EBW: When did New Day Films launch and why?
AB: New Day Films initially formed because the women’s movement had arrived and a group of independent filmmakers couldn’t find distribution for their feminist films. New Day Films sustains the ideas that inspired its formation in 1971 – collaboration, hope, and social change.
“We met at the 1971 Flaherty Seminar, where some of our films were programmed,” recalled founding member Amalie Rothschild. “I was in production with It Happens to Us. I’d been trying to get distribution for Woo Who? May Wilson. I’d take it to non-theatrical distribution companies, and they’d say ‘It’s wonderful, dear, we really like it. But there’s no audience…’ ”.
“The whole idea of distribution,” explained Julia Reichert, “was to help the women’s movement grow. Films could do that; they could get the ideas out. We could watch the women’s movement spread across the country just by who was ordering our films. First, it was Cambridge and Berkeley. I remember the first showing in the deep South.”
“When I first met them,” Liane Brandon explains, “I’d been inundated with requests to show Anything You Want To Be. I’d been running back and forth to the Post Office, making myself crazy. Other distributors wanted my film, but the most they would offer was a two-year contract, as they were sure the women’s movement wouldn’t last any longer than that. Because I’d been active in women’s groups since 1969, I knew there was a huge demand, but most distributors didn’t, so they offered bad deals, or they wanted to ghettoize the films. When I first talked with Jim and Julia and Amalie, I thought ‘Ah-hah! Someone else who’s experiencing the same things I am. Much has changed in media distribution since 1971 when the early members were selling 16 mm film prints! But the commitment to quality content and cutting edge distribution remains.”
EBW: Explain to our readers what New Day Films does. What are your primary goals and projects?
AB: New Day Films is a filmmaker-run distribution co-operative, providing social issue documentaries to educators since 1971. Our primary goals are to illuminate, challenge and inspire educators, students and members of our society on timely issues that pertain to our health, education, environment, welfare and wellbeing as individuals and as a nation. Today our reach has grown to include organizations worldwide. Throughout the year, we perform tasks, communicate on-line about major issues and meet regionally to select new films. New Day’s film collection grows every year with new acquisitions from award-winning filmmakers and is curated by members of the co-op. To ensure transparent communication and efficient fulfillment, New Day enlists professional partners to support our operations.
EBW: What makes New Day Films stand out or what is it that makes New Day Films different?
AB: Since its formation in 1971, New Day Films operates as a collective and run democratically by more than 100 filmmaker members. The management team is elected from the membership, and every member plays a significant role in operations. We have no brick and mortar footprint which enables the co-op to have a broader reach with little overhead.
Once a year, all New Day members gather from across the United States for a four-day conference to democratically make decisions about our business and to elect the Steering Committee, New Day’s management team. In addition to marketing our individual films, all active members volunteer time to run the business, from acquisition to promotion, the website to finance.
EBW: Are there new projects or resources from New Day Films that you would like to share with our NAMLE members?
AB: New Day Films dedicates itself to providing cutting-edge content to educators and organizations in all areas of study. Our most recent acquisitions examine and explore subjects such as PTSD, transgender issues, clean energy, cross-dressing, disadvantaged fathers in the inner city, history and nostalgia in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Native American combat soldiers, the connection between language and collective memory, aging and disability, community activists of color using land trusts to shape the future, and traumatic brain injury. See full collection at www.newday.com
EBW: How does the work of New Day Films connect to media literacy?
AB: In addition to targeting youth, New Day Films collection serves to inform and support literacy at all levels of our society – immigrants, non-native English speakers, the medical and disabilities community, the environmental community, politicians, minorities, gender related organizations – communities and organizations that are served by and represented in the media. New Day recognizes that quality teaching and engaging content is crucial for understanding the pervasive and important role that media plays in our society, and our organization is equipped to examine that role.
Our collection includes influential films about the quest for social justice and the activists who champion human rights. Investigating global concerns such as women’s studies, men’s studies, gender & sexuality, political science, the arts, and gay rights, these films, along with the entire New Day collection, challenge stereotypes while illuminating social issues and will inspire students and educators to get involved.
EBW: Why is media literacy important to you?
AB: The accurate representation of groups and communities and coverage of issues in the media is crucial to our understanding of ourselves and our society. Individual voices and different perspectives assist in helping students and society to analyze media and the message. From “alternative facts” to “fake news” it is imperative that students learn to listen and examine media from all sources. We aim for students and members of our society to be more responsible media consumers – and media producers – as they engage and contribute to a civil society.