This week, we’re excited to have a guest who wears multiple hats in the impact film space. Michael Kuehnert. He’s directed films, but these past few years, he’s been working with a terrific distributor in the space, and works closely with filmmakers on their impact campaigns.
1. So you are one of the courageous, a creative talent who is working in a more traditional career, but then transitioned to filmmaking. Tell us about this decision, and how you came to your first production.
2. The film did well in fests and found distribution, not always easy with a short film. After this chapter in your career, how did you end up working with The Video Project…and tell our listeners more about the company.
3. I know you’ve brought a number of social impact films into their fold, including one I worked on – The Milky Way. But it seems you have expanded your role beyond mere acquisitons to actually supporting Impact Campiagns…helping filmmakers put their films into action. Tell us more about this process for you and The Video Project.
4. I had a chance to show Straws in the South Bay, and I know that had big goals for the film. Can you elaborate on this and share more about Straws, as a case study – as an Impact Campaign? Plastic Pollution as partner.
5. Action plan, don’t wait until film is finished - For all the filmmakers and changemakers listening, what advise can you share about strategies or tips to consider before they embark on one of these projects – where the film is an active tool for change.
Give us two movie picks, of films that have impacted you over the years, perhaps one classic and one newer film.
Michael Kuehnert Bio
Michael is the Director of Acquisitions and Sales for The Video Project, a documentary distributor based in San Francisco. He leads the team’s efforts to acquire high quality environmental and social cause documentaries, and administers impact campaigns that focus on funded outreach and engagement. He is also responsible for direct U.S. Broadcast Sales and digital sales.
His award-winning documentary SAVE THE FARM is about activist’s 11th hour attempt to save the largest urban farm in America. The film appeared on Netflix, The Doc Channel, and features Daryl Hannah, Alicia Silverstone and Amy Smart.
He co-produced the award-winning ROCK THE BOAT, a feature documentary about one man’s quest lead a kayak expedition down the Los Angeles River to successfully save its Clean Water Act Protection.
Michael is also the co-founder and Executive Producer of Shanti Generation, a leader in teen yoga and mindfulness content creation.
Prior to entering the film business, Michael enjoyed a successful career as a finance & sales professional in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
This week, we’re excited to have filmmaker Mike Espositio join us, sharing his words of wisdom on social impact filmmaking, as he and his team prepare to bring their Award winning documentary – The Rebound – into the world.
1. So give us some background on the origins of The Rebound, and how you came to the project?
2. Did you know from the early development stage that there would be a grassroots movement around the film? And tell us about the speakers and workshops.
3. Of course, I had the pleasure of inviting you to screen at the Naples Intl FF, where you won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. What a treat to see packed screenings and such an amazing response. Share some insights and highlights from your Festival run. You clearly continued to pick up momentum along the way.
4. Now that you are in the Distribution stage, navigating the best release strategy, what are your goals for the film itself?
And how does the “movement” overlap? Educational and tool kits?
5. When and where can audiences see the film?
Now it’s your turn to give us 2 movie picks!
Mike Esposito Bio
An award-winning producer and cinematographer as well, with a background in marketing and digital media, focused on creating effective and impactful media. Graduate of James Madison University’s College of Business, Mike helped in-house growing two startups, and worked on CBS Sports.com's marketing team on campaigns like the record-breaking live stream of Super Bowl XLVII. He is the Co-founder of Shaina Koren Cinematography and the lead Producer of THE REBOUND.
"Ideas + Empathy = impact" is the motto for The Nation of Artists. We sat down with the Founder and CEO of this innovative company, Elliot Kotek, to learn more about how they work with a broad range of parters to leverage the power of story to create change.
1. Love the line from your website "Ideas + Empathy = impact". It seems like this social impact space continues to expand and you are connecting a lot of dots - storytelling, innovation . Tell us more about Nation of Artists what sounds like a very unique model
2. With all the new ideas around branded content, can you share a few examples of how "Brands are using stories" and content to do good in the world? And how you've worked with them.
3. We did some work together back when you were publishing Moving Pictures. The "content" universe has certainly changed. Can you give us an example of how content is integrated into your work...Journalism with Beyond, and AFCI?
4. Back in 2000, we had short films online, as that was all the bandwidth could handle. iFILM and Atom bet on convergence, but they were too far ahead of the curve. Now we have hundreds of streaming platforms, with movies (longform) but a youth culture more interested in shorter form, and new forms of video storytelling. How do you see short form content exhibition evolving over the next few years. Content on the go, vs binge watching
5. I see this double edged sword for this expanded interest the in social impact space. Do you think it will continue to escalate until its just the new normal...or do you think it's just a combo of creative filmmakers, lower barrier to entry and sign of people trying to connect to the world around them in uneasy times?
Elliot Kotek Bio:
Elliot Kotek is the CEO & founder of The Nation of Artists, founder of Beyond Cinema and co-founded Not Impossible. He believes in the power of content and campaigns to change the world and takes pride in building collaborative teams around ideas that deliver real impact to real people in real need. The producer of groundbreaking projects like 140 and Project Daniel, Don's Voice and Queen Mimi, Elliot directs & produces brand-funded docs and VR for Qualcomm, Intel, HP, Sony, Hyundai, LEGO Education, California Almonds, Aflac, Accenture, Participant Media etc and his docs and docu-series have been shown at the Consumer Electronics Show, the United Nations Foundation and achieved distribution through National Geographic, FastCompany, Upworthy & GOOD magazine, Facebook Watch, Amazon and Netflix.
Lucky to have been honored with some of the big stuff - 2x SxSW Innovation Awards, 3x Cannes Lions (Titanium, Gold & Bronze), 5x Silver Tellys, 3x One Show Pencils, 3 Maggies, 2 AICP Awards, archiving at MoMA, Webby Award honors,NYU/Tisch Craft Award, the 2016 Innovation Fellowship at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, TEDMED Hive selection, Nominet Trust 100 List, he has spoken at the United Nations, US Institute of Peace, US Chamber of Commerce, SxSW, NxNE, Social Innovation Summit, Social Impact Week, Anderson School of Business, Techweek, Philanthropy Summit, DOHA Goals, Global Marathon et al.
A leading mind on purposeful content, technology for good, innovating for humanity, storytelling for social impact, Elliot hosted the 2018 SxSW Innovation Awards & sits on the board of directors of The Giving Back Fund.
We’re excited to dive into film production today with a successful, and very prolific, film producer - Gill Holland.
1. You wear a lot of hats, and are continue to be very respected both the film and music worlds. Tell us more about your workflow, and how your film and music roles intersect.
2. You've managed to have a successful career, living on the indie side of Hollywood, before we jump into your current work, give us a few highlights from projects over the years. A story or two, lessons learned (emerging filmmakers want to learn from these podcasts)
3. So you have two films that have been playing the fest circuit, that will soon be seen by audiences, on their platform or choice I assume. 7 Splinters in Time is one of them. Tell us more about this project and how/when our listeners can see it?
4. Beauty Mark is another film of yours recently acquired for distribution. Give us some background on how you got involved in that project.
5. Since this is clearly in the Cause Cinema space, and knowing it is based on a true story, was there a mission to just share this important story, or was there an intention to create a call to action or movement?
Any final thoughts or tips for our aspiring listeners out there. Words of wisdom we can't read in a book about this crazy business?
And how about your film picks?
Gill Holland Bio
Spirit Award nominee for Producer of the Year, Gill Holland has worked on over 100 films, including producing “HURRICANE STREETS”, the first film ever to win three prizes at Sundance. Other Sundance faves include FLOW: For Love of Water, which I supported over at Cause Cinema fyi, SPRING FORWARD, LOGGERHEADS, IT FELT LIKE LOVE and LOOK AND SEE: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.
He worked on SXSW-winners MAIDENTRIP and MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND, Emmy-nominated DEAR JESSE and FOX TV hit GREG THE BUNNY. Other award-winners include SWEETLAND, WHERE HOPE GROWS, and AN HONEST LIAR. He runs sonaBLAST!, a music label and publisher with over 2,000 songs from acts like Ben Sollee and soundtracks from films like 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME, BEAUTY MARK, and the upcoming 2018 Cannes Film Festival competition selection YOMEDDINE. He is deeply involved in Louisville’s civic, political, and cultural life.
You can find Gill via http://www.sonablast.com/
We’re excited to continue our exploration of distribution – in this modern digital world,
And we’re pleased to be joined by the Head of Global Sales & Licensing at Filmhub
1. Tells us more about Film Hub and your mission as a company.
2. How does the revenue stream work, for filmmakers?
3. Are you active in the Acquisition space, or do most films come to you?
4. What if a filmmaker wants Netflix and/or iTunes, do you submit everything or essentially curate what you believe they will want?
5. Would you say overall, this is a very exciting time for independent filmmakers, with so many distribution outlets, Or that we need to narrow the Platform playing field, and/or support more curation tools?
Final Tip for Filmmakers?
Two Film picks?
Roger Jackson Bio
Roger Jackson is Head of Global Sales & Licensing at Filmhub, the cloud-based marketplace for film & TV content owners to easily distribute and monetize their content across hundreds of global VOD platforms. Filmhub pioneered direct digital distribution of film, TV to on-demand and OTT platforms globally, including fast-growing markets in China, India, Latin-America & Africa.
Recognized as an innovator, expert & speaker on global sales & distribution of video-on-demand (VOD), Over-the-Top (OTT) media and IPTV. He was Vice President, Content for VOD startup iFilm.com (sold to MTV Networks for $49 million) and Executive Producer for on-demand documentary channel Explore.org.
Produced conflict-zone documentaries in Darfur, Jordan, Palestine, Bangladesh and Nepal, a reality series for VH1 and one rather bad movie for Fox TV. Prior to starting Filmhub, he spent a year managing education & humanitarian aid projects for an NGO in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Mauritania. A graduate of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and the University of Southampton (Politics & Law) in the United Kingdom.
We’re excited to dig into film Distribution today, and pleased to be joined by Richard Castro (COO & VP, Distribution & Acquisitions) of Cinema Libre, a leader in the social impact space.
1. Tells us more about Cinema Libre and your mission as a company, and your emphasis on these social issue projects.
2. Please share title or two, you have represented over the years, and a sample model of your work with that project. For example, you see a movie at a film festival (or submission) and choose to acquire it. What the process from there?
Any newer projects that are in current release, or coming soon, we should know about?
3. With all the new distribution models, how much of your business today is driven by theatrical release vs all the digital platforms?
4. Would you say overall, this is a very exciting time for independent film, and social impact filmmaking? Or that system is broken and many more changes are coming that will give more structure to distribution models?
5. You do have a production division. Do you have targets for how many films you want to make each year? Budget range? Do you consider unsolicited projects?
Tips for filmmakers to keep in mind?
Richard gives us his 2 movie picks!
Richard Castro Bio:
Richard joined Cinema Libre Studio in 2004, less than a year after the launch of the company. Initially leading outreach efforts on films like Outfoxed and The Future of Food, he eventually took over domestic theatrical distribution responsibilities for over thirty of the studio's releases, including Betty Blue: the Director's Cut, The End of Poverty?, South of the Border. In his current role, he oversees distribution and acquisitions while managing day-to-day operations of the company. Prior to joining Cinema Libre, Richard worked in production at Lorimar Television and in the domestic distribution and international marketing divisions of 20th Century Fox and Fox Video, respectively.
To learn more about Cinema Libre, click here.
Q1 – What made you decide to move into filmmaking? And at what point did you know you wanted to make social impact movies?
Q2 - Of course, I met you when you were touring Running for Jim – a terrific movie that did very well on the festival circuit. Was that your first movie, and tell us how that movie came to be?
Q3 - What were some of the key things you learned on your first project that you knew you would do differently on the next one? And maybe something you learned with be repeated, or similar elements you would continue with in next film.
Q4 - At what point, and was it during the Running for Jim process, did you come up with the idea for Code? And share the goals for the project and what it has meant for you and the community you were trying to impact.
Where can audiences find Code…and Running for Jim?
Q5 – Tell us about your next project? Bias? Almost sounds like a sister project to Code?
“I hope to inspire change in how women and girls see themselves in the industry,” Reynolds told the audience, “I hope to inspire change in startup culture so they become more welcoming and inviting to women.” it can be and make amazing things, we have to bring everybody into this.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/tribeca-2015-code-debugging-gender-790255
Robin Hauser Bio
Robin is the director and producer of cause-based documentary films at Finish Line Features, Inc. and Unleashed Productions, Inc. Robin’s most recent award-winning film, CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2015, and has caught the attention of the international tech industry and of policy makers in Washington, DC and abroad. Robin is currently directing and producing Bias, a documentary about unconscious bias and how it affects the ways we hire, promote and fund. Previously, Robin co-directed and produced the documentary feature, Running for Jim, which won 14 awards at 20 film festivals.
She has spoken about the importance of increased diversity in computer programming and on behalf of women’s rights at Watermark, Conference for Women, Mobile World Congress, SXSW Interactive, AT&T Foundry FutureCast, Dell Women Entrepreneur Network and Women 2.0. As Director of CODE, Robin has been featured in national publications: USA Today, Wired, Forbes, Fortune, The New Yorker, just to name a few. Robin is recipient of the 2016 National Political Women’s Caucus President’s Award.
We’re thrilled to be able to explore Creative Activism today, on many levels, and pleased to have the Founder of Creative Visions, Kathy Eldon join us.
1. How did the seed of an idea for a production company to “make movies that matter” evolve to the broader organization that is Creative Visions today?
2. You have amazing "Programs" with Rock Your World, the Fiscal Sponsorship Program and your Creative Activist Program, can you share an overview of each?
3. On the Production side, you were able to make The Journey is the Destination, with a terrific team and cast. Can you tell us more about production and ultimately the release of the film?
4. Yet another amazing aspect of Creative Visions is bringing people together through Events. Tell us more about the Spark Change Summit that you are doing with the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment?
5. You have wonderful space that serves as a connection point, and often have open meetings, mixers, happy hours, and mentorship, internship and volunteer programs. How do our listeners connect with Creative Visions?
Filmmaking for Change had an opportunity to connect with Gruvi.tv Founder & CEO, Ben Johnson. They are a full stack media agency, using innovative approaches to help companies and filmmakers find their audience.
A true outlier, Chris Brown is quite the accomplished filmmaker, having directed award winning narratives and documentaries. He has recently released his latest gem, The Other Kids. As you will hear during our conversation, Chris wanted to create his own model, borrowing elements from both genres, creating a hybrid all his own.
Fortunately for us, the subject is High School, and the kids are real heroes, as Chris applies his new approach in the cause cinema space.
Here are the conversation points:
For more information on The Other Kids, visit:
This is a very exciting time for social impact cinema, as a low barrier to entry combines with an increase in public interest for Cause Cinema.