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Case Studies

Professor Angie Chuang on the D.C. Sniper, Race, and Otherness

Associated Press/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Professor Angie Chuang, an experienced newspaper journalist and professor of journalism at American University’s School of Communication, specializes on race and ethnicity in the media. In this audio recording, she discusses the ten-year anniversary of the D.C. Sniper shootings, implications of media’s rhetoric on race, and the concept of Otherness, which she elaborates on in her award-winning research. Read more...

Case Study - STATE OF FEAR: The Truth about Terrorism

State of Fear PhotoState of Fear, a project of Skylight Pictures, is a longform documentary film at the center of a multiplatform local/global strategic human rights and social justice campaign. The film dramatizes the human and social costs of a twenty- year politicized “war on terror” (1980-2000) in Peru, and its contemporary resonance in a post 9/11 world. It poses the question, “How can an open society balance demands for security with democracy?” and demonstrates the positive example of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions for restorative justice.



Out in the Silence is a feature-length documentary film that shows how the citizens of a small, conservative town in western Pennsylvania confronted homophobia within the boundaries of religion and tradition. An active outreach campaign designed to reach small towns and rural communities nationwide accompanied regional and national PBS broadcasts and festival screenings. The film and campaign, which have fortified a national network of LGBT and civil rights, support organizations reaching underserved communities with special focus on engaging young people.


Case Study - LIONESS

Lioness is a feature-length documentary film that dramatizes the increasing role of U.S. women in combat, despite an official policy banning such assignments. This unrecognized service effectively deprives women combat veterans of benefits granted to men. The film points to the need for military programs and policies that support appropriate professional recognition, training, and health care for women.


Case Study - THE LINE

This “pro-sex, anti-sexual violence” project from producer/director Nancy Schwartzman addresses the need for communication among young people in a highly sexualized and increasingly permissive society. An extensive outreach campaign centered around a 30-minute film based on one young woman’s experience provides language, information, context and spaces for articulating terms for mutually respectful relationships.


Social Justice Documentary: Designing For Impact

Designing For ImpactThe transition from 1.0 to 2.0 opens opportunities for documentarians to fulfill and expand their missions—not only informing individuals and leading public conversation but also building community cohesion and participation. This working paper aims to synthesize current efforts to develop comparable evaluation methods for social issue documentary films. Authored by two researchers who have been jointly documenting the field’s transformation over the past five years, this paper offers a framework for planning and evaluating the impact of these films in a networked media environment.


A Teacher's Guide to Use of Personal Essay Films

Image courtesy of Bollywood.com.Personal essay films have been widely diffused to teachers and community organizations, because they so powerfully evoke responses from and make connections for audiences. They are also favorites of film scholars, who use them to demonstrate with all the drama of the personal voice, the formal structures in filmmaking.


Collaboration in Action: Strategies for Developing and Distributing Multiplatform Documentaries

Our 21/2-year multi-media project, Saving The Sierra: Voices of Conservation in Action, is now over. The digital files are all tucked into a nice big hard drive and we've recycled all but the most important papers. But before we head off our next adventure in independent, social issue media making, we'd like to share a few lessons learned along the way that any producer could use in planning a national multiplatform documentary special.


The War Tapes Puts a Face on War

This case study by CSM Research Fellow Katja Wittke explores the origins, structure, outreach strategies and impact of The War Tapes, a documentary film about the Iraq conflict that incorporated footage shot by soldiers on the front line.


A Lion in the House: A Content-Centered Outreach Strategy for Public Broadcasting

This case study by Center Research Fellow Barbara Abrash explores the origins and trajectory of A Lion in the House