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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 

BREAKING! Organizing for Action to organize for film


BREAKING! Organizing for Action to organize for film

Michael Gottwald, Carl Kriss & Josh Penn


As this fellowship has been premised on finding the solutions for grassroots film distribution in the grassroots structures and methods of the Obama campaign, it seems highly appropriate that for one of our last posts, we break the news that Organizing for Action -- basically the version 3.0 of what began as Obama for America in 2007, the primary  entity we reference in our research -- is getting into the film game. Why is this exciting? For one, Organizing for Action as is currently is almost a purer form of strictly organizing than it was when it had the very concrete goal of electing Barack Obama president in 2008 and again in 2012. Relieved of that high directive, it can and has been able to diversify the target of the muscle of its still very grassroots campaign infrastructure and volunteer force. It is the perfect time to further diversify their organizing toolbox to include film -- and the possibilities for film are equally as exciting. We have often pondered what an OFA or DNC-like non-profit or national organization / collective for film would look like; without starting a new organization at all, this at least dips the original model's reach into the film distribution/exhibition landscape (in much need of help).

Organizing for Action actually began its efforts in this arena last month with a Day of Action (a common practice for campaigns) organized around nationwide screenings of "Chasing Ice," a documentary that records climate change through rapidly shifting ice structures. Note that this falls very squarely into a campaign that uses the film towards a political end, very explicitly; the "ask" of those at the watch parties was for attendees to opt in to a list that connotes that it is time to take action on climate change.

However, for the filmmakers behind "Chasing Ice," one imagines any mechanism that gets more people to see  their film, especially one in the form of a highly well-funded and reputable non-profit like Organizing for Action, is a positive development. Although the viewing or sharing of the film is not the end in and of itself, it is the tool through which change is accomplished via OFA. And any grassroots momentum around the film has the added effect of bringing more people into the film's circle of awareness -- which similarly can have its own default snowflake expansion of sharing, regardless of political ends. One can imagine a future in which OFA also uses screenings to pool interest in film in general (as opposed to using one climate change film to collect interest in climate change). Perhaps a Film Corps unit within OFA could start -- one run by volunteers particularly interested in screening films of various social importance or relevance.


The latest news, though, is that OFA is having somewhat of a coming out party (literally and figuratively) as an organization interested in film at the all-important Sundance Film Festival. Former Obama for America campaign organizer and White House official Jon Carson (now the director of OFA) will be hosting a party to talk a little bit about what they'll be up to in this interesting new chapter. Anyone interested in the cross-section of grassroots distribution and grassroots campaigning who finds themselves in Park City should attend. At least one member of the CRI Fellowship will be there to hear what's up!