Media for Change Conference

Media for Change Conference

Patty Loew is a professor in the Department of Life Science Communication and affiliated with American Indian Studies, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies program.

Date Posted: 
2011-08-25 00:00

Blog Series:


My head was swimming with ideas as I left the Media for Change Conference. As a college professor and a documentary producer for Wisconsin Public Television, I straddle both an academic world, where I try to grow the next generation of digital storytellers, and a professional sphere, where I coax funders to bankroll worthy projects—most of them dealing with Native topics.

In the morning session, where educators and media makers met separately, I wasn’t sure which group I’d be assigned to, but ended up with the educators. We had an engaging conversation about core standards and how to market Vision Maker Media-funded films to teachers for use in classroom discussions. As the author of a fifth-grade social studies textbook, Native People of Wisconsin, I shared information about the rubric developed for my book by the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Office of School Services. The OSS designed curriculum around the book which met our state’s core standards. In this way, teachers can prepare students for standardized tests using the book without feeling like the material was politically correct “extra” work. I learned that my colleagues are dealing with the same shrinking library budgets as I am. Joshua Nelson from the University of Oklahoma and Darren Kipp of the Blackfeet Nation adroitly suggested that Vision Maker Media develop  a “subscription” fee for its films, which would help financially strapped educational institutions and promote a wider usage of Vision Maker Media-funded films in the classroom. Brilliant idea, I thought.

The afternoon session brought media makers and educators together for two presentations, the first by Rose Poston of KNME about PBS resources available to educators. Poston gave an engaging presentation, which could have been improved with the use of Native examples. However, it appeared that there may not have been Native examples for her to share. A few of us sitting at the same table went to the site Rose referenced and searched obvious key words: Native, tribal, Indian, etc., and didn’t find many resources. This is a wake-up call to all of us to generate more Native content and pretty good evidence that we need to have conferences like Media for Change.

The second presentation, by Molly Murphy of Working Films, was really, really valuable to me. Murphy talked about The Fledgling Fund and Working Films, two entities I had heard of, but didn’t know much about their focus. Turns out these two groups could be an ideal resource for the kinds of films I produce—films that advocate for social change. I’ve always been drawn to personal stories that speak to larger themes or social problems. I want to make documentaries that move viewers to action. I want my students to see the power in film. These are the kinds of projects the Fledgling Fund and Working Films want to fund. So, I’ve got a new buoy out there that maybe I can attach to some of the better documentary ideas floating around in my head. The final activity was a breakout session in which small groups of educators and media makers brainstormed about how we could help each other and generate more buzz about media projects involving Native people. We also talked about developing Native projects that reflect the cultural diversity of our tribes, yet still speak to universal themes. Although it wasn’t technically part of the conference, the ImagiNative Film Festival Friday night was fabulous! The festival featured seven short films produced by First Nations producers in Canada. The director of The Cave, delivered a short talk and Q & A after the film, which was hilarious. I enjoyed everything about my day in Santa Fe, including the spectacular thunderstorm that knocked out power to a substantial portion of the city, including our hotel.

Thanks Vision Maker Media!!!

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