Reel Grrls lands big Boeing grant, expands programs

Reel Grrls has been empowering more and more young women with media-creation skills ever since they moved to 21st and Union nearly five years ago. Now, after a topsy-turvy year and a half, the organization has emerged stronger than ever with a big new grant from Boeing to keep it growing.

In spring 2011, one of the organization’s biggest sponsors, Comcast, pulled its funding in response to a critical tweet from Reel Grrls, which has a strong media justice mission. In the weeks that followed, donations poured in from all over the country, and the organization declined an apologetic Comcast’s offer to reinstate the funds. After all, they had raised more money from private donations than the original sponsorship amount.

The organization also so its first new Executive Director take the helm after Founder and longtime ED Malory Graham stepped down after leading Reel Grrls for its first decade of growth. With Robin Held now in charge, a new website and money flowing in from private donations, city grants and corporate sponsorships, Reel Grrls could be moving from beloved arts organization to a Seattle and CD cultural institution.

More details on the Boeing grant from Reel Grrls:

This week, The Boeing Company awarded Reel Grrls a Change Capital Grant for $75,000 over the next two years to expand its social enterprise venture, Reel Grrls Productions. 

Reel Grrls Productions (RGP) is the mission-driven, fee-based creative agency of Reel Grrls, in which young women exploring careers in digital filmmaking and technology gain advanced skills and professional development while creating affordable video content for local and national clients. Reel Grrls Productions affords  an unprecedented opportunity for young women filmmakers to gain work/life experience and forge client relationships. RGP is also is the answer for clients seeking an alternative to a high-cost commercially-produced video. For a mid-sized arts organization like Reel Grrls, RGP both serves the organization’s mission, and is an important source of sustainable revenue.

Sami Muilenburg (age 21), who has been active in Reel Grrls as a student, apprentice and intern since 2005 and who received a full scholarship to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2009, says:

Most film production opportunities for someone my age involve working as an assistant, but working at RG Productions gave me real world management and producing experience. I am now entering my final year of film school, and I feel much more confident about my job search with RG Productions under my belt. I now have the skills and experience to negotiate contracts, work with clients, and manage a film crew… It’s been a dream opportunity for me.

The Boeing Company’s generous support will allow Reel Grrls to expand staff for RGP, allowing the agency to provide real world video production experience to a greater number of girls, offer more advanced training workshops, and serve more than 20 community organizations through affordable video production services in 2013 and 2014.

In addition, Washington State government recently renewed its successful film incentive program for the next five years and the City of Seattle is continuing to see a substantial amount of film industry growth as a result. According to James Keblas, Director of the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office of Film and Music:

Reel Grrls is more important now than ever before. Film production crews and the industry in general are still heavily male dominated.  By offering advanced technical training, leadership skill, and job skills for young women, Reel Grrls Productions will help us change this at a time when considerable industry investments are being made.

From 2009 to 2011, Reel Grrls Productions tripled the number of productions created and income generated, with an increasing list of return clients. This growing client demand speaks to the need for this service in our community. Since 2009, RGP has created media for the Seattle Opera, The Seattle Foundation, Paramount Theater, Mercy Housing Northwest, and the City of Kent/Kent Arts Commission, to name a few. Reel Grrls Director Robin Held stated:

Reel Grrls Productions is a very important way for us achieve our organizational goal to offer job training and prepare young women for the 21st-century economy. With The Boeing Company’s support to expand RGP, we are confident that it will continue to be a vital source of income for Reel Grrls.

UPDATE: That’s not all. Reel Grrls has also been picked to lead Adobe’s Youth Voices

Reel Grrls was chosen by the the Adobe Foundation to greatly expand Adobe Youth Voices in the Seattle area.  Adobe Youth Voices is an international strategic partnership dedicated to building young people’s creativity, civic engagement, and communication skills, teaching partners like Reel Grrls were handpicked from organizations worldwide to represent leaders in the field of youth media education.  Both the City of Seattle Community Technology Program and the Seattle International Film Festival are leading partners in this endeavor, and will help to ensure its success this year.

Other AYV Global partners include afterschool programs, youth leadership agencies, arts organizations, and school districts across. This year, over 900 youth at 20 schools and community organizations in our region will work on projects that allow them to develop new media skills and to express their voice about issues they care about.  These projects will be showcased here in Seattle at SIFF and via the Adobe Youth Voices web site.

“This partnership between Adobe, Reel Grrls and Seattle’s Department of Information Technology is a very exciting step for building the landscape of youth media in Seattle,” stated AYV Strategic Partership Coordinator and Reel Grrls Founder Malory Graham. She continued, “The 20 schools and youth organizations that we will be working with this year will have a huge impact of providing cutting-edge media education  to Seattle’s young people–and having the backing of Adobe, Seattle’s Dept of Information Technology and the Seattle Internatonal Film Festival means the program will have real traction.”

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