April 2017

Lindy Lou's biggest fans! CMSI graduate fellows Chandler Green and Michele Alexander with Lindy Lou (center) from Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2 at the True/False Film Festival.
Happy Spring, for those of you enjoying some kind of (consistent) warm weather. For us D.C. folks, our beautiful cherry blossoms are wondering what's going on, between the late snow and alternating 65-degree days. But, as always, there's lots happening on this end. A few highlights:
What's New?
Story Movements:
As most of you know, last year, we launched Story Movements, a new convening and initiative focused on the role of narrative and storytelling in contemporary social justice movements. We’ve just published our publication (aptly titled, “Story Movements: Illuminating the Role of Narrative in Contemporary Movements for Social Change"), which provides a deep dive into the role of narrative in social change, as well as the many speakers and projects profiled at the inaugural convening. And, check out videos on our YouTube channel (and in the publication itself), which includes the full talks, panels and a highlights reel. We’ll continue to publish case studies and profiles of story-related social justice projects this year.

#OscarsSoWhite (Documentaries, too?):
In case you missed it last month, CMSI released the latest study in our continuing investigation of gender and racial diversity in documentary filmmaking. The study, “Journey to the Academy Awards: A Decade of Race & Gender in Oscar-Shortlisted Documentaries (2008-2017)” chronicles a full decade of credited directors and producers in this unprecedented examination of documentary film and makers.

True/False Film Festival Local Activism:
In a collaborative project with our friends at BRITDOC and Working Films, CMSI headed to the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, to facilitate audience research to help contribute to the social impact strategy for the documentary Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2, which tells the story of a former death penalty juror on a search for moral redemption and compassion. The full findings will be available in a few months, but you can read the field reports and lessons learned from CMSI graduate fellows (and mighty field researchers), Michele Alexander and Chandler Green.

Dispatch from the Australian International Documentary Conference:
CMSI founder and senior fellow Pat Aufderheide is spending her Fulbright Fellowship time in Australia and shares this comprehensive update - and new challenges for nonfiction storytellers - from AIDC, as featured in Documentary magazine.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Fellowship Program:
CMSI is thrilled to again sponsor – along with the School of Communication’s Film & Media Arts and Public Communication Divisions – seven competitive graduate students (pictured below with AU School of Communication faculty), who will attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival this week (April 6-9) in Durham, North Carolina. We’ll share their field reports and stories in our next newsletter, but for now, follow the CMSI social media and blog for updates from our faculty colleague and official Full Frame student chaperone, Maggie Burnette Stogner, and our graduate students (Emily Crawford, Samantha Dols, Chandler Green, Megan King, Destiny Owens, Katie Putnam, and Vincent Terlizzi).

What's Coming Soon?
We're about to launch a few big projects and reports over the next few months, so please stay tuned! They include:
  • When Movies Come to Washington: Documentary Films & Public Policy in the United States: We'll publish the first of our two-part series, focused on the federal level, with a state and local policy focus in the works and available this fall.
  • The Laughter Effect: After much fanfare, we're preparing to launch two reports as part of our ongoing investigation and series of collaborations focused on the role of comedy and social change. And, we're so happy to announce our partnership with The Onion and Fusion Networks for an upcoming comedy and social change summit.
  • Community Voice Project: Curious about our D.C. community storytelling project and how it works? We'll publish a report from Community Voice Project (CVP) founder, Nina Shapiro-Perl, with contributions from CVP's current director Brigid Maher and graduate student Amberly Ellis.
What's New from the Media That Matters Blog? Calls for Applications
Please stay in touch. And, do you have a project, film, or event to share? Drop us a line at so we can include it in our newsletters and social media.

With gratitude,

Caty Borum Chattoo
Director, Center for Media & Social Impact

The Center for Media & Social Impact

The Center for Media & Social Impact, based at American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C., is an innovation lab and research center that studies, showcases, and creates media for social impact. Focusing on independent, documentary and public media, the Center bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners across media production, media impact, public policy, and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and academic research; convenes conferences and events; and works collaboratively to understand and design media that matters.

Learn more about CMSI.
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