Next month, ADC is proud to host ‘Art. Storytelling. Impact’, a collaborative exhibition with ADC Global partner Shutterstock and Chicken & Egg Pictures, whose mission has been to champion women filmmakers. We’ve invited ADC Members to submit proposals to receive $1000 grants to work alongside these filmmakers in creating art installations in our New York Gallery. As we approach the final deadline for proposals — as well as the organization’s tenth anniversary — we caught up with Chicken & Egg Picture’s Executive Director Jenni Wolfson to chat about her organization, the project and the films involved.
Congratulations on Chicken & Egg Picture’s upcoming tenth anniversary! How has the organization changed over the years? How has the film industry that it supports changed, especially as it pertains to female artists and creators?
The essence of Chicken & Egg Pictures has remained steadfast since its inception in 2005: to support women non-fiction filmmakers whose artful and innovative storytelling catalyzes social change. Chicken & Egg Pictures was created in response to a real gap for women directors in the opportunities they had to find funding for their films, complete those films in a way that was true to their vision, and to really launch those films into the world in a meaningful way.
As Chicken & Egg Pictures put itself on the documentary map, the number of applications to receive the funding and creative support that we offer has increased to hundreds of applications a year. There are definitely more filmmakers out there as the barrier to entry to making a film has lowered. While we can only support a small number of these women — around 25 new projects a year — we do so with much higher grants than we used to give, and a much more tailored workshop approach. Chicken & Egg Pictures wants to really fast track these women to complete their films in a sustainable way and ensure that it has the biggest potential to create real change for the issues they are addressing.
We are definitely seeing more parity in the documentary world, but it’s still way off from being equal.
You have a strong background in combining the arts and humanitarian causes. What is it about those seemingly disparate fields that moves you so?
I started off my career with the United Nations, investigating human rights abuses on the ground in countries like Rwanda and Haiti, and later with UNICEF protecting children impacted by wars and natural disasters. Most people will never have that experience of witnessing injustice up close. Over the years, I have come to see how the arts can bring people the closest. Whether it’s film, theatre, or photography, the arts have a unique opportunity to help people understand and empathize, and connect our humanity. Visual stories can do so many things: inspire, inform, outrage, engage—so much. Just look at what happened last week when the world saw the harrowing photograph of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy lying dead on a beach. I cried when I saw that photograph. That one photograph sparked international outcry, even though the Syrian crisis has been ongoing for years.
More and more, people are beginning to see the real value and power behind the arts and storytelling to change how we see and respond to the world.
“Whether it’s film, theatre, or photography, the arts have a unique opportunity to help people understand and empathize, and connect our humanity.”
‘Art. Storytelling. Impact’ will bring films off of the screen and into a new, immersive experience here at the ADC Gallery. How did this idea come about?
We’re thrilled about this interactive installation. It came about in a conversation with friends of ours at Shutterstock who are also supporting our 10th Anniversary event where the exhibit will launch. As I said, art in all forms is intended to move audiences, challenge us, and inspire us; we wanted to find a more intimate and really tangible way to draw people into the world of non-fiction stories and the powerful issues they portray. We think this immersive exhibit is an exciting and immediate way to do that.
“…we wanted to find a more intimate and really tangible way to draw people into the world of non-fiction stories and the powerful issues they portray.”
What can you tell us about each of the five films and filmmakers being used in this installation and exhibition?
Over the last ten years, Chicken & Egg Pictures has supported over 190 films with grants, creative support and direct mentorship. These five films represent the range of things we look for when deciding which filmmakers and projects to support. We curate films that expose injustices and have a lot of potential to create social change. We look to identify new voices and storytellers, believing that it’s not just the stories that we tell that are important, but who tells them. So making sure that our filmmakers represent the richness of the world we live in, whether that means race, class, ethnicity, geography, physical ability, age, or sexual orientation is important to us.
The five films in this installation explore very different stories:
- Brooklyn Castle follows five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line junior high school in Brooklyn that has won more national championships than any other in the country.
- Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars is an inspirational story about a young Iranian woman who defies the norm and dreams of becoming an astronaut despite the threats to her life.
- Vessel tells the story of a woman who sails a ship around the world, providing abortions at sea for women with no legal or safe alternative
- Thank You For Playing is an emotional story about a family whose toddler son is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the father creates an unusual video game to honor their son’s life.
- Semper Fi, Always Faithful, exposes the life-threatening illnesses that veterans and their families got from polluted drinking water at a military base in North Carolina. This film led President Obama to sign a piece of legislation that provided health care benefits to these families; that bill was signed into law in the presence of the filmmaker and the film’s main subject.
This installation offers a very unique opportunity for ADC Members to create something with filmmakers. From your side of things, how are you envisioning this collaborative process?
We see this exhibit and the experience as an opportunity to reach beyond the documentary film community, to connect and unite artists and storytellers of all backgrounds and talents. We hope that art directors and designers will not only inspire with their installations, but will also be inspired by working with documentary directors. And we hope that this will be the case for the filmmakers as well. The finalists will have been selected based on their ability to show they can artfully bring alive these challenging and sensitive topics in a nuanced and respectful way. Then we are leaving the creative process entirely up to the creatives! We are introducing them to the filmmaker whose film they will bring to life, and it will be up to them to work out how best to collaborate.
The ultimate goal is to use art and the power of story to shine a light on today’s most pressing social issues.
The final deadline to submit proposals for one of five $1000 grants to create an art installation based on these five films is this Monday, September 14. Proposal submissions are free for all current ADC Members.
Tags: Chicken & Egg Pictures