We select new projects very carefully; some are collaborations with funders and other partners, some we hatch on our own. We’re platform agnostic, which means that we consider questions common to all story-based media, no matter where they’re seen or how they’re told. But there’s one thing they all have in common: they help the field learn more about the roles that stories can play in 21st century social justice movements. Here’s a sampling of what’s to come:
What does the future look like for public libraries, schools, media, parks, and other anchors of the American “commons”? Are there limits to privatization, and, if so, who will decide? How can we, as people who depend on free access to education, information, recreation, etc., take meaningful action to protect and improve these institutions – for all of us?
Active Voice Lab presents The Future of Public (TFP), a creative, story-fueled initiative designed to bring people together to learn about the consequences of public disinvestment on all levels. We hope to launch TFP with new films like Backpack Full of Cash (about vouchers, privately managed charter schools that operate with little public oversight, and cyber ed), Time for Change (about one community’s fight against top-down school closings), Free for All (the astonishing and precarious role of public libraries today), and Love & Taxes (an “exuberant free-form comic-neurotic psychodrama” – Variety).
The Future of Public won’t pretend that these institutions have ever served all Americans equally. Rather, with wide input and a critical eye, we’ll facilitate an urgent, long overdue reckoning: At a time when Americans’ satisfaction with public institutions has been steadily dropping, as our economic gaps widen, and with political leadership eyeing the privatization of everything from veterans services to air traffic control, where do we go from here?
What Would It Take?
A documentary maker seemed excited about an evaluation that Active Voice Lab had designed to assess how well her film was advancing her partners’ aims. So we were surprised when she called to express her reservations the week before we were to begin a series of qualitative methods. “Think of it this way,” she asked. “Why should I be the only one to air the dirty laundry about what didn’t work with my project? Most filmmakers only share how successful they were, because they want to get funded again. Well, I do too.” This research identifies how we might create an environment where what didn’t work — as well as our success stories — can be insightfully shared.
Photo credit: Image from the upcoming documentary, Free for All: Inside the Public Library by Serendipity Films. Nicki Jones teaches an exercise class at the Kansas City Public Library.