Revolutionary Optimists and Map Your World breaks very new ground in the space of film + interactive. Revolutionary Optimists is a true story that must be told on film, of extraordinary young people in the slums of India raising their voices and cell phones to do amazing things – like eradicate polio and create a resilient, creative, inter-dependent community where they live. But the film is not a story randomly taken from them and told to audiences — it is a story they have given fully to the world, side-by-side with the nonprofit leaders, Google data experts, mobile developers and filmmakers who have stood by them for years, watching, recording, listening and building. As the documentary Revolutionary Optimists opens at festivals, the website and mobile data storytelling platform Map Your World is also coming to life. The platform a rich community-driven interface that empowers global youth to map, track, change and share their lives. Leveraging the capacity of open-source mobile data collection via formhub.org, the power of the open web, the creative instincts of verynice.co, the alliance of partners and stakeholders like Sundance, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and Modi Labs, the filmmakers have not just leveraged social media to spread the message of their work, they have created new story-driven technology to make change happen. New Arts Axis is leading interactive strategy and creative development of the Map Your World project, consulting with the film team on exhibition opportunities, and working to deepen partnerships for global implementation and sustainability.
WeOwnTV is what happens when documentary filmmakers work outside the lines. In 2002, Banker White began working on the documentary film Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (2006) with Zach Niles and Chris Velan. The film won more than a dozen international film festival awards and has been viewed by millions via broadcast television in North America, Latin America, Europe, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Uganda. WeOwnTV was conceived as a media training program for the kids in Sierra Leone. Ultimately, the filmmakers also helped the young local artists launch an online media channel and then raised enough money to build a bricks-and-mortar media center on the ground in Freetown. The first group of trainees included ex-combatants, former child prostitutes, street children and physically disabled individuals. WeOwnTv provides continued technical support, encouragement and training that allows these young adults to produce, distribute and market independent media and documentary content for international audiences. NewArtsAxis provides ongoing, as-needed guidance to the project and Wendy is on the WeOwnTV Board of Advisors.
WelcomeTable is a multiplatform project including a visual/auditory installation featuring large-scale photography, video portraits and live data to reveal the people behind the kitchen doors in restaurants across America. In an immersive, layered experience, the project reframes our relationship to those who serve our food, who live under the radar and the poverty line. In collaboration with Louverture Films, Dillywood and Roc United, New Arts Axis is coordinating creative strategy and development of the installation and interactive website.
The Waiting Room Storytelling Project is a location-based social media and community engagement initiative that aims to improve the patient experience through the collection and sharing of digital content. This cultural data – video, data visualizations, photographs and text – is collected in the waiting room by creating frameworks for sharing that range from anonymous expressions of feeling to deeper storytelling. The primary aim of the platform is to uncover the needs of underserved patients at a moment when the role of the “Safety Net” is being debated both in America and abroad. The goal is to expand and foster the organizational capacity for storytelling at Highland Hospital by creating a robust, scalable platform that can amplify the voices and needs of the most underserved communities in our country. New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy has been involved as a digital media advisor to the project since its incubation at the BAVC Producers Institute in 2008. The documentary The Waiting Room has been shortlisted for the 2013 Academy Awards.
Question Bridge is a transmedia art project that seeks to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. Through video mediated question and answer exchange, diverse members of this “demographic” bridge economic, political, geographic, and generational divisions. The project premiered at Sundance 2012 New Frontiers, the Oakland Museum and the Brooklyn Museum — and has been part of exhibitions and conferences across the country. New Arts Axis consults with the artists as needed to strategize the multi-platform creative & interactive development, fundraising and outreach.
As a Senior Consultant to the Sundance Institute Documentary Program and Fund, New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy supports the Sundance/Skoll Stories of Change program, impact and innovation lab development, evaluation and reporting, and representing the Documentary Program and Fund at international festivals and convenings.
Through grants and exhibitions, the Open Society Foundation’s Documentary Photography Project supports photography to engage and mobilize people around issues of justice and human rights. The guiding philosophy of the project is photography’s ability to record human rights abuses, personalize the effects of conflict, document the struggles and defiance of marginalized people, and reframe public discourse. OSF funds projects that use photography as a mechanism to foster civic engagement, organizing, advocacy, outreach, public awareness, education, and media attention. New Arts Axis consulted with OSF staff over the course of a year to conceive, design and produce a lab experience to help connect documentary photographers to emerging technologies and interactive strategies in order deepen the impact of their work. The first Photography, Expanded lab will take place April 2013.
In conjunction with panels and presentations at CPH:DOX and M:DOX in November 2012, New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy led a full day lab for Swedish documentary filmmakers investigating interactive technologies at BOOST HBG. The lab focused on peer-to-peer collaboration, mentorship and participatory storytelling.
The Screen Edge Forum is an annual Film, TV and All Media industry event in New Zealand focused on innovative ways to create and fund all kinds of screen production. It includes seminars, panels, master-classes, and a pitching market. The Forum is a place where New Zealand media artists connect to cutting-edge ideas and network with local and international professionals and experts. Through the support of Fulbright New Zealand, Wendy worked with Documentary New Zealand staff to create and produce multi-day labs during the Festival to incubate new interactive documentary work with a diverse group of NZ artists and international mentors.
For 25 years Skylight Pictures has been committed to producing artistic, challenging and socially relevant independent documentary films on issues of human rights and the quest for justice. Through the use of film and digital technologies, they seek to engage, educate and increase understanding of human rights amongst the public at large and policy makers, contributing to informed decisions on issues of social change and the public good. New Arts Axis has consulted with Skylight on interactive strategy and tactical development for Granito, Every Memory Matters, and most recently on data visualization for their new film, Disruption.
Sparkwise is an opensource data/story platform designed to help nonprofits, independent artists and changemakers but data to good use – to engage communities and inspire action with powerful stories and metrics in context. Wendy Levy began the project, in collaboration with Google 20 percenter Eric Doversberger, while she was Creative Director at BAVC– with support from MacArthur Foundation. Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and Fledgling Fund Tomorrow Partners launched Sparkwise in March 2011 at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford with additional support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Wendy Levy is a co-founder of the platform and works on strategic partnerships and communications.
There is a perception that film can appear to be very isolated from the rest of the arts, both in terms of funding structures but also creatively. The HIVE LAB was designed to enhance the cross pollination between those working in the performing and visual arts, literature and film — increasing the interconnections of ideas and collaborations. First held within the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival, this ground-breaking residential lab brought together 20 of Australia’s most talented artists from film, literature, performing and visual arts. Developed and led by New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy with a team of brilliant mentors from a number of disciplines, the HIVE LAB introduced filmmakers to new creative development methodologies and potential collaborators from other art forms, and inspired artists, musicians and theater makers to consider film as a creative outlet. After the Lab, Big Pond Adelaide Film Festival commissioned three new projects to premiere at the Festival. The 2012 HIVE LAB was held at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Council and the MacArthur Foundation, Looking@Democracy is a national challenge offering a total of $100,000 in prize money for short, provocative media designed to spark a national conversation about coming together to strengthen American democracy. They are looking to hear from independent media makers, investigative reporters, students, designers, artists – anyone with creative ideas to help engage Americans and shift the political discussion in a fresh and engaging way. The goal is to foster unique creativity and vision around how to make government work to improve our nation, our communities, and our lives. New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy was part of a small Advisory panel at MacArthur Foundation to help develop the program, and was invited to be one of the judges of the competition, which launches February 2012.
Hollywood, Health and Society is a program at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that provides entertainment industry professionals with accurate and timely information for health storylines. During summer/fall 2012, New Arts Axis researched and wrote a report for the program entitled Rethinking Audience Engagement: Best Practices and New Strategies for Moving Audiences from Awareness to Action.
New Media At The Crossroads:
Emerging Technologies and the Global NGO Community
a DPI NGO Communications Briefing, May 2010
“Now more than ever before, the international NGO community is empowered by the stories of its members as well as the collective interests of the global community. New technologies can directly support on-the ground movements, with ongoing, real-time conversations made possible between NGO leaders, advocates, filmmakers, journalists, technologists, philanthropists and social entrepreneurs. At the morning session of the Workshop, the panel will discuss some of the newest projects and international partnerships working to leverage emerging technologies in the interest of serving NGOs around the world. Our NGOs will have the opportunity to learn about the many ways in which they can bring these new tools and skills to deepen the impact of their work, and expand their vision of what is possible in the future.
The interactive afternoon session will provide hands on opportunities for using new digital tools in support of educational objectives, social advocacy, reform movements and enhanced multi-platform communication. These tools are free, available for use online and on mobile phones and can be customized for any issue, whether in a constituency, campaign, or classroom environment. A digital toolkit will be provided to all workshop participants, as well as opportunities for ongoing communications support and staff development.”
Produced by Wendy Levy, in collaboration with UN DPI staff.
America Revisited Firelight Films has begun production on America Revisited, an unprecedented multiplatform PBS trilogy on the African-American experience. The Black Panthers: Seize the Time, the first film in the series, will be a fast moving and balanced two-hour film on what may be the most controversial group in American history. The film will give voice to varied perspectives—Panther leaders who remained loyal to the party and those who came to renounce it, police, FBI agents and infiltrators, journalists, white supporters and detractors. And it will utilize compelling archival material, like video of a Party fundraiser at Jane Fonda’s home, official Panther newsreels, and fake documents produced by the government. A soundtrack of the iconic music of the 60s and 70s, complemented by a commissioned jazz/rap/soul score by a contemporary group will help to drive the narrative. NewArtsAxis consulted with Firelight Media on the development of the interactive creative strategies and funding positioning for the initiative.
The Fledgling Fund is a private foundation driven by the passionate belief that film can inspire a better world. They support grantees in their efforts to design and execute thoughtful audience engagement plans designed to motivate people to action. They also share knowledge, experience and best practices to help grantees navigate an evolving field and identify resources that can advance their projects. New Arts Axis Director Wendy Levy consulted with Fledgling Fund staff in the implementation of Sparkwise, a new data platform co-funded by the MacArthur, Ford, Wyncote and Gates Foundations. Wendy worked one-on-one with Fledgling Fund grantees to strategize the integration of qualitative and quantitative data storytelling in their engagement campaigns and impact reporting.