The New Orleans Film Society is a 501(c)3 whose mission is to discover, cultivate, and amplify diverse voices of filmmakers who tell the stories of our time. We produce the Oscar®-qualifying New Orleans Film Festival annually and invest year-round in building a vibrant film culture in the South to share transformative cinematic experiences with audiences, and connect dynamic filmmakers to career-advancing resources.
In order to truly embrace diverse voices, NOFS is committed to centering artists who have been historically denied access to resources and opportunities within the industry–including Southern artists, women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities.
Through our work and our practices, we are committed to building a more just and equitable world. We believe in a work environment that is fair, equitable and fulfilling. We believe that collaboration and mutual respect are essential, and are committed to equity and social impact values guiding our search for resources and partnerships. We are committed to deepening our audience engagement to advance and support equity and social justice.
OUR WORK IN PROGRESS
In 2020-21 NOFS staff embarked on a Racial Equity Transformation process led by an independent Racial Equity consultant, after staff had already begun engaging in conversations and equity efforts with the recognition that there was greater racial justice work to be done as a whole. In 2020, 100% of NOFS staff and Board also attended Building Racial Equity virtual trainings conducted by Race Forward.
The focus of this transformation process was on assessment and design, recognizing what needs existed, and designing a process that would address those needs. Through virtual training, the staff established a shared language around racial equity, introduced a shared framework and analysis and learned about an intervention tool called “Choice Points”. Choice points are opportunities to make or influence a decision that may affect equitable outcomes. Each staff member identified choice points and created a plan for implementing these choice points that fall into the following categories:
- Organizational Culture
NOFS will ask ourselves, potential partners and candidates for staff and board positions how we can commit to building equity consistently and regularly in staff meetings, board meetings, conversations with partners, evaluations and work plans. We are embracing the practice of asking for specific feedback on racial equity work across staff teams with the objective of creating a culture of collaboration and encouragement towards change and greater racial equity. All staff are encouraged to practice admitting discomfort, lack of knowledge and missteps or harms when it comes to race and racial equity, and equity with regard to disability, family status, size, socioeconomic background, gender and gender identity. We are acknowledging internal disparities in terms of race, including trying to ensure acknowledgment is paired with a good faith effort to balance the emotional effort and the toll on the staff of color.
- Staff Education & Training
NOFS is committed to increasing its knowledge and understanding of how white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, classism, heteronormativity and other forms of oppression reinforce biases, barriers and inequities in our work. We have begun this work by attending Race Forward’s Building Racial Equity virtual training in December 2020 and creating mandatory reading and resource lists for staff. We are currently implementing a mandatory DEIA training for all full-time/part-time/seasonal staff, independent contractors, volunteers and interns.
NOFS employs a large number of seasonal workers for the film festival and is committed to providing more equitable pay. Acknowledging the deleterious effects of the gig economy, NOFS has made a commitment to shift a significant number of its contractors to seasonal employees in 2022 which will allow them to draw the social benefits/protections of employment. In order to increase and diversify staff, seasonal positions above $5,000 in compensation are posted via open application process to move away from an automatic reliance on rehiring staff from previous years as we seek to grow staff diversity. In an effort to be more transparent, all positions will have compensation outlined in job postings and salaries will be shared openly amongst staff members. Our lowest hourly rate for seasonal positions will be twice our state’s minimum wage in 2021 with the intention of raising all year-round and staff seasonal wages over time. Demographic data collection/tracking for all full-time, part-time, seasonal staff, independent contractors, volunteers and interns across all organization activities and departments is being implemented in 2021.
- Internship Program
NOFS is expanding its outreach and recruitment of interns from HBCUs and will begin its first paid internships in 2022.
- Vendors & Partners
NOFS will create a process and criteria for vetting vendors that are mission and value-aligned. NOFS will create a RFP for production and business contracts over $20,000 and is committed to increasing its contracts with BIPOC owned businesses through independent research on BIPOC owned businesses.
- Programming Practices
We recognize that we are gatekeepers to opportunities for many artists and the decisions we make around programming, granting, career development, and more can either create barriers or possibilities for advancement. In 2020 we published NOFS’ Artistic Department’s Programming Practices, which serve as a measure for accountability for curatorial and programming decisions. We are working to expand and diversify our programming team to ensure that those making decisions about programming for NOFS are as diverse as what our values aspire to and have a clear understanding of the films and artists we as an organization would like to support.
- Filmmaker Programs
We recognize that BIPOC filmmakers who have participated in our programs since the inception of Emerging Voices in 2014 have helped to build the program and the organization’s reputation over the years. It is through their participation that we have been able to launch Southern Producers Lab in 2018 and expand all of our filmmaker programs. In 2019 we began providing modest grants for filmmakers in these programs. In 2020 we committed to making $2,000 grants available to all alumni who did not receive grants in previous years, as well as a four-day lab in an effort to be equitable to all alumni before introducing a new cohort of filmmakers into our programs.
As a result of this process, NOFS staff have identified the following outcomes that NOFS is currently putting into practice:
- a values-led learning and practice formation that holds and evaluates the racial equity work as a central and continuing part of the organization’s operations
- racial equity practices that are integrated into the organization’s long-term strategic plan and day-to-day work
- an on-boarding resource tool that maps out the values, principles and racial equity practices of NOFS for new staff members
We recognize that as an organization we are constantly learning and growing. We also recognize that the work for justice and equity is ongoing and pledge our long-term commitment to this work. Therefore we see this statement is a work in progress that will be revisited and refined as we continue to evolve.