation on Race, won the 2016 Online Journalism Award for Commentary. Stephenson was recently awarded the Chicken & Egg Pictures Filmmaker Breakthrough Award and is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow. Her current work, Hispaniola, is supported by the National Film Board of Canada and the Sundance Documentary Fund. Her community engagement accomplishments include the PUMA BritDoc Impact Award for a Film with the Greatest Impact on Society, and she is a Skoll Sundance Storytellers of Change Fellow.Her recent book,Promises Kept,written along withco-authors Joe Brewster and Hilary Beard, won an NAACP Image Award forOutstandingLiterary Work.

Kirsten Kelly (Director/Producer) 
is an award-winning documentary film and theater director who lives in Brooklyn. She and filmmaker Anne de Mare founded Spargel Productions in 2002, which is currently in development for The Girl With The Rivet Gun, an animated new media documentary project on Rosie the Riveter. Her short film work has been seen at Juilliard and Lincoln Center. Kirsten is a two-time Helen Hayes nominated best director and has directed award-winning theater productions in Chicago, Washington DC and off-broadway in New York. She is also an arts educator and is the director and co-creator of “CPS Shakespeare,” which was featured on NBC Nightly News in 2010, a highly-acclaimed program that works with Chicago Public H. S. students at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. She is a graduate of Juilliard’s Master Directing program where she received the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship and is a member of Rising Phoenix Repertory in New York.

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.

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Regular$125.00R2018.03.10-Partnering for Impact

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Saturday, Mar 10
10:00 am


BROOKLYN, NY 11211 United States
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