GRASSROOTS COLLEGE AND FESTIVAL TOUR, FALL 2012
Grassroots’ innovative theatrical release allowed the film to take a unique purpose and political discourse. Thanks to a partnership with Progressive Majority and pairing local candidates with local theatrical screenings; Grassroots provided local candidates with a unique platform and as a result engaged audiences in a way that reaches far beyond simple entertainment.
As Stephen Gyllenhaal said, “I want ‘Grassroots’ to help remind people that government only works when we all participate. We are long overdue for a national conversation about how we can get government working again.” Gyllenhaal continued, “This movie is also about young people finding it within themselves to take some real risks. It’s a ‘political coming of age story.’”
In that spirit, Grassroots teamed up with Rock the Vote for a nationwide college tour, pairing the DVD release and 2012 election. It became increasingly clear the film had the power to politically energize audiences across the nation. In order to encourage in political discourse, intimate screenings were held so audiences could register to vote and participate in an open forum following the film.
We selected the colleges for our tour based on an outpouring of requests through social media efforts following the theatrical release, strategically picking colleges based on the level of political activity.
We provided each of our volunteer contacts with electoral literature and Rock the Vote swag. After each screening, our volunteers ran discussions with the audience regarding the films relevance to this year’s election. This served as a successful ice breaker that led to a broader discussion regarding the current economic crisis and our responsibilities as citizens.
At Emerson College, our volunteer rallied over 45 people and reported that though most of the students were already registered voters, they were surprisingly uninformed. The informational packets we sent, proved to be very useful to help other students find the answers to their questions. This was similar for Cal Poly University, where students lacked basic information about the general election yet felt very strongly about a particular side. Thankfully, our San Luis Obispo volunteer was a political science major and very connected to the department faculty. He asked his favorite professor to assist in the post screening discussion. The audience, a very mixed crowd, led to the professor serving as more of a moderator to the discussion. Patrick reported that while the discussion got, “heated at times, it was a huge success, forcing students to disregard their predetermined political notions and really dive into the issues”.
UC Berkeley’s screening turned into an event to celebrate the upcoming election. Our volunteer, Camille Dunn, teamed up with the student council to spread the word around campus and despite it being midterms, there was an unbelievable turnout. One of the students commented, “how refreshing it [was] to have an inspirational film with political and pop culture relevance screened for students-for free!”
At the University of Hawaii of Manoa, one of the audience members was a first-time progressive candidate who was defeated in the primary. Volunteer David Spafford commented that the audience was so inspired, he hoped he could help arrange another screening for anyone who missed the first one. He teamed up with Brent Dillabaugh and KANU, a Hawaiian non-profit working on voter registration and candidate information.
Iowa State was a very important college for us to screen at because of the state’s importance in the Presidential election. According to our volunteer, pairing a Hollywood film with the well known “Rock the Vote” logo garnered student interest in the event and helped register many new voters The sponsoring professor was, “so pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm the students showed following the screening and [he] never expected how many students would take the time to register.” Iowa State expressed great interest in hosting yet another screening down the road!
We also had a very successful screening at New York University, where many students demanded additional screenings. With such a high turnout from students, NYU arranged 3 separate screenings. While we were concerned that the consecutive screenings would affect the student turnout, each screening was completely full! One of our volunteers explained that the theatrical release in New York really helped with the publicity on campus since the students were already familiar with the film and never got a chance to view it in theaters.
The goal of each university volunteer was to register at least 5 voters per screening. In total, Grassroots and its volunteers are responsible for nearly ten times that!
Grassroots festival run was extensive, beginning with the Grassroots premiere at Seattle International Film Festival on June 22 where it served as the closing night film. It also went on as the closing night film at the San Diego Film Festival on September 30th. Grassroots premiered overseas at the London International Film Festival with screenings on October 12, 14, and 15th, and was shown in two additional screenings at the Warsaw International Film on October 16 and 17th. Ojai Film Festival held screenings on October 26th and 28th while Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival screened Grassroots on November 5; just in time for Election Day!
Inspired by the film and our own voter registration efforts, Denver International Film Festival held a special presentation of Grassroots on November 4th followed by a Get Out The Vote party and concert sponsored by The Reel Social Club. Jason Biggs was awarded the Reel Social Club Indie Voice Award, which celebrates prominent individuals who help foster an appreciation of film culture within the independent film industry. Grassroots will be continuing on the festival circuit, including The East Lansing Film Festival screening on November 10th and the St. Louis International Film Festival on November 10th and 11th at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Grassroots will also be screening at Anchorage International Film Festival (dates to be determined) and Bahamas International Film Festival in early December.
With the success of the Grassroots campaign future venues are emerging. There are so many high school students that are very close or already of legal voting age, getting insufficient voting information, and even more students all the way through grad school lacking enthusiasm! We want to make Grassroots an entertaining and educational option to high schools, colleges, and even graduate schools.
We’re designing a study guide for “How to Make Your Voice Count, Grassroots Style” and providing each school with voter registration, information on how to run for office (ranging from student council to president), the film, promotional posters, and buttons. Stephen will also make himself selectively available via Skype for Q&As. We expect Grassroots to be the go-to election movie in schools for many years to come, playing in political science classes, film classes, etc. We’re excited that Grassroots has been an instrumental part of this past election and will continue to have an impact in elections to come!
‘Grassroots’ is an MRB Productions film, in association with Two Tall Boots and Lanai Productions. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, it was produced by Peggy Rajski, Michael Huffington, Matthew R. Brady, and Peggy Case. Executive producers are Brent Stiefel, Gary Allen Tucci and Jane Charles. ‘Grassroots’ was co-produced by Robin Gurland and Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal.