IDA Interview – Funder Friday
#FunderFriday: Miller/Packan Film Fund from the Rogovy Foundation
What inspired the Foundation to create the Miller / Packan Film Fund?
Documentary films can have an out-sized impact on specific issues. We’re a small foundation and the world has some very large problems. Our question was how can we best chip in, tackling these problems, given our size. We’ve already spent time in and around the film industry, and quickly realized that by supporting documentary film, our foundation can have a larger impact.
IDA: What’s the story behind ‘Miller / Packan’?
Mae Packan and Sally Miller were History and English teachers in a small Ohio public school system, spanning many decades, a long time ago. These two teachers had incredibly high standards for what makes a quality education, particularly when it comes to critical thinking and communication. They selflessly changed the lives of thousands of students. We value the awareness and skills that come from liberal arts.
Where did your passion for documentary film come from?
It stems from many sources, beginning with an interest in social change and how best to effect that change. In one sense, documentary films are a 21st Century form of essays. I’m not saying written essays are no longer valued, but film has a way of reaching people in a more engaging and visceral way.
Impact has become a major buzzword in the doc funding world over the past few years. What is the best way to determine if a film is a good fit for your grant?
Ideally, we are looking for projects that can open our eyes to societal change. They should be educational, entertaining and inspirational. Naturally this can be achieved in many ways, and many filmmakers position their projects this way. We try to step back and understand the message of the film and how it will influence its audience.
We appreciate that there are many compelling stories out there about individuals. However, we prefer stories with a collective significance, that may be told through individuals, rather than stories primarily about individuals.
Can an applicant speak with a grant officer at your organization directly?
Unfortunately we’re not set up for that. We all work remotely, and simply don’t have the bandwidth to handle direct conversations about projects. So we prefer emailed questions, and pride ourselves on our responsiveness. We do keep our Web site FAQs updated.
What are some recent films you feel exemplify the mission and goals outlined in The Miller / Packan Film fund?
There are many, big and small, and they are wide-ranging. Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Citizenfour, Brooklyn Castle. There are really many more. Let’s just say we’re excited about this period in time, which seems to be a golden age for documentary film. The access to technology, funding and distribution opens a world of possibilities.
Your main focus is to support films on education, the environment and civics. Are there any specific issues under those topics that you are looking to fund in 2016?
There are a couple topics we have discussed internally that we’d love to see made into films. The first is based upon the book Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It’s a fascinating look at a recurring generational cycle throughout our US history. Al Gore bought a copy for each member of congress when it came out. The other topic is about the change in society’s role models. Historically, role models tended to be national or community leaders who selflessly worked to improve the lives of others. Today, it seems like role models have an individual agenda and the media seems to relish their fall more than their rise.