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Nonprofit organizations all have internal and external communications
goals: to mobilize communities, gain media attention for an issue,
increase donor support, and recruit volunteers. Across the country,
environmental, health, housing, civil-rights and other community organizers
recognize the power of video in our media-saturated society. However,
in spite of cheaper equipment, the costs and skills to make quality
video can be out of reach of nonprofits.
A field of activist video has developed over the years to meet this
need. Working out of nonprofit production companies and media art
centers, activist mediamakers join with nonprofit partners to conceptualize,
produce and distribute video as an integral part of organizing campaigns.
In the Pacific Northwest, Green Fire Productions has won the trust
of area nonprofits and the support of funders who rarely fund media.
Green Fire's primary goal is to increase public awareness, citizen
action, and media coverage on critical environmental issues.
According to Green Fire cofounder, Karen Anspacher Meyer, "Video
increases environmentalists' ability to motivate people to get involved
and to inspire people to care about an issue. As humans we listen
to each other's stories." Green Fire uses the video to bring
together the perspectives of community members, environmentalists,
scientists, economists, and policymakers. "It's exciting because
in a lot of ways we're connecting the dots, getting groups to link
with someone who might be their adversary. They get to look at their
issue in a new way. They end up with a new ally."
Using broadcast quality short format video programs and distributing
raw footage called "b-roll" to broadcasters, Green Fire
furthers understanding of complex issues and makes visible innovative
solutions to environmental and social justice problems.
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Nonprofit partners use Green Fire tapes to mobilize audiences, gain
media attention and change minds. Kathy Crist, who worked with Green
Fire on a video about Snake River salmon says "More than any
other resource, [the video] helped us nationalize the issue with the
public, Congress, and the media."
For the Brainerd Foundation, both the quality of the video and how
it is used to reach new people are important. The staff and board
had become disillusioned from the many requests they received from
activist groups whose videos were spotty, ineffective, and primarily
preached to the choir.
Green Fire, on the other hand, provided "good product and good
dissemination," getting the video in the right hands at the right
time. Still, it wasn't easy for program officer Jim Owens to sell
them initially to his board. What made the difference was the quality
of the Green Fire's clips and the range of approaches, including providing
b-roll footage to media sources ranging from the local news to 60
Minutes. Hearing from Green Fire's partners about how the video
effectively supported their campaigns was also one of the most compelling
arguments for support."
Denise Joines of the Wilberforce Foundation appreciates Green Fire's
"ability to tell a story so people will pay attention and display
images in a way that people will want to watch. It's not intuitive,
you need a professional, Green Fire understands the media and helps
organizations use it in the most effective way."
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