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October 9, 2019

How New Orleans Film Society supports career pipelines in the South

This case study on how New Orleans Film Society powers diversity in media is from the Wyncote Foundation’s 2019 Building Stronger Communities Through Media report. It is the eighth in a series on innovations in local journalism, public media and storytelling we’re republishing with their permission and the permission of the authors.

How does supporting career pipelines help diversify voices in media?

New Orleans Film Society helps create a talent pipeline for filmmakers that supports diversity in the field
2018 Emerging Voices cohort. (Image courtesy of New
Orleans Film Society)

The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) works to advance local film culture through year-round screenings and professional development activities, as well as the annual New Orleans Film Festival. Now in its 30th year, the festival is known for championing underrepresented voices, with 54 percent of films in the 2018 festival made by directors of color and 60 percent by women and gender non-conforming directors.

If we want social change, if we want stories of social change, we need to empower makers connected to those issues.

Fallon Young, New Orleans Film Society executive director

Building on the festival’s ethos and networks, in 2014 NOFS launched Emerging Voices, a yearlong professional development program that facilitates access to industry gatekeepers for filmmakers of color.

Each year six to eight mentees receive training for pitching their work, participate in the intensive nine-day New Orleans Film Festival, travel to regional festivals, gather for workshops, and are shortlisted for opportunities referred to NOFS. Additionally, during the festival each participant is paired with a visiting industry mentor who provides guidance and helps advance a project. To build the film community for the long-term, NOFS hosts Emerging Voices alumni events, produces works-in-progress screenings, and promotes a social media group in which current and past participants connect for networking, collaboration, and feedback.

Keeping and cultivating southern filmmakers

NOFS’ efforts are designed to be place-specific, serving filmmakers based in Louisiana whose obstacles include geographic isolation. Distance from networks and opportunities based in the hubs of New York and Los Angeles often entices regional filmmakers to move away from New Orleans. NOFS works to counter this pull by creating viable local career paths, furthered by initiatives like Emerging Voices and the newer Southern Producers Lab and Rural Filmmaker Initiative.

Fallon Young, NOFS executive director, maintains, “Especially in the South, we need to nurture creators who have experiences that look different from what the mainstream considers valuable and lift up those voices, so that we can have media that reflects our actual society. …If we want social change, if we want stories of social change, we need to empower makers connected to those issues.” Through supporting filmmakers who can tell these stories, the impact of Emerging Voices extends beyond mentees, serving audiences and decision makers as well.

At a Glance

  • Organization Type: Independent nonprofit organization
  • Operating Budget: approximately $1 million for the year ending June 30, 2019
  • Key Funders: 21st Century Fox Inclusion (21CF), Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Greater New Orleans Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Contact: Fallon Young, Executive Director, fallon (at) neworleansfilmsociety.org

Related Links


About Wyncote Foundation

The Wyncote Foundation’s Public Media and Journalism Program is a place-based philanthropy in Philadelphia that works to further a thriving public media ecosystem that is vital to animating and sustaining democracy’s public sphere.

About the Author

Sarah Lutman writes about people and organizations making journalism more democratic

Sarah Lutman is founder of 8 Bridges Workshop, a St. Paul-based consulting and program development firm, and serves as senior advisor to Wyncote Foundation’s Public Media and Journalism Program.