Sundance: Stories of Change

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soc-logo-bgStories of Change is a multi-year initiative of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation that brings together the power of independent storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship. Launched in 2007 this year, the initiative is expanding with an additional $2.5 million grant from the Skoll Foundation to include support for narrative filmmakers, new media artists, and continued support for documentary storytelling. In addition to funding the creation of new projects highlighting the work of global change-makers addressing the world’s most pressing problems, the initiative brings together leaders in both independent filmmaking and social entrepreneurship at key gatherings globally, including the Skoll World Forum (SWF), the Sundance Film Festival, and intensive workshops at the Sundance Resort.


Discover the impact of Sundance Institute and Skoll Foundation’s Stories of Change Initiative through the Sparkwise Dashboard


Since the launch of Stories of Change in 2008, the initiative has provided major funding and development support for 13 documentary film projects produced by award-winning filmmakers from around the world.  These films tell the stories of social entrepreneurs and other global change-makers confronting the world’s most pressing problems using innovative a scalable solutions.

In 2015 Sundance Institute and Skoll Foundation established the Stories of Change Content Fund to support a new generation of narrative film and interactive, transmedia, and non-fiction projects. Support for upcoming projects will be by invitation only.

The current slate of Stories of Change films are in various stages of development, production and distribution.

Stories of Change Films

Easy Like Water

Mohammed Rezwan is re-casting rising rivers as channels of communication—and transforming lives along the flood-prone river basins of Bangladesh. Rezwan, an innovative architect and social entrepreneur is building solar, powered floating schools. Replete with Internet connections, they’ve become mobile hubs for hundreds of communities facing the not-so-easy challenge of water taking their land and destroying their livelihoods. Can this soft-spoken inventor overcome both flooding and global indifference? With a concept that is elegant and home-grown, Rezwan is helping his country adapt to the new climate reality—and cultivating the next generation of problem solvers. While some still argue the reality of global warming as a man-made phenomenon, Bakers’ film shows the human face of climate disaster and highlights one simple, affordable adaptation that is changing lives by building a future that floats.


Washington, DC based filmmaker Glenn Baker spent 7 years in South East Asia as an adolescent and developed a life-long connection to the region. “I visited East Pakistan in 1971, at age 12, just two months before the bloody revolution that would rename it Bangladesh” His producing career focused on international affairs (Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria) and his first feature STAND UP: Muslims American Comics Come of Age is a cross-cultural comedy reflecting a post 9/11 nation’s perception of Islam. Baker returned to Bangladesh in 2008 in search of a personal, human story about climate change. Easy Like Water is the result of his commitment to this story: as of November 2011 the film is in post-production. Rezwan’s innovative strategies have expanded to libraries and health care facilities and have been featured on CNN and at the Cooper-Hewitt museums ‘Design with the Other 90%’ exhibit at the United Nations.



Glenn Baker is a filmmaker with more than 40 documentaries broadcast on PBS exploring global security issues. He produced and directed STAND UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age for the PBS series “America at a Crossroads.” His productions on underrepresented groups, the military/media relationship, Cuba, conflict prevention and firearms violence have been recognized with more than a dozen national awards, including a CINE Golden Eagle to “Stand Up” for excellence in broadcast documentary.


Stephen Sapienza is a producer and writer of television programs for national and international distribution. Since 1992, he has produced documentaries for broadcast on PBS covering a wide range of military and global security issues, including the HIV crisis in Haiti, sex workers in the Dominican Republic, child soldiers in Sierra Leone, the Cuban military, and landmine survivors in Cambodia. He currently writes and produces for Azimuth Media’s global affairs TV series Foreign Exchange. He became Co-Director of the non-profit production company Azimuth Media in 2001.

Open Heart

Open Heart is the story of eight Rwandan children who leave their families behind and embark on a life-or-death journey to receive high-risk open-heart surgery in Africa’s only free-of-charge, state-of-the-art cardiac hospital, the Salam Center run by Emergency, an Italian NGO. Their heart valves, damaged and weakened by rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated childhood strep throat, leave them lethargic and weak. Some of the children have only months to live.

During their cross-continental journey, Open Heart reveals the intertwined endeavors of Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza, Rwanda’s lone, overworked public cardiologist, and Dr. Gino Strada, the Salam Center’s head surgeon. As one of Emergency’s founders, he must fight not just for the children’s lives but for the tenuous financial future of the hospital.

There are an estimated 18 million people afflicted with rheumatic heart disease and in need of urgent surgery, almost two thirds of them children, and the disease kills 300,000 people per year. Despite those facts, the Salam Center remains the only facility in Africa capable of such high-standard cardiac surgery, free of charge. Salam is key in Emergency’s plan to treat and reduce heart diseases in an area three times the size of Europe and home to 300 million people. The idea that “the Right to be Cured” should be accessible and free of charge to every member of the “human community,” is part of Emergency’s operating ethos. To accomplish that, the Center serves as a hub for the program for pediatrics and cardiac surgery that Emergency is implementing throughout its own medical facilities and local hospitals across Africa.


Producer Cori Stern has worked with Partners in Health for many years. The team scheduled their first production trip shortly before the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and has been filming the unfolding story of Partners in Health groundbreaking work since.  While filming in Sudan, it became clear that the story unfolding on the ground merited its own film.



Kief recently completed Open Heart, which took him and a small crew to the heart of Rwanda and Sudan. He is concurrently filming a companion film about Dr. Paul Farmer and his organization Partners In Health, executive produced by Matt Damon and Damon Lindelof in collaboration with the Sundance Institute, Skoll Foundation and Tribeca Gucci.

He’s had international success from the award-winning feature-length documentaries, Kassim the Dream and The Devil’s Miner.Kief’s first feature, The Devil’s Miner, made its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival and won over 15 awards at international film festivals.

He began his filmmaking career as editor on the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. He is the recipient of two Emmy nominations for his editing work with National Geographic and earned the International Monitor Award for Best Editing on the journalistic film, What’s News? Kief is a member of the Director’s Guild of America and is based in Los Angeles, California.


Cori Shepherd Stern is a writer and producer, working in both documentary and narrative film. In addition to Open Heart, she is currently producing a feature documentary in collaboration with the Sundance Institute, Skoll Foundation and The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund about the revolutionary health care organization Partners In Health, also directed by Kief Davidson. Her other film projects include the major feature film release Warm Bodies directed by Jonathan Levine for Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate, and The Arizona Project for Miramax.

Beyond film, Cori is known for her work as a social change strategist and as a co-founder of STRONGHEART, an international residential community and accelerated learning lab for exceptional young people from extreme life circumstances across the globe including former child slaves, child soldiers, refugees, and other young survivors of conflict or poverty. The program – which has been called “R&D for brilliance in unlikely places” – combines groundbreaking neuroscience, social and personal change theory, and community psychology to affect significant change and create future influencers and advocates from exceptionally challenging backgrounds.

Cori’s work has been covered by BBC, CNN, NPR, and National Geographic among others. She was named O Magazine’s “Good Guy of the Month” and ABC World News “Person of the Week.”

Poor Consuelo Conquers the World

It all started by accident in 1969, when a Peruvian telenovela character worked her way out of poverty using a sewing machine; and suddenly sewing machines flew off the shelves by the thousands all over Peru. That incident, combined with the social modeling theories of psychologist Albert Bandura, demonstrating the power of fictional media characters to act as role models and influence behaviors of viewers, inspired a brilliant Mexican director named Miguel Sabido to create popular telenovelas designed both to entertain and to address urgent social issues. His first series were huge commercial hits and demonstrably contributed to skyrocketing enrollments in literacy classes and significant declines in population growth rates in heavily overpopulated Mexico. He revised and refined his formula until it became a scientific methodology that soon spread all over the world with success after success, and ultimately helped create an entire field, now known as Entertainment-Education. Sabido essentially created an affordable, exportable model for socially sustainable development, all while creating hit show after hit show. Like Sabido’s work, our documentary Poor Consuelo Conquers the World is both entertaining and solution-oriented in its approach to social change.


Storytelling, connecting with audiences via film and television with a goal of creating lasting social change is a core precept of the Stories of Change project. Poor Consuelo Conquers the World, looks at both historical and contemporary examples of Entertainment-Educational from a global perspective, ranging from Bolivia to Mexico, India to South Africa, and Afghanistan to the US. The focus is on empowering the poor and illiterate multitudes to make beneficial behavior changes that improve their daily lives. As one of the principal creators of this form of storytelling, Miguel Sabido’s innovation was to formalize the age-old notion of telling stories to educate a wide public, and adapt it for mass media in the form of telenovelas. He made it purposely entertaining but with specific aims that were often counter to the prevailing culture, such as a soap-opera addressing family planning at a time when family planning was illegal and even unconstitutional in Mexico. His family planning telenovela, made with the agreement of the government, the Catholic Church, and even the Communist Party, spurred a significant reduction in population growth rates in Mexico and persuaded India’s the-Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi, to invite Sabido to India to oversee the development of India’s first soap-opera, Hum Log. This lead to the creation of the first NGO dedicated to producing social-issue soap operas, PCI-Media Impact, now active in dozens of countries, and dozens of similarly dedicated NGOs/producers world wide including the Center for Media and Health in the Netherlends, the Vermont-based Population Media Council (PMC), Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua, The BBC World Service Trust in India, Search for Common Ground in Palestine and elsewhere, Soul City in South Africa, and many others.



Peter Friedman recently began shooting The Devil is in the Detail: Portrait of an Artist, an in-depth portrait of one of the world’s greatest and least famous artists at work. Friedman is also developing two features, Fatherless: A bipolar tragic-comedy and The Death of Philip Brooks. He has been making documentaries since 1980, when his first short was nominated for an Academy Award. Silverlake Life, in 1993, won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize among many other prizes, and is universally considered among the most important films ever made about AIDS. Death by Design, in 1995, is widely considered a landmark, and significantly influenced the way science is represented on film. Mana-Beyond Belief, (IDFA 2005), co-directed with Roger Manley, is a globally shot visual essay about the power of objects.


R. Paul Miller, now head of the Doha Film Commission in Qatar, produced of Snow Angels (2007), A Love Song for Bobby Long(2003), Prozac Nation (2000), Men with Guns (1998), and Lone Star (1993), as well as an associate producer on The Secret of Roan Inish (1994). In addition, Miller is Head of Production at Escape Pictures.


In 1984 Miguel Sabido, the father of Entertainment-Education (and the hero of Poor Consuelo), was invited by Indira Ghandi to develop and launch India’s first soap opera. Hum Log soared to the top of entertainment charts and drew a regular viewing audience of more than 50 million people. It also began to change family planning attitudes and practices thoughout India. The New York based NGO PCI-Media Impact was born, and to this day continues producing radio and television programs to promote family planning and many, many other issues in dozens of countries throughout the world.

During one of these programs a young character, Shandi, asked a question on the radio drama Taru that echoed throughout Bihar, India: Why don’t I have a birthday? See, little girls in Bihar didn’t celebrate their birthdays. Only boys did. Over the course of a few weeks, Shandi, aided by a social worker, Taru, planned and hosted her birthday party. Soon after the broadcasts, girls throughout Bihar began to celebrate their birthdays.

But the change didn’t stop there. Birthdays were symbolic of other inequalities – who went to school, who ate first, who received the best medical care. These things started changing too. An entire village decided it was time for all little girls to receive an education, so that year little girls got to go with their brothers to school.

Each of our 100 programs has a Shandi, someone who asks the seemingly simple question that transforms a society. These stories have reached 1 billion people in 34 countries. That’s the power of Entertainment-Education. We think it’s pretty cool and invite you to learn more by watching the video below and exploring the rest of our website.

Rafea, Solar Mama

Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her four daughters in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. She is given a chance to travel to India to attend the Barefoot College, where illiterate grandmothers from around the world are trained in 6 months to be solar engineers. If Rafea succeeds, she will be able to electrify her village, train more engineers, and provide for her daughters.

Even when she returns as the first female solar engineer in the country, her real challenge will have just begun. Will she find support for her new venture? Will she be able to inspire the other women in the village to join her and change their lives?  And most importantly, will she be able to re-wire the traditional minds of the Bedouin community that stands in her way?

A 58-minute broadcast version of this film is currently available on YouTube, click to watch!


When Barefoot College founder Bunker Roy shared the stories of empowered grandmothers bringing the transformative power of light to their rural communities, he created a buzz of interest among documentarians on the lookout for a good story. Jehane Noujaim (Control Room, didn’t wait for a commission. Jehane picked up her camera and headed to Africa to follow Roy, a distinguished looking Indian, sell the opportunity become solar engineers to a village in Mali. With founding support from the ‘Stories of Change’ partnership, the film will be part of the global documentary project Why Poverty?



Jehane Noujaim was raised in Cairo where she began her career as a photographer. Following a B.A. in Film and Philosophy at Harvard, she directed Mokattam (1998). Noujaim went on to produce and direct (2001) in association with Pennebaker Hegedus Films and Control Room (2004). She was co-director on We Are Watching You. Noujaim has also worked as a cinematographer on Born Rich (2003), Only the Strong Survive (2002), and Down from the Mountain(2002), and as executive producer on Encounter Point (2006) and Budrus (currently in release).

Mona Eldaief is a director, director of photography, and editor on documentary film and television projects around the world. Born in Cairo, Egypt and raised in the United States, she graduated from New York University with a degree in political science and photography. Her documentary feature credits include Control Room, A Wedding in Ramallah, and Her Name Is Zelda. Television credits include programs for PBS Frontline World , Discovery Networks, Travel Channel, ABC News, and MTV News and Docs. Mona is currently directing and shooting Barefoot Engineers, a documentary feature about a Bedouin woman from the northeastern desert in Jordan who is struggling against the Patriarchal rules of her society to get an education as a solar engineer in India and put the women of her village to work to help alleviate poverty.


Mette Heide is an award-winning producer and owner of +plus pictures ApS. She has worked as an executive producer for the past 16 years. She has most recently produced Last White Man Standing (2010), The Invention of Dr. Nakamats (2009) andHonestly, Mum and Dad (2009), the best selling format in Danish television history. She has also produced Little Miss Grown Up(2008), winner of the 2009 Danish Academy Award for Best documentary, Milosevic on Trial (2007), the 2008 Danish Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, and Liberace of Baghdad, winner of the Special Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. In 2008, Heide, along with Mette Hoffmann Meyer and Weijun Chen, won a Danish TV-Oscar for Please Vote for Me, as part of the award-winning series “Why Democracy?”.


Established in 1972, the Barefoot College is a non-governmental organization that provides basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These ‘Barefoot solutions’ can be broadly categorized into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development.

The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’. With little guidance, encouragement and space to grow and exhibit their talent and abilities, people who have been considered ‘very ordinary’ and written off by society, are doing extraordinary things that defy description.

The Revolutionary Optimist

Children are saving lives in the slums of Calcutta. Amlan Ganguly doesn’t rescue children; he empowers them to become change agents, battling poverty and transforming their neighborhoods with dramatic results. The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and the children he works with – Shika, Salim, Kajal and Priyanka – on an intimate journey through adolescence, as they bravely fight the forces that oppress them. Using street theater, dance, and data as their weapons, the children have mounted vaccination drives to close the final mile with polio vaccination, turned garbage dumps into playing fields, and conducted education campaigns that have resulted in a significant drop in malaria and diarrhea in their neighborhood. Through intimate footage with the children, we witness not only the changes they are able to make in their neighborhood, but also the changes in the kids themselves.

Check here for upcoming special screenings.


In production since 2008, the Revolutionary Optimists has evolved into a short film, multi-platform tool as well as a feature film. In 2010 the filmmakers participated in the BAVC Producers Institute to develop Map Your World, an innovative way to track clean water and other public health issues. The short film, The Revolutionary Optimists, premiered a TEDx event, introduced by Melinda Gates. The feature film was part of the 2011 Sundance Documentary Edit and Story Lab at the Sundance Resort.



Maren Grainger-Monsen is a physician, filmmaker-in-residence and director and founder of the Program in Bioethics in Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. Maren directed Hold Your Breath (2007) and Worlds Apart (2003), a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine, which was broadcast on national public television and is currently being used in over 60% of US medical schools. Her film, The Vanishing Line (1998), exploring the art and issues of dying, was broadcast on the national PBS POV series. She won a regional Emmy Award for her film, Where the Highway Ends: Rural Healthcare in Crisis(1996). Maren studied film at the London International Film School, received her medical doctorate from the University of Washington and her emergency medicine residency at Stanford. She lives near Stanford with her husband, medical device entrepreneur and mandolin player Jeff Grainger, her two children Solenn and Tilson, and five chickens.

Nicole Newnham is a documentary filmmaker and writer, currently co-producing The Revolutionary Optimists with Maren Grainger-Monsen as a filmmaker-in-residence at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics Program in Bioethics and Film. Nicole recently co-produced and directed the critically acclaimed The Rape of Europa, about the fate of Europe’s art treasures during WWII. Nicole was also nominated for a national Emmy Award for co-producing and directing the documentary Sentenced Home(2006) which follows three Cambodian refugees in Seattle who are deported back to Cambodia after 9/11. With Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Brian Lanker, she co-produced They Drew Fire (2000), a widely-acclaimed special for PBS about the combat artists of World War II, and wrote the companion book distributed by Harper Collins. Nicole graduated from Oberlin College and has a Master’s degree in Documentary Film from Stanford University. She lives in Oakland with her husband, education reformer Tom Malarkey, and her sons Finn and Blaine.



A qualified lawyer, Amlan began his career as an apprentice to the most reputed criminal lawyer in Calcutta. He was soon disillusioned with a legal system that provided little justice to the poor unable to pay fees and withstand the long drawn legal process.

In 1996, Amlan decided to make a complete switch and joined Lutheran World Service India. In 1999, Amlan registered Prayasam with a few friends with the intention of enabling children to participate in the decisions and factors that affect their lives. Under Amlan’s leadership, Prayasam has emerged as a regional expert and trailblazer in child rights programming and workshops. Amlan is best known for his use of popular media to engage and educate children in an interactive, problem-posing approach. A self-taught choreographer and fashion designer, Amlan incorporates both contemporary and traditional art forms into Prayasam’s alternative education models, which range from song, dance and comics to puppetry and storytelling. Amlan has made mentorship a hallmark at Prayasam, which has become a platform for introducing young people of diverse backgrounds to the social sector. Amlan is best known for his use of popular media to engage and educate children in an interactive, problem-posing approach.

Brown Gold

SH*T! follows radical solutions that turn human waste into green energy. From the bottom of the poverty ladder to the heights of power, $H*T! shows a transformation in thinking, where human waste is not a problem – it’s a resource. According to Co-director Annika Gustafson “’You can’t make a film about shit!’ is the number one comment we get when we tell people about our film”

The facts: a full third of the world’s population has no access to toilets. That’s 2.6 billion people who have no choice but to defecate in the open, posing the single largest threat to drinking water and public health on the planet.

At the center of SH*T! lies a simple innovation: the PeePoo bag. Invented in Sweden, it turns human waste in to fertilizer after a mere two weeksThe filmmakers followed the PeePoo team as they seek to make a viable business out of a good idea and launched a pilot project in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. Well-intentioned outsiders with high-stakes business goals (the model depends on local people creating micro-enterprises to sell the bags) meet cultural, philosophical and language barriers, all of which makes for some low-level humor and high drama.


Clean water is an important, and appealing cause. Picking up a bottle of Ethos at Starbucks you can help a child somewhere, somehow get clean water. But large-scale change is not neatly packaged; SH*T! faces an uncomfortable truth with a touch of humor and a heaping dose of humanity. Conventional development approaches to overpopulation, poverty and lack of sanitation and electricity in the world’s worst slums require lots of money, highly-functioning governments, and international cooperation. Meanwhile, a short-term way to deal with this most basic of human activities provides a dignified, safe and sustainable solution. It takes a brave storyteller to venture in to this subject, but Annika Gustafson and Phil Jandaly, partners in film and in life, fear not. Their unique approach – animated poo! – to telling this story of innovation in action makes an appealing story out of well, you know.



Annika Gustafson grew up on a pig farm in southern Sweden where she literally fell into the manure pit – an incident that ultimately drove her to look for a different occupation. KILLING TIME, her feature length documentary debut, won Le Grand Prix at the Montreal Human Rights Film Festival 2008.

Born in Birmingham, England, Phil Jandaly spent his first years in Lebanon before moving to Montreal. Phil mainly works as an editor and cut Annika’s award winning documentary Killing Time. He knows a thing or two about poop after Annika talked him into having two sled dogs and a baby.

Together they formed Bedouin Viking Inc. as a reflection of their respective Swedish and Syrian heritage. The fusion of two seemingly mismatched cultures stands as a powerful metaphor of curiosity and tenacity, and an illustration of the global vision in the filmmakers’ work. SH*T! will be the first production to fall under the banner. Annika Gustafson previously produced under Man & Motion Productions.


The Team

Kenya has long been Africa’s success story—stable and ethnically harmonious.

After the presidential election in December 2007, everything changed. Voting controversy split the country along ethnic lines. A thousand people were killed and half a million displaced, pushing Kenya toward civil war, if not genocide. Dignitaries intervened, brokering peace, and establishing a fragile power-sharing government, but the post-election fallout persists. An alternative local response to the post-election violence seems superficial by comparison but is potentially more impactful: produce a TV soap opera series, hoping taboo storylines can bridge ethnic divisions and help transform a nation. Starting in December 2008, a Kenyan production company began work on a TV drama series, “The Team”, following the struggles of a fictional soccer team to overcome their ethnic differences, both on and off the pitch.

There’s inherent drama behind any TV production: will deadlines be met; will it be good; will it find an audience? But here the stakes are exponentially higher: if you don’t captivate an audience, you risk further losing your country.

All the ingredients for a compelling feature film are here: a skilled team of filmmakers; a stunning location; an unfolding process that is inherently visual and dramatic; an uncertain outcome that could have repercussions for both other conflicts and media’s potential to make a difference. A place ripe for transformation, but that’s also teetering on the brink. What can a soap opera achieve in this volatile context? Watch and see.


Patrick Reed first met Search For Common Ground founder John Marks and partner Susan Collin Marks at a Stories of Change Convening at the Skoll World Forum. Patrick attended subsequent convenings at the Sundance Film Festival and went into production in 2009. The Team was completed and had its world premiere at IDFA in 2010 followed by a special screening at the Skoll World Forum in March, 2011.



A decade ago, Patrick Reed abandoned a PhD program in History to work on documentaries, first as a writer/researcher, then as a director. Reed has collaborated with Peter Raymont on several White Pine Pictures’ award-winning productions over the years, playing a key creative role on Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire which won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance 2006, and Best Documentary Emmy in 2007. Most recently, Reed directed the award-winning documentary Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma which had its North American premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


Filmmaker, journalist and writer Peter Raymont has produced and directed over 100 documentary films and series during a career of 34-years. His films have taken him to Ethiopia, Nicaragua, India, Rwanda, the High Arctic and throughout North America and Europe. His documentary feature, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire was honoured with the 2005 Audience Award for World Cinema Documentaries at Sundance Film Festival and the 2007 Emmy Award for Best Documentary.

Raymont’s most recent feature documentary film, A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, which premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival; is an exploration of exile, memory, longing and democracy, seen through the experiences of the best-selling American-Argentinean writer and playwright. Raymont is also the Executive Producer of The Border, the new 13 episode, 1 hour, dramatic series on CBC television.


Founded in 1982, Search for Common Ground works to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. We use a multi-faceted approach, employing media initiatives and working with local partners in government and civil society, to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies’ capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities.

To Catch a Dollar

In 1974 , a young economist in Bangladesh loaned a total of $27.00 to 42 families. Today, millions of women in the developing world have improved their lives through micro-lending programs of Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank. Now, Grameen America is taking this simple yet radical concept to the streets of New York: 5 poor women- each with a dream- 5 low-interest loans, weekly meetings with group accountability, but no collateral, no guarantee. Can they build their American dream with a couple hundred dollars and a proven micro-credit model? Will Yunus’ model succeed in the financial capital of the world?


Director Gayle Ferraro made her first film about the Grameen bank in 2000, profiling an illiterate young woman in Bangladesh who borrowed enough to buy a chicken, then a rickshaw, and create a micro-business. Ten years later, she returned to film that same woman, now mother able to send her daughter to school. The success of To Catch A Dollar, is in how it interweaves the history of the founding of the first ever bank for the poor, with its introduction in the US following the financial crisis of 2008, showing how a world-changing innovation can be adapted to meet the changing needs of societies and communities.

Ferraro was already following Muhammad Yunus on his global mission to spread the word on microcredit when ‘Stories of Change’ issued the call for proposals. Since some consider Yunus the original social entrepreneur, it was only fitting that To Catch A Dollar was the first in the series to be complete. The film had its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically in the Fall of 2011.



Gayle Ferraro, founder of Aerial Productions, brings personal accounts of extraordinary and socially compelling stories to the film circuit. To Catch a Dollar is Ferraro’s fourth independently produced and directed feature documentary. Ferraro’s previous works include: Ganges: River to Heaven (2003) where with unparalleled intimacy the film explores dying in the holy city o f Varanasi, India; Anonymously Yours (2002) shot clandestinely in Burma follows the harrowing world of sex-trafficking through the stories of four young women; and Sixteen Decisions (2000) an intimate look at one young woman’s challenges in rural Bangladesh to change her family’s life of extreme poverty. She received a Masters Degrees in Public Administration from Harvard University and Mass Communication from Boston University and studied International Human Rights Law at Oxford University.


Bend the Arc

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS, Tracey Kidder’s Pulitzer-prize winning bestseller, made a kind of reluctant global health rock star out of the quietly charismatic Dr. Paul Farmer. Treating drug-resistant TB in Haiti, he and his partners openly defied the global public health care system by insisting on curing a disease that conventional wisdom said was incurable under the circumstances. Since that time, they’ve gone on to work in thirteen additional countries, significantly advancing the idea of health care as a human right throughout the world. Kief Davidson and Cori Stern’s documentary will go deeper into the story of PIH and their partners, to portray a range of remarkable and very human characters working in the field of global health care and social justice.

In the world of international development, success equals “sustainability, ” which usually means “economically feasible for a given population.” But Dr. Farmer and PIH focus on outcome: what will truly heal a patient regardless of inconvenience or cost. If a patient has tuberculosis and a leaky roof that contributes to their poor health, the PIH prescription is world-class TB medicine, a community health care worker monitoring daily progress, and a new roof, period. PIH – and their partners – view health care as a human right, and believes that we each have a moral imperative to act on that belief, no matter the cost. This view has become highly controversial: life-saving medicine and expensive technologies are commonplace in the West, but virtually unavailable to the world’s poor. Public health care and social equity are inextricably linked; and this film will tell the story of the doctors, nurses and patients who battle disease under difficult circumstances and overcome enormous obstacles to consistently connect even the poorest patients to the care they need.


When the earthquake hit Haiti – devastating all the major hospitals – Partners In Health immediately stepped in and became the fastest-responding, most coordinated organization on the ground – staffed primarily by 120 Haitian doctors and 500 Haitian nurses, many of whom lost their families, homes, and entire communities. In the massive media attention that followed, PIH became know in the mainstream. Meryl Streep even mentioned them at the Oscars. Suddenly a relatively obscure charity was heralded in the mainstream press. Following the success of Kidder’s book, the PIH team may have shied away from a documentary camera crew focusing on their work. But an in-depth film could reach exponentially more people with this remarkable approach to pulic health that defies expectation. Since producer Cori Stern is also a social entrepreneur, working in Liberia and Rwanda she’s connected with PIH as a person dedicated to poverty alleviation. Partnering with Kief Davidson who brings a stunning visual and a compassionate eye to direction, they are the right team to capture this multi-faceted story of one of the world’s leading health care innovators.



Kief Davidson is an award-winning feature film and documentary director, whose latest film Kassim the Dream, about a former child soldier turned boxing champion, premiered at the 2008 Tribeca film festival and won over 10 international film festivals including: AFI Fest – Best Documentary and Audience Award, and the Silver Docs award at AFI/Silver Docs film festival. Additionally, Kassim was nominated by the IDA for Best Feature and was released theatrically by IFC Films. His prior film, The Devil’s Miner, won over 15 awards at festivals including Tribeca, Hot Docs, and Chicago. He received the FIPRESCI Award, the DGA Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Directing and won the PBS Independent Lens Audience Award. The Devil’s Miner sold to over 45 countries and screened theatrically in over 200 cinemas internationally.


Cori Shepherd Stern divides her time between international NGO work and producing film. Her credits include The Arizona Project for Miramax, script by Sheldon Turner, Ben Affleck directing. The film is based on true events in 1970’s Arizona, which lead to 19 indictments of major crime figures and shut down mob activity in Goldwater’s Arizona. Cori is also executive producingWarm Bodies for Summit, written and directed by Jonathan Levine. Additionally, Cori is known for her work as a social entrepreneur and innovative strategist for poverty alleviation. Her projects have been featured on BBC, NPR, and Oprah. She was named by ABC World News as “Person of the Week” and O Magazine as “Good Guy of the Month.”


We are driven by three goals: to care for our patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease, and to share lessons learned with other countries and NGOs. We bring the benefits of modern medicine to those most in need and work to alleviate the crushing economic and social burdens of poverty that exacerbate disease.

PIH believes in 5 fundamental principles:

  • Providing universal access to primary health care
  • Making healthcare and education free to the poor
  • Hiring and training community health workers
  • Fighting diseases mean fighting poverty
  • Partnering with local and national governments

Youthbuild Documentary Project

The YouthBuild Documentary Project intimately captures the lives of four teenagers who make the cut for an innovative and demanding alternative education program – YouthBuild – in North Philadelphia, one of the roughest communities in America. Documenting their year long journey toward graduation, the film interweaves dramatic stories of poverty and opportunity, exploring the unforgettable personal struggles to reclaim communities and reinvent fragile lives. This film goes beyond stereotypes of disconnected youth to show how brutal boundaries can define a life, and how these four teens find the strength and courage to transcend them.

The dropout rate in Philadelphia’s public schools hovers at 50% and the crime rate is one of the highest in the nation. Over 2000 out-of-school youth have applied to YouthBuild Philadelphia for a program that offers 18-20 year olds a shot at a high school diploma and the holy grail – a job. There are only 200 slots. If you make it through the first round of interviews, you then must pass through a grueling emotional boot camp – known around here as Mental Toughness. If you’re one of the lucky 200 invited into the program, you’re about to enter a year that can remarkably change the course of your life.

Welcome to YouthBuild, where you go to class, you rebuild slums, you to go prom, you go to too many funerals, and you fight to make it to graduation. Last year, only 117 made it to graduation. Will these young people make it this year?


Youth Build USA is perhaps the least well-known and most successful youth intervention, education and support organization in the US: it has touched hundreds of thousands of lives since its founder Dorothy Stoneman (a Skoll Foundation Awarded Social Entrepreneur) began a program to teach and employ at-risk youth in Harlem to rebuild abandoned apartment building and provide housing for the homeless. Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s breakthrough films include both hard-hitting story of genocide in the Sudan, The Devil Came on Horseback and entertainment like the hit documentary A Piece of Work featuring comedienne Joan Rivers. The ‘Stories of Change’ connected Stoneman and Sundberg and inspired both filmmakers and social entrepreneur to explore ways to tell this story of thousands of lives, and numerous communities, transformed The 2010 short filmYouth Build from Sundance supported by the Gates Foundation is a preview of what’s to come.



Annie and RIcki are well known for producing and creating critically acclaimed documentaries and are sought after for their experience in directing dynamic personal journeys close to home, as well as mounting large international productions in challenging locations. Accomplished writers and directors in their own right, Ricki and Annie are the leading creative forces behind Break Thru Film’s productions and are known for crafting deft and cinematic journeys through unexpected territory. Each project tracks new landscape – from criminal injustice in the American South, to Darfur, to stand up comedy and celebrity culture – but all are centered on unforgettable people and their most human experiences.

In 2009, Annie and Ricki received a Sundance/Skoll ‘Stories of Change’ production grant to support a new documentary about the innovative education and anti-poverty program YouthBuild. Their new short for the Sundance Institute / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is soon to be released as part of the BMGF focus on the United Nations’ Millennium Goals.

Ricki’s additional credits include directing and producing In My Corner for POV/ PBS, Emmy nominated Neglect Not The Children(PBS) and as producer on HBO’s series Autopsy I, II, III and Murder 9 to 5. Ricki is the author of a children’s book series Beryl Bean: Mighty Adventurer of the Planet published by HarperCollins.

Annie was a director and supervising producer on the HBO 2009 series Brave New Voices and she developed and produced the feature film Tully, nominated for four 2003 IFP Spirit Awards. Additional directing and producing credits include a four part special on the Mayo Clinic for Discovery (2004) and the 1996 Academy Award and Emmy winning One Survivor Remembers, a co-production of HBO and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.



YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing, and transform their own lives and roles in society. There are now 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, Washington, DC, and the Virgin Islands. 92,000 YouthBuild students have built 19,000 units of affordable, increasingly green, housing since 1994.

Sakena Yacoobi: Uncommon Hero

To some she is a radical out for trouble. To others she represents a bright post-Taliban future. Sakena Yacoobi’s weapon of choice: books, which she deploys via the Afghan Institute for Learning, a grassroots organization she founded 12 years ago. Kirsten Johnson traveled to Afghanistan in 2009 to document Sakena’s work and AIF’s grassroots network to bring education to a wide cross-section of Afghans. Production ended after one research trip due to security concerns for the films subject and crew. A short film focusing on Sakena and AIL was created and premiered at the 2010 Skoll World Forum.


Producer Julie Parker Benello had been following the amazing work of Sakena Yacoobi before Sundance issues the ‘Stories of Change’ call for proposals. She enlisted acclaimed cinematographer and director Kirsten Johnson to take a research trip to Afghanistan during the escalation of the American offensive in Afghanistan. Kirsten’s trip was cut short due to security concerns for both the filmmaker and her subjects. But her commitment to capturing stories of coming of age in war-torn Afghanistan laid the foundation for her feature documentary I Dream Them Always.



Director / Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has travelled the globe capturing compelling images that convey the complexity of the human experience with artistry and intelligence. She is currently editing I Dream Them Always, which she shot and directed in Afghanistan. In the last year, as the supervising DP on Abby Disney and Gini Reticker’s series, Women, War and Peace, she traveled to Colombia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. She shared the 2010 Sundance Documentary Competition Cinematography Award with Laura Poitras for The Oath. She shot the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 Documentary winner, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Her feature film script My Habibi was selected for the 2006 Sundance Writer’s Lab and Director’s Lab and is the recipient of an Annenberg grant. Her previous documentary as a director, Deadline, (co-directed with Katy Chevigny), premiered at Sundance in 2004, was broadcast on primetime NBC, and won the Thurgood Marshall Award.


Julie Parker Benello is a Co-founder of Chicken & Egg Pictures, a hybrid organization that matches money and mentorship to support women filmmakers dedicated to using their storytelling skills to address the global justice issues of our time. Julie has produced documentaries on health and environmental issues for more than a decade. In 2002, she co-produced the Sundance award-winning HBO documentary Blue Vinyl, co-directed by Judith Helfand and Daniel Gold. Prior to Blue Vinyl, Julie produced the documentary Prostate Cancer: A Journey of Hope, which aired nationally on PBS in 1999. She has worked as a Production Executive for the Distribution Company Non Fiction Films and as a Researcher for Walter Cronkite’s documentary series Cronkite Remembers. She currently serves on the board of The Center for Environmental Health and The Global Fund for Women.


Professor Sakena Yacoobi is President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995.The organization was established to provide teacher training to Afghan women, to support education for boys and girls, and to provide health education to women and children. Under Sakena’s leadership AIL has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization which works at the grassroots level and empowers women and communities to find ways to bring education and health services to rural and poor urban girls, women and other poor and disenfranchised Afghans.

AIL was the first organization to offer human rights and leadership training to Afghan women. AIL supported 80 underground home schools for 3000 girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s.

AIL was the first organization that opened Women’s Learning Centers for Afghan women—a concept now copied by many organizations throughout Afghanistan. Using their grassroots strategies, AIL now serves 350,000 women and children each year through its Educational Learning Centers, schools and clinics in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder review – the good, the bad and the 4K

Article By technical editor Matt Allark – Link

The Atomos Shogun was one of the most anticipated video products of 2014. The 4K external recorder was announced at the NAB show way back in April. Units finally started to ship just before Christmas and it has been a long and patient wait for customers to get their hands on one.

The Atomos Shogun with Sony a7S and Movcam cage

I have had a production unit on loan from Atomos for almost a week and had the chance to really put it through its paces. Over that time I have run various tests, shown the unit to some well respected cinematographers and been able to gain an overall opinion about the Shogun. I have also interviewed Atomos CEO Jeromy Young to get his responses on what I and other users thought could be improved.

The image quality when shooting 4K with the Sony a7S
As soon as I got the Shogun I shot and posted a piece in 4K with the Sony a7S at Pearl Beach , north of Sydney. In full frame mode there is a little more noise in the images compared to what you get in HD but that is to be expected. I discovered after examining the recorded footage is that there is inherently more noise when you record 4K in the cameras APS-C crop mode. This has nothing to do with the Shogun – it is just recording the output of the camera’s HDMI. It is certainly something to be aware of though if you plan on shooting in low light conditions in 4K.

I would recommend trying to avoid shooting in the APS-C crop mode and stick to the full frame mode if you have suitable lenses. When you record 4K in APS-C mode the camera isn’t using the full sensor so it has to upscale the image to 4K. I think it holds up reasonably well at lower ISOs but as you go into the higher ISO values noise is much more apparent. Below are some high ISO tests comparing how the camera looks in 4K full frame and APS-C mode, as well as in the same modes downsampled to 1080 HD for comparison. Downloading of the files is recommended as Vimeo’s compression masks the differences.

I also did several tests to compare the resolution of images in 4K and HD, in both full frame and APS-C modes. As expected the 4K image is a lot more detailed than the HD. This is quite evident when I cropping in on the image 200%.

Interestingly putting a 4K image onto a HD timeline and exporting it as 1080 provides a lot more detail and sharpness than the same image recorded natively in HD. For people wanting to shoot 4K but deliver in HD this is good news. I see a lot of users of the Shogun going the route of acquiring in 4K, but delivering in HD. The Shogun and a7S will deliver good results.

Using the Shogun

The Shogun is quite straight forward to use and has an intuitive interface. Anyone who has previously used a Atomos Samurai or Ninja Blade recorder will be instantly familiar with most features. Setting the Shogun up with the Sony a7S was as easy as connecting the HDMI cable, enabling the 4K HDMI setting on the camera and turning on the unit. The Shogun automatically detects the 4K signal from the camera and you are all set to shoot. The only thing left to do is select what flavour of ProRes you want to record in. I really like the ability to choose between ProRes LT, 422 or 422 HQ. In 422HQ with a 480GB SSD you can record around 1hour and 20min of 4K footage. For a lot of users ProRes 422 will be more than enough. One thing to note when you use the HDMI out with the a7S is that you cannot record internally on the camera at the same time as recording to the Shogun.

The touchscreen interface is easy to use and all the familiar features like peaking, zebras, false colour etc. are there. Nice new include the 1:1 and 2:1 pixel zoom for focus check – that enables you to drag your finger around in a small box to zoom in and check sharpness anywhere on the screen. This is important as it is very critical to get exact focus when shooting 4K. I won’t go into details about the menu system as we previously covered it here.

For now you can’t play back your images on the recorder itself – although this is promised in a firmware update imminently. Once you have finished recording you take out the SSD or HDD and hook it up to your computer with the supplied dock. You are then ready to view or edit your files straight away. The beauty of ProRes recordings is that they are universally accepted and easily read by almost any modern computer and video editing package.

Build Quality

Judging build quality is always difficult. Just because something feels solid or flimsy doesn’t necessarily mean it is built to last. You need to take into account what is the product designed to do and will it work in that environment without breaking. The Shogun does feel a little less solid than previous Samurai and Ninja Blade. It doesn’t have the same metal frame encasing the recorder. Atomos have obviously chosen the plastic they use to keep weight and heat down, and maybe manufacturing costs too. How the unit would hold up if you dropped it is something I’m not going to test deliberately, but I doubt it would fare well.

The screen is made out of a Gorilla glass type material but it is not the latest type and will shatter if you drop it. That said you wouldn’t drop a lens or a camera and expect it to fare well – equally expect the same with the Shogun. Mounted on a camera or gimbal etc. I don’t see too many problems with the build quality and it is similar in construction to many camera top monitors that people use every day. If you are really worried about knocks and drops then I’m sure it won’t be long before accessory makers will have light weight cages to encase the Shogun.

What concerns me more are the HDMI inputs. There is no HDMI port protection on the recorder and the HDMI connector sticks straight out of the side of the Shogun. This is a potential problem as cables are usually the things that get caught if your moving through tight spaces. I would have preferred to see the HDMI ports placed on the back of the unit, or at very least a right angle HDMI cable included. As far as weather sealing goes, there really isn’t any. I would not recommend using the Shogun in the rain or snow without a protective cover. The big heat vents located on the unit are completely exposed so any type of liquid that gets in there is going to cause problems. Obviously covering the vents with a rain shield may also cause heat issues – I’m not sure what I would do in wet tropical conditions. Just how robust and reliable the Shogun proves over time we will have to wait and see.

The Screen

The Shogun screen if very impressive but highly reflective

The Shogun screen if very impressive but highly reflective

The screen is one of the Shoguns strengths. With a full 1920×1080 display it has nice colour reproduction and produces a pleasing image. It is quite bright but don’t expect to be able to use it in bright/sunny conditions outdoors without a hood. It is very reflective so when you look at it from certain angles it can be hard to see. If getting a Shogun I think I would add a matte screen protector like the type you can buy for your iPad. You will also need to carry a cleaning cloth around as the touch screen operation means you will be constantly wiping your finger print smudges off the screen. There is an Atomos sun hood coming and you can find out more information by listening to the interview with CEO Jeromy Young in this post.

Size And Weight

Despite the 7″ screen the Shogun doesn’t feel to big when used in combination with the a7S or GH4. Atomos have done a good job of keeping the unit as compact and light weight as possible. This is very important if your going to be using it on small rigs or cameras. I mounted the Shogun on top of my Movcam a7S rig and even hand holding the camera, the added weight of the Shogun never made it feel like the camera operation was impeded by having the unit attached.

Battery Life

The decision for Atomos to go with one battery instead of the original 2 that we saw at NAB was purely to cut down weight and try and streamline the unit. Unfortunately the battery life is pretty poor using the standard batteries. Using an included battery the Shogun will only last between 30 to 40minutes. Thankfully Atomos do give you other power options – an included dummy battery with a D-tap and an auxiliary power jack allow you to power it externally. You could also use the Atomos power bar that will fit below or above the Shogun. My concern here is that if you want to cut the weight of the Shogun down by only having one battery it sort of defeats the purpose of having to use another power source mounted to your rig instead. This is fine if you are using larger cameras but if your using it with small cameras like the a7S or GH4 most users won’t want to run a separate power source. Another solution will be to use larger Sony NPF type batteries like those used in the FS700 and 100 – but these again add weight and bulk to the rear of the recorder.

The other thing I would like to see changed is the battery indicator. The Shogun battery indicator goes from green to red and then flashing red. You get very little warning and then the Shogun just turns itself off. I am not a fan of battery indicators that don’t show you the exact time or percentage remaining. Jeromy Young’s response to the battery issue is also in the interview I did with him later in this article.


The added lemo connector which combines 2 XLR audio inputs and 2 XLR outputs is a great concept provides a good selection of audio recording options. Phantom power is available to power you microphone and headphone monitoring is provided too.

The XLR audio connections are via a Lemo breakout cable

The XLR audio connections are via a Lemo breakout cable

On the downside once you connect two XLRs cables to the connector you end up with a lot of cable weight dangling in the air. Just like the HDMI cable, it sticks straight out on the side of the unit and because of its weight it does tend to pull the Shogun slightly to one side. I’m being very picky here but again it is something where the design could be improved.

The audio level display is clear and accurate

The audio level display is clear and accurate

Another thing I found quite strange is that when you have two channels of audio going into the Shogun you cannot adjust the level of each individual channel. Any adjustment you make alters both channels – somewhat useless if you have two different audio sources with different output levels such as an XLR top mic and a wireless pack. I have brought this up with Atomos and they are going to look into it.

Included Accessories

You can’t say Atomos doesn’t give you value for money. Included with the Shogun are a lot of accessories. Again we have covered them here so I won’t go into too much detail. All the accessories are great and the HPRC case is a nice touch, but the biggest thing missing for me was the sun hood. Apart from the SmallHD DP7 and Transvideo high brightness monitors, I find it very difficult to use most screens outdoors in sunny conditions. The Shogun is no different. Why manufacturers don’t just give you one of these in the box is a mystery to me as they are essential.

What other professionals thought

Jason Wingrove using the Shogun on his Nebula 4000 Lite stabiliser

Jason Wingrove using the Shogun on his Nebula 4000 Lite stabiliser

We got three respected cinematographers to use the Shogun on a real world shoot. Jason Wingrove, Peter Barta, and Clinton Harn came along pre dawn to one of the rock pools in Sydney. Here we had a chance to use the use the Shogun on the a7S and also try it out in combination with the Nebula4000 Lite 3-Axis brushless gimbal. Jason Wingrove has modified the Nebula so it looks more like a traditional gimbal and can take a monitor. The Shogun easily mounted onto the Nebula and Jason was impressed with just how easy it was to use. He liked the ability of being able to press the record button directly on the Shogun and not have to fiddle around and try and find the fiddly record button on the a7S.

The Shogun mounted easily to Jason’s custom Nebula 4000 Lite brushless gimbal setup

The Shogun mounted easily to Jason’s custom Nebula 4000 Lite brushless gimbal setup

The Shogun looks to be a good option if your using a gimbal or other stabilising device – especially as you are likely to need an external monitor anyway. What Jason, Peter and Clinton all thought could be improved was the way the focus peaking works. Shooting in S-Log, wide open with low contrast lenses it was very hard to get any sort of peaking visible, making it difficult to focus. We could have used the pixel zoom but then you need to go into a menu and this isn’t always practical – especially on a gimbal. They unanimously said the intensity of peaking needs to be able to be adjusted.

All the guys also commented that they thought the HDMI connector should of been mounted on the back and not on the side of the unit. All of them were equally puzzled as to why the Shogun used a lemo connector for the audio, but not for the power. They also were as unimpressed as me by the battery life. Jason thought it was strange that when the unit ran out of battery and a recording was interrupted, upon powering the unit back up you get a “A broken file has been detected. Do you want to recover it?” message appearing on screen. He made the point that there were no circumstances where you wouldn’t want the video file recovered and this should be done automatically. Personally I didn’t mind that warning – at least I know it has happened.

Despite making some criticisms all three cinematographers were impressed by the Shogun. They liked the screen, the recording options and the size. All of them commented that it was pretty amazing how far technology has come and that you could now record 4K over HDMI from a very small camera setup.

Clinton, Peter and Jason at the rock pool.

Clinton, Peter and Jason at the rock pool.


I can only judge the Shogun from my short time using it. So far this is my assessment.

The Shogun gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s easy to use and takes cameras like the GH4 and a7S to another level. It has a nice screen, great recording capabilities, a lot of included accessories and an intuitive operating system. I didn’t encounter any problems with anything I recorded and even when the unit ran out of battery and shut down while i was recording, I never lost a file. The use of off the shelf media is always going to be a small gamble. There will always be defective hard drives that get to market. If Atomos used expensive proprietary media then people would complain about the cost. Atomos know their what their customers want and so have avoided using expensive proprietary media. The cost outweighs the small risk of a defective drive.

There are things that i think could be improved such as the battery life, HDMI placement and a few small things that should be in the operating system. We are still waiting for the 3D LUT capability and playback. Sadly, like most devices that come out these days, firmware seems to be an on going process. As a Sony F55 owner I’m well aware of how long it can take to perfect the firmware.

Atomos CEO Jeromy Young agreed to talk to me about all the issues that our review bought up. You can listen to that interview below as he responds to users feedback:

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Overall the Shogun ticks a lot of boxes and I think most users will be very happy with it. At the end of the day the Shogun delivers what it promises – 4K recording on a budget, a great screen and easy to use interface. We did do some tests with the GH4 and the results were equally impressive. The Shogun can be used with just about any camera out there on the market to record either HD or 4K depending on what your camera can output. The versatility the Shogun is that you can use it not only a recorder, but a very good monitor too.

Atomos have always provided free firmware and I am sure future firmware will help improve the unit over time – they did the same with the Ninja and Samurai models. Atomos has always been a company that tries to learn from their mistakes so it will be interesting to see what improvements can be made after they receive customer feedback. Being able to record 4K over HDMI is an incredible feature and something up till now was extremely hard to do out in the field. The Shogun has a lot to live up to as the hype surrounding its announcement was huge. How it performs over time in users hands is something we will have to wait to see.

Horizon Award to Recognize Emerging Female Directors

The winner of the award will receive $10,000 and a trip to the Sundance Film Festival in January, where she will have the opportunity to have her work viewed by some of Hollywood’s most influential directors and producers, such as Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Far from Heaven); Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, All is Lost); and Lynette Howell (Blue Valentine, A Place Beyond the Pines).

A recent study revealed that of the top 250 domestic grossing movies worldwide in 2012, women comprised only 9% of directors. The Horizon Award was created to change just that. The contest is open to any woman who is either still enrolled in college or within six months of having left, is without an agent, and has made less than $5,000 on her creative talent.

Qualified candidates should submit their films (which may not exceed two minutes in length) by December 15, 2014. For more information on the Horizon Award, please click here.


  • The award is open to women either still in college, or within 6 months of having left college.
  • The applicant cannot already have a manager or agent, and must have made less than $5,000 in the film business from their creative talent.
  • The applicant should submit a film directed by them and which does not exceed two minutes in length, without exceptions.
  • Applicants are allowed to submit films that have already been made by them, as long as it does not exceed the two minute maximum.
  • If a film has already been made that is longer than two minutes in length then it must be cut down.


Post transcribed from Creative Future. CreativeFuture is a proud sponsor of the 2014 Horizon Award – a new annual scholarship awarded to talented, up-and-coming female directors.

Panasonic GH4 vs Sony A7s Review – 4K vs ISO

Two brand new video cameras with different strengths going head to head is always a ton of fun. Not quite as fun as having to make the decision of which one of these cameras to purchase. We all know by now that nothing beats the A7s in low light and the 4k in camera shooting of the GH4 definitely has it’s advantages. So which one of these cameras should take its place in your camera bag, let’s find out.

You also might take a look at the Sony A7s vs. the Canon 5D mark III

On these cameras, both are geared towards videography and thus both come equipped with all the standard features one would expect such as manual audio control, focus peaking, zebras, and a ton of other more advanced options. The GH4 is able to shoot 1080p at up to 96fps while the A7s is limited to a more normal 60fps at 1080p or 120fps at 720p. The GH4 is also able to shoot 4k internally while the A7s can only use this via HDMI output with a recorder that is not yet available, costs $2000, and is bulky enough to make handheld recording at 4k not a great option. This is a huge win for the GH4 as 4k is the future for a format standard, but also has many applications now allowing for cropping or framing in post as well as digital stabilization without any loss of quality. Both may offer the same level of control but the GH4 feels a bit more logical with its layout and actually offers more custom buttons than the Sony. I’m also a fan of the touch screen LCD as it allows me to change all my settings without making any noise or risk of moving the camera. The LCD also adjusts to every level on the GH4 and makes it easier to use for filming yourself or filming from the side. I find this extremely useful and I’m a big fan of this ability. Now while both cameras offer Wi-Fi, the Sony app only allows for start stop of video recording while the GH4 basically gives you access to all the controls you would have on the camera and even the ability to focus and shift focus points from a remote location. This makes it much better for use as a b camera or on a dolly where it may not be easy to reach the camera controls.

Of course the Panasonic GH4 does have a much smaller sensor which imposes some limitations with dynamic range, a larger depth of field, and worse low light abilities, though there are some advantages to smaller sensors that start to even things out. For example, while the GH4 is not immune to rolling shutter or the jelly effect, it is definitely less pronounced and easier to manage than the Sony. However, in low light the GH4 starts to show limitations at 1600 iso with some noise present, and is limited to 6400 ISO while the A7s looked great up to 25000 ISO with the ability to go even higher if needed. However I did find the GH4 4k files cleaned up nicely with some noise reduction but that will add steps to your workflow. Either way, 6400 is the highest you can go in the GH4 while the Sony A7s is just getting started. Now, while the Panasonic offers great quality f2.8 zooms as well as 1.4 prime lenses, the Sony is limited to f4 for its native zoom lenses on only has 1 wide prime lens at f1.8. This meant it was easy to shoot with wider apertures on the Panasonic allowing me to shoot at lower ISO while achieving the same exposure. The smaller sensor also allows for more area in focus and I find it easy to shoot all day long at f2.8 and wider on the GH4 while on full frame cameras like my 5D3 I was stopping down to at least f4 to get the depth of field I was looking for. The small sensor on the GH4 also allows you to use a metabones speed booster which we will go over in another video but it essentially turned this Sigma lens into a 29mm-57mm f1.2 zoom lens after factoring in the 2.3x crop factor (exposure equivalence). Try shooting that wide on your A7s! So yes the GH4 loses the ISO battle, especially at 1600iso and above, but that is only half the story.

Shooting with these two cameras is actually quite interesting. While the controls and operation on the A7s felt clunky, the GH4 felt much better and I have been using the A7 and A7s much longer than the GH4. Also, before I had these cameras, I figured I would use them both at 1080p and the 4K would be a nice option for the future. Quite the opposite, the 4k recording has become part of my normal workflow allowing for sharp looking 1080p footage when down converted and the ability to crop and stabilize my footage in post. This is huge for me and it makes it tough to go back to normal 1080p. So while the A7s is comparable to the GH4 at 1080p in many ways, being able to shoot 4k made it a game changer for my current workflow, even though I have no plans on outputting 4k footage, nor do I own a 4k TV or monitor. 4k Files even played back on my laptop which was something I was expecting to have issues with. Both of these cameras also offer a profile for better grading with the S-log2 on the A7s and Cinelike D or V on the GH4. The S-log2 is definitely a more empty profile with more room for grading, but I found it to be almost too empty and the fact that you can only use it at 3200 ISO and up made it less usable in practical cases compared to the more natural Cinelike D on the Gh4. If you love grading, I’m sure you will love the S-log2 profile, but at 3200 ISO, I’m just not sure how often you will be using it but you might want to stock up on ND filters.

Both of these cameras have redefined my view of what video should look like in cameras of this price range. They have both stomped on my Canon 5D3 and Canon 70D so hard that it will be nearly impossible to pick them up again for video shooting. As a result, you really can’t go wrong with either of these cameras though the more time I spent with them, I definitely started showing a preference and For me, the GH4 kept coming out on top. For one, the 4k ability turned into a feature I could use every day rather than something that I thought was mostly for future proofing. Also, most of my footage is shot below 1600ISO and the f2.8 zoom and 1.4 prime, and even a 1.2 zoom lens with the metabones adapter for the Panasonic made it easier to shoot at lower ISOs while my F4 Sony zoom lens had me shooting at higher ISOs. Shure, the high ISO shots looked great on the A7s, but the smaller, lighter, cheaper, and still amazing quality lenses from Panasonic took some of wind out of the Sony’s sail… And for only $1700, there is another reason to go with the Panasonic, and use the extra cash for a nice wide aperture lens. Sure I wish the GH4 looked great at 6400ISO and the Sony is still king of the low light hill. But with all its advantages, great price, and overall fit and finish, because remember, this is Panasonics 4th generation of this camera, The GH4 is now likely the video camera that I am likely going to use from here on out.

Article from Learning Cameras –

Bay Area filmmaking: Dog-&-Pony Show

Bay Area filmmaking

A couple weeks ago, San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking Director of Marketing Christopher F. Smith embarked on an adventure in the East Bay Area. ‘Twas no ordinary journey, however. It was an Easy Bay Area filmmaking excursion put together by the good people at Propville Directory. Well known as the Bay Area’s leading resource for filmmaking and other visual arts, the group also organizes fun and educational “field trips” to many of the area’s media centers. Called the Dog & Pony Show, this rolling gaggle of creatives eat, drink and be merry while visiting some of the most interesting and compelling Bay Area filmmaking, video, photography shops in town.

What is a Dog & Pony Show?

The Propville Directory’s Dog & Pony™ Shows are educational & networking events designed to bring the local production community together to learn new tricks, share ideas and network with other production professionals. Because the production markets (film, photography, theater and event) often need the same resources, we find that a room full of creative people bring all sorts of new elements to the table. Everyone has something unique to offer, from a service, to a viewpoint, to another connection. Dog & Pony™ Shows are held all over the Bay Area, from Bay Area Sound Stages (San Rafael) to Rough House Post (Presidio), with panelists and presentations on topics like HD Workflow, Self Marketing, Any Budget Sound Design and Copyright Protocols.

Smith spent the day with the Show and had this to report.


Bay Area filmmakingI emerged from the Berkeley BART stop and wandered over to the Berkeley Rep where the Show was to start. We gathered around our transportation for the day, the super-cool Teacher Bus, and then crossed to the street to our first stop: Berkeley Rep Theatre. We learned a bit about costuming and wardrobe tips-n-tricks and then we piled back in the bus and rolled out to our next destination, The Saul Zaentz Film Center. In transit, we heard a bit from hair/make-up artist Elizabeth Fox and nibbled on some awesome pound cake. At the Film Center we got to speak with the smart folks at Color Flow and Berkeley Sound Design and watch some slick reels.

Then we popped back in the bus and drove to downtown Oakland where we had a wonderful, hand-made lunch in the park from the positively vivacious Eva D. from Secret Kitchen. We all mingled and chatted about big projects and other fun, creative stuff before making our way over to KTOP. Big Zig Camera Rentals told us a few things about their operation and we toured the KTOP studios.

Finally, we took a spin through the legendary Alameda thrift shop/prop house, Pauline’s, and piled in the bus for our return trip.

Bay Area filmmaking

Propville’s Chief Instigator Teri Cundall addresses the bus

The entire experience was shot by Sean Donnelly of Corduroy Media and filmed by Scott Stender and Jon Felix of Mill Valley’s Digit. Photographer Meigan Canfield shot for Propville.

Teri and Propville are such a great resource for all things Bay Area filmmaking. While they do have a comprehensive list of Bay Area resources, they go much further by engaging friends and members on a personal level. They are building the crucial community ties that make this area such a creative wonderland. Anyone can print a list but it takes real passion and energy to build and maintain a viable artistic community. I’m super-glad I got to tag along!


Learn more about Propville or sign up for the next Dog & Pony Show!

FilmschoolSF hosts ubiquitous media studio and spoilrr

Something interesting is always gone over here at FilmschoolSF. If we’re not shooting films, making commercials or working on our lines, we are hosting events and reaching out to the larger Bay Area media community. We’ve been hosting the area’s leading transmedia meetup – Spoilrr – for a few months now and recently hosted global Augmented Reality leader, Metaio. We’re always looking for way to broaden our horizons and expose our students to new things.

Last night, we brought together two great groups of smart, media-savvy technologists and deep thinkers for a joint Meetup of two of the Bay Area’s more compelling groups: Gene Becker’s Ubiquitous Media Studio and Robert Pratten’s Spoilrr group.

What is Ubiquitous Media?

Ubiquitous Media is the messy collision of ubiquitous computing, augmented reality, physical computing, personal sensing, transmedia and urbansystems.

What is Transmedia?
In transmedia storytelling, content becomes invasive and fully permeates the audience’s lifestyle. A transmedia project develops storytelling across multiple forms of media in order to have different “entry points” in the story; entry-points with a unique and independent lifespan but with a definite role in the big narrative scheme.

The evening’s speakers were a great combination of theory and real-world experience and represent the kind of mix-n-match mashup attitude that is so prevalent in the Bay Area. Technology is creative. Creativity is fun. Fun is technology. And storytelling is woven throughout.

“It’s this confluence of high-tech and fun-tech that I see as such a promising engine for filmmaking and storytelling. Location-based narratives, non-traditional video delivery, complex story-lines; the craft filmmaking is present in each of these, said SFSDF Director of Marketing, Christopher F. Smith. As audiences change their consumption habits, filmmakers may want to consider creating for these new conditions.”


Sally Alpin
Designer, researcher & Anthropunk PhD student at University of Kent.

Ben Templeton
Founding resident of Briston, England’s Pervasive Media Studio & Creative Director at ThoughtDen.

Catherine Hendrick
Artist, game designer & co-founder of the Come Out and Play Festival.

Catching up with FilmschoolSF film actor Ivan Spane

film actorIt’s been awhile since we’ve chatted with an FilmschoolSF Film Acting student (our last chat was with actor Greg Cala). This time, let’s catch up with film actor Ivan Spane.

Spane is a familiar face in the FilmschoolSF Film Acting program having been in several films over the past few years and many of our film classes. Recently, he’s been the lead in two films that have screened at couple festivals this past October.

“The Sacrifice”, written and directed by Marisa Schlussel, concluded its run at Carmel Art and Film Festival a few weeks ago. A powerful story about a Holocaust survivor (Spane), who, when attempting to rescue his wife while impersonating a Nazi solder, inadvertently becomes the instrument of her doom. Told on his deathbed to his son (played by SFSDF Film Acting program alum Vincent Leddy), “The Sacrifice” is a riveting tale of the best intentions gone bad.

Spanetrades his deathbed for a bed of roses in another short, “All of Me: Sex Over Seventy”. This look into the boudoir, or at least the minds, of the ‘over the hill crowd’ played to critical acclaim at the recent SF Indie DocFest. Think of it as a stroll down memory lane and a peek into the libido of your grandparents. Written and directed by SFSDF 5-Week Filmmaking Program alum Gina Margillo, it stars Spane as the male representative who takes the approach that the sexual energy can be harnessed for greater health, longevity, and well-being through Eastern practices and techniques of Tantra and Yoga.

We excited to see Ivan doing so well and look forward to seeing more of his work. Check him out in “All of Me: Sex Over Seventy”!

Best Film Academy in San Francisco: FilmSchoolSF scores savvy multimedia instructor

film academy in san franciscoHey… check out the new guy at the best film academy in San Francisco!

As part of our recent move and subsequent expansion, we’ve brought on three new staff members to the FilmSchoolSF family. You met the new Film Acting instructor Darcy Marta-Sugawara a few weeks ago and next week we’ll tell you about our new sound guy, Scott Koue. But today, we’re talking about our new Motion Graphics/multimedia instructor, Ty Audronis.

Ty has over 25 years of varied and impressive experience ranging from slick music production work (Psiclops, The Life and Death of Mr. Spyder) to beautiful Motion Graphics work with the planetarium at the famed California Academy of Sciences. Not only was he responsible for much of the top-level web development for the Academy, he’s also the guy to thank for the awesome “Penguin Cam” part of the site. Watch ’em scurry around and be all penguin-y.

We’re thrilled to have someone with Ty’s extensive multimedia experience on staff, said FilmSchoolSF Director of Education, Stephen Kopels. He brings an incredible amount of cutting edge production know-how and cross-platform creativity to the school.

Check out Ty’s website and see some of the other cool stuff he’s been working on. And watch the great piece on his work from

Click here to check out best film academy in San Francisco programs!

Untitled photos from an undisclosed location

In the rear, Dave + green hat

This almost feels like a dispatch from the front lines of a crazed art/music war…

We’re short on specifics and all we’ve got is a few random photos, but, damn if it doesn’t look like a good time.

Seems a few FilmSchoolSF students signed on to shoot some kind of multi-band, entertainment-stageshow extravaganza at an “undisclosed location” in Oakland a couple weeks ago. Class 10’s  Dave Malloure, Bill Ulliset, Beltran Luque armed themselves with three cameras and shot 8 bands and the burlesque act over the course of a long evening. Dodging lobbed beer cups and errant crossbow fire, the lads maintained a professional focus and captured what reportedly was a “pretty hardcore” event.

Beltran with camera, looks away

Details from the event are sparse but the photos speak volumes. From the look of it, we’re guessing there was some kind of Day of the Dead theme going on but one can never be too sure.

On the bill – MC Meat Hook, Cycloptopus, The Drowsy Holler, Trust Nothing and a few more – plus a burlesque act.

“I had a hell of a time. I didn’t get into any fights and learned a lot about how to shoot (film) under pressure,” said Ulliset.

We’re still awaiting word on where and how this footage is to be shown. Stay tuned.