Lights, Camera, Take Action!
Thank to you everyone who attended and contributed! Below are the remarks made by our CEO, Chad Johnston, at the event.
The new vision we launched last year is that San Jose is a city where there are no barriers to self-expression through community media. That’s a lofty goal, but we believe it can be possible.
Every day, we get closer by building new connections, being intentional about equity, and focusing on the importance of story, not only the product, but the transformational process of learning to tell a story.
We recognize that in order to remove any perceived or real barriers, we need to focus on building relationships in a new way. We’ve shed our preconceived notions of what the community might need or want from CreaTV, and instead, spent time listening and responding. We also understand that making new and meaningful connections takes time.
We’re not expecting immediate returns…we’re making an investment in our community that will have measurable impact over time.
In the late 70’s when public access TV was created alongside the birth of cable, the notion was an electronic greenspace, a public communications commons, was important to the fundamentals of our democracy. Localism and diversity in the media was crucial to civic and social participation or engagement, and because at that time, very few had access to video cameras and a media outlet, access TV was a unique venue for community and discourse and technology. And because of that time period and the tech available, we ended up with a best practice or a motto in access: first come, first served, first amendment.
But as we look to today’s media landscape, the act of “being in the media” or having access to technology is different.
If the act of being in the media isn’t the impact, what is?
We have learned how to make impact because we started asking why.
As we set out on this new strategy, we shifted around staffing, creating a few new positions that were not necessarily technical, but more like community organizers, who’s focus would be on building authentic relationships to help inform our relevancy. We also made sure that we didn’t lose anything we were already doing well. We produce media for hundreds of nonprofits a year on a sliding scale, we help our city and county cover and distribute their meetings keeping our community informed, and we help anyone and everyone that walks through these doors create media about whatever they please. And we’re the only media outlet to produce an in depth look into the politicians, thought leaders, and civically engaged through Silicon Valley Politics with Terri Christensen. But we looked deeper and started to pivot and change as others have informed our strategy.
In this first year of our new vision, we looked at our summer camp. For many years we ran a successful media camp for teens where youth paid for one or two weeks to learn how to make a talk show, a short movie or a documentary, and it made a difference in the lives of the teens who could afford to pay, no doubt, but we thought we could do more. So, we reached out to the Work2Future Foundation and asked them about their SJ Works program where they help SJ youth find paid internships for the summer. Turns out, finding quality internships, particularly in media and entertainment, is one of their biggest challenges.
So this summer, thanks to the Davidson Family Foundation and The Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, we will launch the Summer Doc Institute. Employing 10 youth for 6 weeks to learn all of the hard and soft skills of telling a story about an issue that is important to youth.
Albert Sykes, from the Young People’s Project said,
“There are no voiceless people, there are only people who haven’t been heard yet.”
So, we’re looking at the media landscape and honing in on who isn’t represented or participating in media. First come, first served isn’t an effective way to promote diversity and localism in the media landscape, so we’re taking an equity approach, with the intention to design opportunities alongside those communities.
In conversation with the County of Santa Clara Office of GBLTQ Affairs, and with the help of Heritage Bank of Commerce and the Applied Materials Foundation, this fall we will launch a new program called DocuMentorMe, a 12 week documentary mentorship program, working with members of the GBLTQ community, particularly from low income and communities of color, tell their story.
Our approach though, is a little more nuanced than just creating new documentaries.
We want to use the process of learning to tell a story as a tool for community empowerment.
We believe, I believe, this process shifts a person’s position, it creates a shift in power.
When you learn to tell a story, your story, you have power over every pundit or newscaster or script writer that ever got it wrong, and that’s a powerful shift in a person. So regardless of if that individual becomes a professional filmmaker, it provides them with a new vision of the world around them.
The other opportunity we see in this vision is this space. We have a physical, tangible, accessible space and we are activating it in creative and innovative ways. We’re building authentic, meaningful relationships, and facilitating connections and conversations in this space like we never have before.
This space belongs to our beloved community. And we’re excited and surprised by what happens when we invite people in.
I met Trami from Chopsticks Alley and we found a lot of commonalities in the work we were doing. We’re both using media and culture as a tool to have challenging conversations and build understanding. But as we talked about each of our visions, suddenly we found ourselves in a conversation about displaying the art of Ally Spray. We’ve never been an art gallery, but suddenly we’re amplifying the voice of this young artist who clearly doesn’t have any barriers to communicating the world she wants to see through her art.
Internally, we’re building a culture of innovation, so that as we’re informed by other’s visions, we can meet them and build together in nimble and unique ways.
To continue these kinds of creative activities, late this summer, pending partial funding via City Council approval through the Office of Cultural Affairs, we will launch CreaTV Presents. Part hyper local media screenings, part discussion series, part DIY workshops, with a common theme each month, we will convene San Jose community members to co-curate a conversation and provide a venue to help San Jose understand who San Jose is, and who it wants to be.
What we’re doing here, in my opinion, is audacious. We’re not just making impactful media. We’re not just empowering youth and communities who’s stories aren’t heard. We’re not just building community. We’re using our truly unique set of skills and resources to create a more just and equitable world. We’re helping people of all ages imagine themselves stepping into that world—without the bonds of labels and barriers. A world where voice and creativity can make change.
I think Adrienne Maree Brown, in her book Emergent Strategy, sums up what happens when we work together to imagine a different world…
“We have to imagine beyond our fears. We have to ideate – imagine and conceive – together.
We have to imagine new worlds that transcends ideologies and norms…that sees all of us as potential cultural and economic innovators. This is a time-travel exercise for the heart. This is a collaborative ideation – what are the ideas that will liberate all of us?”
I look forward to imagining and conceiving with you…and know that we can’t do this with you, and your support for this unique organization, at this exceptional period in time. There is so much more to come…
Special thanks to our Activity Sponsor
Dan produces Phobophobia for Community Channel 15, which airs Saturdays at Midnight