Dream Job: Get Connected
When Katy Chevigny co-founded Big Mouth Productions in 1997, she knew that what kind of documentaries she wanted to produce: provocative works of art that transcend politics.
“We weren't interested in making things that were just for a short-lived political purpose,” Chevigny says. “But on the other hand, we wanted to make films that were going to make an important contribution to the public conversation about our world today.”
As she became enmeshed in the late-'90s New York documentary film scene, Chevigny realized that a big part of furthering that public conversation was getting the films to their audience. She launched MediaRights with the goal of using the Internet to promote and distribute independent documentaries in order to maximize their impact. Soon, the organization's Media That Matters Film Festival was born. The online festival showcased 12 shorts in their entirety as well as links connecting viewers to more information about the films and the social issues they raised. “Early on, people's brows would furrow when we'd describe mediarights.org,” Chevigny says. “We'd say, ‘We've created a community website with a database of documentary films, and we're trying to expand the impact of those films by linking them to people who are looking for them.’ People would look at us, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But then we'd bring up the Media That Matters page, and they'd get it.”
The festival, now in its eighth year, is also distributed on DVD for community and theatrical viewing. Because of response from educators and librarians, Media That Matters has also begun curating DVD compilations of short films focusing on specific themes. Chevigny says all DVDs are authored with Apple DVD Studio Pro.
Currently, MediaRights, the festival, and Big Mouth all operate under the umbrella of Arts Engine, the nonprofit for which Chevigny serves as executive director. She continues to produce projects through Big Mouth — including her latest doc, Election Day, which follows U.S. voters and organizers on the day of the 2004 presidential election. For this doc, Chevigny coordinated 14 camera crews — all using Panasonic AG-DVX100As — in different locations across the country. Again, she eschewed pure political discourse in favor of public conversation. “It wasn't about the campaign; it was about what the experience of election day is like for regular people,” she says.
Election Day appears on PBS' POV in July.
For more information about Arts Engine and its programs, please visit www.artsengine.net.