Overview of Community Supported Film
Community Supported Film’s mission is to use media to engage and transform, through trainings and the production of powerful stories. CSFilm also works to ensure that the media produced is seen, heard and used as part of integrated public-engagement strategies. Within this framework, CSFilm works to develop a cohort of nonfiction media makers that can find gainful employment and contribute meaningfully to their communities through storytelling that raises issues central to local development.
Collaborating with CSFilm
CSFilm collaborates with partner organizations to offer local capacity-building in all aspects of documentary and non-fiction media making. Through trainings in documentary and radio storytelling, local women and men produce high-quality narratives that advance issues of social and economic development. The media produced is then used to engage audiences for social impact. CSFilm works with the partnering organization to plan distribution and engagement strategies around the films or radio programs that affect change at the community, regional, national and international level.
Through this innovative model, CSFilm helps partners incorporate bottom-up storytelling approaches into their programs and public engagement work. The resulting innovative communication, education, and advocacy strategies compellingly convey local understanding and concerns, providing audiences – such as the public and policy makers – with previously unheard local perspectives. A partnership with CSFilm can also provide a unique approach for evaluating social and economic development accomplishments and determining paths for effective change.
Community Supported Film’s trainers have decades of teaching and production experience in documentary filmmaking and non-fiction storytelling. Community Supported Film specializes in conveying the social and economic issues of developing countries and transitional communities around the world.
CSFilm Founder and Director Michael Sheridan has worked in dozens of countries and areas in conflict, including Indonesia, India, Pakistan, the Congo, Malawi, the United States, and – most recently – Afghanistan. CSFilm has partnered with governments, NGOs, and educational institutions – including the Danish Department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Development Cooperation, Oxfam, Save the Children-UK, Harvard University and the Art Institute of Jakarta.
CSFilm works with each partner to define an approach to training and production that best meets local needs and outcomes. Programs may include:
- Media trainings and production work in electronic time-based media – including video, radio and web media
- Learning-by-doing course work tailored to meet specific production outcomes
- Multi-week intensive documentary production trainings that result in high quality distributable short films which can be used to promote issue awareness or provide project evaluation
- Shorter form workshops that concentrate on storytelling principles, videography, sound recording, editing, business management, budgeting, writing for time-based media, distribution, or other related skills
- Long-term mentoring to facilitate career development
- Organizational training in the use of audio and video as effective tools for community-based program evaluation
Case-Study: Afghanistan – Training, Production and Public Engagement
In the interest of amplifying the voices and expertise of Afghans, Community Supported Film used its proven action-based learning techniques to conduct an intensive production training for Afghans in documentary filmmaking and video-journalism in 2010.
Community Supported Film and local partners conducted a nationwide call for applicants. 10 Afghan trainees were selected – including four women, and representatives of three ethnic groups. Although the trainees did not need any previous knowledge of filmmaking, they were required to have a background in storytelling – such as in theater, radio, print or photojournalism. Trainees were also selected by their level of engagement with their community’s social and economic development issues, and their commitment to use what they would learn in their future work.
During the 5-week intensive training, facilitated by translators and local staff, the trainees were immersed in the technical and artistic components of documentary film production and storytelling. The training included instruction from local Afghan experts in the field of socio-economic development work, to provide the students with an understanding of the issues and introduce them to potential story subjects. After three weeks of rigorous exercises in camerawork, sound and storytelling, each student developed and produced a character-driven short documentary.
The 10 films produced by the trainees were compiled in the collection The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghans Perspectives in Film, offering a personal and first-hand Afghan point of view rarely seen or heard outside of Afghanistan. As a series, the films bring to life Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions, such as the effects of heroine addiction on Afghan families, and flash floods and dangerous droughts that threaten most Afghans more than insurgent attacks. Afghan culture is illuminated through intimate conversations, and films broach topics such as local education initiatives and entrepreneurship in the face of disability.
The Fruit of Our Labor films served as the basis of a public engagement campaign inside and outside of Afghanistan – stimulating dialogue and debate among government officials, the aid community, local leaders, and the general public about Afghan socioeconomic issues. Audience engagement collaborations were formed with American Friends Service Committee and 3P Human Security to present the films at a Congressional Briefing in Washington DC; with Women’s Action for New Directions as the basis for a teaching webinar; with the Windows and Mirrors traveling art exhibit about the war in Afghanistan; with the Friends Committee on National L
egislation as the center of an action email campaign, and as the center of a Compassion Campaign for Afghan Civilians in collaboration with several development and advocacy organizations. The films were screened at more than 50 venues, including notable institutions such as the US Institute of Peace and the World Bank, universities, community screenings, and festivals – including North America’s premier festival, Hot Docs. One of the documentary shorts, Death to the Camera, won Best Documentary at the first Human Rights Film Festival in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The variety of films and their short length served to meet the needs of different audiences and different modes of presentation: broadcasts, internet screenings, DVD distribution, and screenings events in communities, institutions, and classrooms. The films are one component of a public engagement campaign that includes publications and an interactive web site to stimulate discussion and participation.
CSFilm builds programs to fit the budget and intended outcomes of the collaborating organization. Budgets vary widely depending on the length of engagement, location, number of participants, and equipment needed. The following factors will be considered:
• Intended outcome of the media making training and workshop
• Number of pieces to be produced and their length
• Location and availability of the trainees
• Type of equipment required for the training and production work, which is determined by what is used locally by entry-level professionals
• Facilities available for the training and production work
• Costs of local accommodation and transportation to and from site for the training team and trainees
• Costs, if required, for local high-quality interpreter and training assistants. The type of assistants required will be determined by the training and production work needed. In general CSFilm hires experienced local media makers as assistants when possible.
• Non-fiction media makers with a shared commitment to social issue storytelling
• The completion of short stories that raise critical concerns and accomplishments of local communities
• A cohort of skilled documentary media makers who can find gainful employment while also contributing to the future of their country’s development
• Deeper community and institutional engagement in the assessment and critique of social and economic interventions and policy
Potential collaborators should contact Community Supported Film to discuss local training, issue engagement, and evaluative needs that can be met through a media-centered approach.