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Creative Vision and Philanthropy

Local nonprofits capture service to community on film
By: Kirsten Read Journal Correspondent
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On Tuesday, eight nonprofits will show their impact in the community through film. Through a project funded by the Placer Community Foundation, these organizations produced short videos capturing an aspect of their services to improve the quality of life in Placer County. These videos will be screened for the public at Sierra College’s Dietrich Theatre starting at 5 p.m. The course for the project, taught by the Documentary Foundation of Sacramento, was designed to help nonprofits tell their story in a different way. Staff members from nonprofits learned the fundamentals of filmmaking: story-telling, camera-work, and editing, then participants chose a story related to their organization, filmed it, and edited the footage into a 3 to 5 minute film with the help of up to $1,000 in grant money. “Videos have become a powerful way to engage people around a cause via on-line social media such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook,” Jessica Hubbard, philanthropic services manager for Placer Community Foundation, said in a news release. “This was one of a series of grants made by the Community Foundation to provide the nonprofit sector with technical assistance aimed to create and share their stories with the public.” Instructors of the course that was held at a business site in Roseville were Christopher Rufo and Keith Ochwat, founders and directors of the Documentary Foundation. Together they have produced films for PBS including “Roughing It: Mongolia,” an adventure travel program, and “Diamond in the Dunes,” a feature documentary about a Muslim baseball team in China’s Wild West. Their latest documentary, “Age of Champions,” recently premiered at the 2011 Silverdocs Film Festival in Washington, D.C. Among the nonprofit organizations scheduled to screen their films is the Placer Community Foundation, who is also funding the project. They are an organization dedicated to building community and philanthropy by “connecting donors who care with causes that matter,” according to their website. The Community Foundation and its donors have invested nearly $3 million in Placer County, supporting a broad range of issues. According to Hubbard, they have captured in film the story of the Mitchell family, who started a scholarship fund in memory of Larry Mitchell, former longtime Auburn resident and executive of HP. Mitchell believed in the power of higher education, so his family came to the Placer Community Foundation to open a scholarship fund to honor his memory, which provides college scholarships to Placer High School and Analy High School students. The Community Foundation’s short film portrays why the family chose to open this fund in memory of their husband and father, and why they came to the Community Foundation to do that. “Video is such a dynamic way to capture people’s attention in a quick and easy manner,” Hubbard said. “It is the primary way people can learn about a local cause online. Through this process, we have learned how to capture an aspect of our organization that is visually appealing.” The Community Foundation is planning on using the skills they have gained for projects to come. “This project is designed so nonprofits can do this work themselves in the future because it’s very costly to get a professional to do it,” Hubbard said. “It’s enabling nonprofits to tell their story in a unique way. They are learning to take one part of all the work they do in the community and capture it on film in a way that engages people in the community to want to learn more.” The Boys and Girls Club of Auburn will be featured as well. They have put to film the story of three VanZandt siblings who have been club members together since first grade, and are now in high school. Their father, who raises them on his own, works at the club. The short film is about how the club has helped them grow and has increased their opportunities, according to Cynthia Woods, Administrative Manager of the club. Woods is thankful for the experience the project has given her, and is looking to use the skills she has gained in the future. “It was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn how to create a short documentary film, which will now give us the opportunity to create films in the future to market our individual programs,” Woods said. “It was a very exciting opportunity and we’re very thankful to the Placer Community Foundation for giving us this chance.” PlacerArts will also be telling a powerful story through film. Their Documentary Foundation project is focused on Roshawnda Betterncourt, a 2008 Oakmont High School graduate now attending Sacramento State who took first place in the 2008 state finals for Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation competition. According to Angela Tahti, executive director at PlacerArts and one of the members of the three person video team formed for the project, their short film was created to let high school students throughout Placer County know about the Poetry Out Loud opportunity. “Roshawnda is a remarkable human being, and an example of how poetry can change lives,” Tahti said. “Her story is very compelling. Poetry Out Loud is a wonderful program and it’s not well known. It can do so much for very little investment.” Tahti also hopes that this project will raise awareness and support of Poetry Out Loud, and will do PlacerArts the service of finding sponsors to support the national competition. “It costs $2,500 to make [Poetry Out Loud] go countywide every year,” Tahti said. “By donating, an organization or individual can help about 1,000 students in Placer County find their way to poetry.” While the PlacerArts film tells a compelling story that hopes to attract attention and support for an excellent program, Tahti realized that this process has been about something greater. “It’s a celebration of the good works of all of the organizations,” Tahti said. “Each of us came away with a product that helps carry our message forward to the community. We got to work in parallel processes and we had a lot of exchange across disciplines among the charities. We gained a deeper understanding of one another’s’ programs, and became a group of individuals that can lean on one another.” Other nonprofit organizations that will show their films are A Touch of Understanding, which provides disability awareness programs, Placer Land Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving open space, The Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), Seniors First, and Sierra College Foundation. To R.S.V.P. to the event, call (530) 885-4920.