As we've seen most recently with the Black Lives Matter movement, social change begins to happen when communities are organized to make a difference, when people come together to demand change. But how can we bring communities together? One way is by using film. A well-crafted story, put to video and screened in a group, can serve not only as educational, but also as a unifying force around an issue.
At Brave New Films, we believe that motivated activists, equipped with films that provoke discussion, will bring people together to make a difference. So, we developed a paid, one-year fellowship for activists/organizers from communities of color and/or economically marginalized communities to strengthen their skills in creating and using film in their work for social justice.
This year's program brought together five talented and committed fellows who are gaining experience and skills in outreach, post-production and social media. Seth Ronquillo, a current fellow, shares his experience:
I came to Brave New Films eager to finally work at the intersection of filmmaking and organizing, and after six months, this program has proven to be an invaluable learning experience for me.
My first placement was with Outreach. I was able to work on the distribution of our new film, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed & the NRA using a grassroots model. When I was in film school, all of the producers that I got to meet in class emphasized how the film industry is a business, so as an undocumented immigrant who is becoming more and more politicized, I felt discouraged to continue in film where money seems to be such an important driving force. Working with the BNF distribution team allowed me to see how there's an alternative to "show business" through a model that allows film to be a tool for community rather than profit. Particularly impactful for me during my time in this department were the phone calls I made to invite communities across the U.S. to host screenings. One of the most heartfelt conversations I had was with a pastor in Connecticut who was excited to hear about our film because one of their church members was a teacher who was killed in the Sandy Hook shootings.
My second rotation then took me to the social media department where I was able to learn how to develop graphics/videos that are most effective for digital purposes. The most rewarding moments for me here were the times when my graphics/videos would receive a lot of engagement from our audience. For example, after we published a video I made to honor the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting, a viewer reached out to us asking if her group could screen the video for the vigil they're organizing.
Throughout these rotations, the fellowship has also provided opportunities for networking and training workshops.
I am grateful for the ways that this fellowship has affirmed my desire to fight for social justice through my storytelling. With the learnings and opportunities it provides, I look forward to making grassroots films that are made for and by the community after my time here in the fellowship.