You are here: American University School of Communication Community Voice Lab About Community Voice Lab

Contact Us

McKinley Building on a map

School of Communication 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

Back to top

About the Community Voice Lab

The Community Voice Lab produces films that capture the voices of community storytellers too often unseen and unheard. The creative ethos of Community Voice is that of collaboration, rather than extraction, in which our filmmakers and local storytellers work together to tell stories of hope, resilience and determination for the common good.

Our films primarily focus on storytellers within the Washington, DC area, but we also partner with filmmakers whose projects align with our model of collaborative storytelling and community journalism. While most of our films are documentaries, some students have applied the principles of collaborative filmmaking in their fiction projects.

Community Voice Lab is directed by Laura Waters Hinson, an award-winning filmmaker and professor within the Film and Media Arts Division at AU’s School of Communication. Each year, her “Community Documentary” course produces the Community Voice Film Series, an anthology of short documentaries produced by graduate and undergraduate filmmaking students in collaboration with local storytellers. Our goal is to promote diversity and inclusion efforts into the learning outcomes of our students as we seek to serve as conscientious citizens of the wider DC community.

The project is a proud partner of the Center for Media and Social Impact.

View the latest in our Community Voice Film Series.

A man being interviewed inside a tunnel

To learn more about partnership opportunities or to apply for a fellowship, please contact us.



Laura Waters Hinson

Laura Waters Hinson is an award-winning filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Film and Media Arts Division of the School of Communication. Laura serves as the division’s social impact coordinator and director of the Community Voice Lab. Laura’s films focus on personal journeys, especially among women in Africa, exploring themes of reconciliation, human resilience and entrepreneurship. Her first feature documentary, As We Forgive, about Rwanda’s reconciliation movement, won the 2008 student Academy Award for best documentary, the Cinema for Peace Award in Berlin, and was broadcast nationally on public television. She is currently directing a short-form community documentary in partnership with Street Sense Media called STREET REPORTER.

Since 2009, Laura’s films have been screened at the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art and at dozens of international film festivals such as the Santa Barbara International Film Fest, Austin Film Fest, Seattle Human Rights Film Fest, Manchester International Film Fest, among many others. Her latest documentary, Mama Rwanda, is about the new generation of women entrepreneurs in Rwanda transforming their nation after genocide and was supported by the National Geographic All Roads Film Project. She partnered with the Akilah Institute for Women, using the film to promote women's education in East Africa and beyond. Laura is passionate about stories of hope coming out of seemingly hopeless places, and her work is dedicated to giving voice to those not often heard.

Most recently, Laura directed her first narrative short called Moving Violation, which stars Milana Vayntrub and won Best Narrative Short at the DC Independent Film Festival. During the Spring of 2019, Laura served as the director's shadow on the set of Showtime's Homeland. Prior to this, she spent AY 2019/2019 as a Filmmaker-in-Residence within SOC.


The Lab grew out of the “Community Voice Project,” an endeavor pioneered by former professor Nina Shapiro-Perl. Over the years, the project produced nearly 100 short films in collaboration with more than 30 community organizations. These stories brought voice and visibility to underserved communities while providing students and DC storytellers with a transformative, yet practical experience. View films made between 2012 – 2017 by the Community Voice Project


View our Community Voice Film Series online.