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Human rights. Public health. Immigration. Forgotten history. Well-crafted media, by good storytellers, are essential to public knowledge and action. In this concentration, students learn not only how to create media for public knowledge and action, but also how to create a strategic design for impact. They learn how to develop interlocking media -- a webisode, an infographic, or a fundraising campaign -- on a topic. Documentary, fiction, edutainment, and persuasive gaming are all tools for the social-impact filmmaking student.

Degree and Course Requirements

FAQs for Political, Cultural, and Social Concentration

What types of students would be interested in this concentration?

Students in this concentration embrace expectations for the social impact of their work. They see media as tool for public knowledge and action. They want to make media that matters. They believe in telling stories and framing issues to engage, inform, and equip audiences for civic participation and social action, and in the power of media for expressing identity and building community. They want to take on issues of critical public importance, to portray the characters and provide the evidence and testimony that drive public debate and promote solutions to social problems. We tell them: whatever your purpose—to shift public dialogue, motivate behavior change, celebrate a culture, equip activists for advocacy or movement building, or change government or corporate policies—think of your role as an "impact producer." Define your mission, articulate your goals: that's the starting point. Story is paramount, but filmmakers on a mission can tell stories and deploy the tools and techniques of strategic communication, from message research to impact evaluation. At every stage, they must be goal-oriented and user-focused. And, they learn to think in terms of a dynamic constellation of media productions, created for targeted audiences, across media platforms.

What type of work do students make in this concentration?

Student work ranges from long-form feature films or television specials, to short-form public education, museum exhibition or advocacy campaign videos, to new-form interactive transmedia productions. Examples of student work include:

  • 120 Days, a film on U.S. immigration, by Ted Roach
  • Laura Waters Hinson's As We Forgive, on reconciliation in Rwanda, which won a Student Gold Academy Award
  • Mending History: A Sofer's Story, a Holocaust film by Don Fish, Kady Buchanan, Helenah Svedberg and Scott Bastedo
  • Three Stories of Galicia by Olia Onysko and Sarah Farrhat, which was showcased at Cannes
  • Algados: The Documentary by Sylvia Johnson
  • Girl 27, co-produced by Lindsay Webster, which premiered at Sundance
  • Unseen/Unheard Community Voice videos, including Restoring the Anacostia, Urban Planning Organization: Voices of Opportunity, and DC Youth Orchestra.

What kinds of internships can students have?

Students can intern in SOC at our Center for Media and Social Impact on the annual Media that Matters Conference and Human Rights Film Series and at our Investigative Reporting Workshop on documentary specials for PBS' Frontline and on the website. Students have had internships at The Washington Post, Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, The Daily Show, Newseum, Henninger Media Services, Interface Media Group, Discovery Communications, National Geographic Channel, Al Jazeera, Univision, PBS, WETA-TV, Women in Film and Video, and The Advertising Council.

What kinds of jobs can students seek upon graduation?

Alumni are working at documentary production companies, television stations and cable channels, nonprofit and advocacy organizations, government agencies, national unions and professional associations. They are working at Kartemquin Films, Discovery Communications, Kaiser Family Foundation, Newseum, and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). They are working as assistant and associate producers, producers, directors, editors, writers, cinematographers, and set dressers and in promotion, development and management. Some are freelancing and have started their own businesses.