Labor-themed film may soon be getting a new lease on life. This Saturday, in conjunction with the DC Labor Film Fest, the first ever International Conference of Labor Film Festival Organizers took place. This dynamic group represented organizers just getting started, labor-themed festivals with a rich history, and the initiative to develop future new media outlets for engaging audiences with labor issues.
A major theme in the discussion was the desire to impart that labor issues are no less relevant in today's shaky economic and social environment, despite the dwindling numbers of union members. The issues facing working class communities and working environments have evolved but present just as many challenges in an era when even young people are struggling to continue education and find jobs.
One of the great results of the convening is a focus on strategic design. These talented individuals have been working independently across the United States and across the pond in the UK and Ireland. Thanks to Chris Garlock's intuitive vision, these organizers agreed on the need to pool their resources -- looking to an online space to host and share their research on new films, film reviews, and successful (or not so successful) strategies to reach and educate audiences. While the need for such sharing may be obvious to some, the efforts to engage audiences with labor-themed films has never been centralized or networked -- until now.
Chris Garlock, DC Labor FilmFest
Jon Garlock, Rochester (NY) Labor Film Series
Jim E. Kelly, REELWORK San Jose City College Labor Studies
Steve Zeltzer, LaborFest (San Francisco)
Nancy Holle, Indianapolis Labor Film Festival (tent. launching in 2012)
Paul Bell, Dublin Labor Film Festival
Anna Burton, UK Labor Channel (in production)
Geraldine Hecker, San Pedro (CA) Labor Film & Art Festival (tent. July 2012)
The conversation also shed light on the international success of engagement through labor film. Steve Zeltzer discussed that thanks in part to LaborFest's efforts to engage the international community - Turkey hosts the largest labor film festival in the world, bringing both workers and artists together for events and holding free film screenings across the country. LaborFest is focusing efforts online, streaming and archiving live discussions with the hope of building an online forum for global labor storytelling. Anna Burton with the UK Labor Channel reported that the UK Trade Union Congress (AFL-CIO equivalent) hosted their most historically popular workshop and it happened to be on short film production for organizers. Perhaps this burgeoning of labor film organizing offers a useful case study for cultural diplomacy, creating a solidarity of shared experience in labor issues across cultures and borders.
The Organizers conference featured a discussion on finding films that quickly evolved to a discussion on distribution and strategies for reaching industry contacts. Other major topics included funding models, partner models, and identifying audiences. As with all socially-engaged media, strategic design involves articulating mission, goals and audience engagement.
For those of you in DC, you haven't missed out on the 2011 DC Labor Film Fest just yet. Head to AFI this evening for a 7:00pm screening of Inside Job -- the reverberations of the actions of Wall Street workers have reached the far corners of the globe and are still headline news today.
Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00pm you can see the uplifting story of ambitious British women of the 1960s who take on Ford Motor Company in Made in Dagenham, or a 9:20pm screening of The Company Men in which Ben Affleck's character redefines his life after becoming a victim of downsizing.