film production + social action

Archive for October, 2011

Featured Project: Deaf Jam

What happens when slam poetry meets sign language? The result is an incredibly moving performance by two teens, one deaf and one hearing, as captured in the documentary Deaf Jam. On Thursday November 3rd, Judy Lieff’s documentary story on American Sign Language (ASL) poetry, Deaf Jam,  will premiere on PBS, and I highly recommend you watch it.

The film follows Aneta Brodski, a deaf teen in New York, as she is introduced to ASL Poetry and then boldly enters the spoken word slam scene. In a wondrous twist, Aneta  meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two women embark on a collaboration/performance duet – creating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf. The film shows how these deaf high school students grapple with being deaf and loving themselves and their friends as they are, and wanting to be a part of the hearing world. The poetry is expressive and moving, and made me wish I understood sign language so I could fully appreciate each poem.

Judy did a brilliant job with the film and we were honored when she came to Righteous Pictures for help with her online campaign. Working with See Creative Design, we gave the website a “facelift” by reorganizing the information and flow, creating a style guide so all the colors and imagery matched throughout, and built out the “See the Film” and “Get Involved” sections. We also launched and have kicked off the Facebook page, Twitter and blog for Deaf Jam and if you have any interested in sign language, deaf culture, or slam poetry, I encourage you to follow Deaf Jam on one or all of those platforms. We also created a page on VYou so ASL users can submit questions to Aneta or Judy through a video. We hope the film will continue to inspire discussion and that you will join in!

Join us on November 3rd for the broadcast premiere of Deaf Jam on PBS starting November 3rd, or host your own screening of the film.

Get Edutainted: On Edutainment and the Diffusion of new Ideas

Edutainment (yes, it’s a real word): “A form of entertainment designed to educate as well as amuse.” As a child I relied on Nick News with Linda Ellerbee to introduce me to the pressing issues of our time. An 8-year old suburbanite, I took a stand against homelessness and global warming by parading around the house espousing the cause of the day.

Over a decade later this affinity for Nick News, and edutainment more generally, has developed into a life-long love of documentary films. I am drawn to the artistry and creativity of filmmaking to convey meaningful information. Although I don’t always agree with the message, I appreciate the art of storytelling.

But whether leaving the cinema or sitting through the credits of a BBC America doc, a question arises- what now? What would bring a viewer to act after viewing a film? Righteous Pictures solves this problem by combining film production with social action. Being the nerd that I am, I set out to uncover the processes that lead to the diffusion of new ideas.Innovative ideas are anything perceived to be new and Everett Rogers is the godfather of the diffusion of innovations theory. In 1962, Rogers concluded that individuals move through five stages when presented with a new concept: Knowledge, Persuasion, Decision, Implementation, and Confirmation. A key element in diffusion is the communication channel, or the means through which messages are transferred from one individual to another. RP’s blend of filmmaking, new media, and social action is the ideal mechanism to facilitate the diffusion of ideas. Documentary films provide knowledge and persuasion, digital media offers a wealth of new communication channels, and social action programs lead to implementation and confirmation.

The diffusion of innovation follows an S-curve, where ideas take time to gain momentum before reaching a tipping point (see chart). So get on the logistic function: Watch a documentary, contribute to WEB,  attend an event, buy a bracelet, tweet, join a Facebook group… and embrace edutainment. Hopefully the world will be a little better off because of it.

As an internetologist and cinephile, Lauren is thrilled to be part of the RP team. Whether working as a professional dancer or developing programs at New York Presbyterian Hospital to improve health care delivery, Lauren has always been passionate about the arts and social causes. She graduated with two degrees from Cornell University, then journeyed across the pond to study at Oxford University and explore how digital communication impacts society. Her research analyzes the effects of Internet use on wellbeing and she has been invited to present at numerous conferences. As a member of the Oxford Rifle Club, it is unclear whether or not Lauren has become an international spy. However, she continues to explore how ICTs and media can be used to facilitate social change.

Newsletter: October 2011


We have not forgotten about you! It’s been a busy summer with lots of exciting new changes and projects for RP.  FIrst, we have officially relocated to New York City! Second, we’ve hit the ground running in our new hometown:  Our social action team has been working on a range of films and campaigns and our production team has just returned from shooting a new project in Uganda.

Here is  everything RP is working on, and how YOU can get involved:

The Last Survivor We  have begun work on The Last Survivor Classroom Action Project – the educational initiative to complement our first feature length documentary,The Last Survivor. We plan to kick off our outreach to hundreds of classrooms in January 2012. If your school would like to participate, please email us. You can also help by donating; the more we raise, the more schools we can reach.

WEB We are almost done editing our second feature length documentary! And, we want you to be in it. Send us a picture or video that exemplifies the moment you realized the internet and mobile technology has made us a hyperconnected global society.

peaceBOMB Article 22, a sustainable fashion company,  launched a jewelry line made out of  exploded bomb material in Laos. We launched their documentary on YouTube and received 11,000 views in a week! Money from their jewelry goes to the artisans in Laos and local NGOs who are clearing their land of bombs. Get one of their gorgeous bracelets here.

To Catch a Dollar To Catch a Dollar is a Sundance documentary that chronicles the launch of Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus’s unique and revolutionary microfinance program in the United States. Our social action team helped launch this film in theaters in New York and Los Angeles in September, and kicked off their Economic Empowerment community screening and educational tour. Bring the film to your school or community.

Deaf Jam A part of PBS’s ITVS series, Deaf Jam is the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. Our social action team has been running the documentary’s online campaign and website redesign. See the film on PBS on November 3rd. Check your local listings.

Women War & Peace During the summer, our social action team had the honor of working on the online campaign for the PBS series, produced by Abigail Disney. Help us out by liking the Facebook page.

Thank you for your support as our company grows. We have some exciting changes coming up and we look forward to sharing them with you. And, look out for our next email where we will tell you all about why we were in Uganda and the adventures we had…

Our Very Best,
Team Righteous


Becoming Billionaires of Moments

By Renee Mylnaryk

The measure of your success is how many breathtaking moments you create that matter to the world.

Also, that statement is not actually true. Yet.

But it was my favorite insight gleaned from Lakshmi Pratury during last week’s Influencer Conference NYC.

For those of us in the realm of social good, the speakers on stage acknowledged: we craft clear, concise and actionable messages, then talk about success through output numbers and data. Meanwhile, Lakshmi suggested, the most successful influencers among us are “billionaires of moments”, not dollars raised, people served, or even behaviors changed. Because a lightening bolt moment usually precedes each of these eventual results. It might be my new single bottom line. Until more leaders readily recognize this, though, it can’t be collectively, publicly true.

This does sound grandiose; although in practice, when a social campaign or visual storytelling gets breathtaking, it can often be the exact opposite. What blows many of us away is the simple, the unexpected, and the highly specific.

Consider what happened back inside the Influencer Conference room when creative Jonathan Harris went up to speak. He moved to a cabin in Oregon last year and started a new ritual: take one photo each day, write a story about it, and post online before sleeping. After showing us photos of gentle, dying wildlife, he landed on this image (above).

“This one said: split up, but still close together,” Jonathan told us.

For one moment, the quiet crowd grew more silent.

Kind of…breathtaking.

Check out more photos here.

Renee Mylnaryk  joins Righteous Pictures after promoting educational equality as a Volunteer Coordinator at A former painter and publicist with a growing fascination in social enterprise, Renee realized her dual interest in visual storytelling and social change were perfectly merged in documentary film. She now enjoys hunting online for interesting contributions to the WEB film and campaign.

The Good Life?

By Emily Bierwirth

Flipping through radio stations on a drive back from Boston this weekend, there were a few tunes I could not escape — namely “The Good Life” by One Republic. As I listened to the poppy positive messages, I could not help but think about the thousands of protestors currently gathering in cities around the nation and wonder: would they agree with the lyrics from this hit song that has ruled the radio for months?

One thing the protestors partaking in Occupy Wall Street might agree upon is that the supposed “good life” is a luxury only afforded to the top 1% earning Americans. For the other 99%, life comes with struggles to obtain health care, education, and job security. Now, the bottom 99% is speaking out. According to their website, Occupy Wall Street was “Inspired by the popular assemblies of Egypt, Spain, Oaxaca and worldwide, [and] those gathered will work to find a common voice in one clear, unified demand.”

So, what do the protestors demand exactly? This question is precisely the main point of contention in recent media coverage of the event. The movement has been largely criticized by various news stations for its lack of specific demands. Without an obvious goal, the group appears to some unfocused. However, to expect one list of demands misses the point of this gathering entirely. There are thousands of protestors and each has their own list of grievances to voice.

At least one demand is clear: the policies that dictate American life need to change. So, the next time I hear One Republic’s incessant question “Please tell me what there’s to complain about?” I’ll have an answer: a lot. Stay tuned.

Here’s to keeping the atmosphere light in a heavy situation:

Emily Bierwirth is the PR and Marketing Intern for Righteous Pictures. Emily is a documentary film enthusiast and a avid traveler, recently graduated from Colby College where she majored in Anthropology and studied abroad in Argentina. Inspired by the hordes of documentaries she watched throughout her academic career, Emily decided to make a documentary of her own called The Flash Club. This film focused on her creation and execution of a Flash Mob Dance at Colby, and the potential uses of Flash Mobs for social action. Aside from her love of films and exploring the world, Emily has a passion for dancing. Her goal is to turn everyday day life into a musical!