An Arts Engine Media Propeller

Arts Engine is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to promote and distribute the works of independent media artists. Designed to foster interest in the development and consumption of independently produced films, Arts Engine works hand-in-hand with the independent filmmaking community to expose both educators and the general public to forms of small-studio media that would be otherwise unavailable or unnoticed to those not explicitly seeking it. In their words, Arts Engine seeks to assist “…independent media makers [in] fac[ing] the dauntless obstacles in their efforts to introduce new perspectives into public debates.” These obstacles, AE notes, stem from the increasingly consolidated media outlets available to the mass market — be it in film, television, or radio.

Originally, Arts Engine consisted as the creative organization of filmmaking duo Katy Chevigny and Julia Pimsleur. Independent documentary markers themselves, Chevigny and Pimsleur developed Arts Engine and its subsequent partnerships to both publish their films and provide an outlet through which other independent media makers could share their ideas and get exposure for their works. Arts Engine’s film production sister, Big Mouth, has published 7 films and has won “prestigious awards, gain[ed] national recognition, and … reached audiences in the millions.” In addition to Big Mouth, AE also conceived, a website dedicated to the promotion of social activism through indie filmmaking. MediaRights has archived over 7,000 films and has even spawned its own creation, Launchpad, a “youth-focused initiative” on developing and expressing ideas through personal media creation.

Arts Engine relies heavily on the ease-of-access that the internet and other virtual environments provide in distributing and making public materials for both the world of education and the casual, concerned consumer. For Arts Engine, the internet allows for a massive forum of discussion otherwise unavailable or impractical without the help of inexpensive communication that recent decades have produced. In addition to easy distribution, the internet has helped Arts Engine connect filmmakers with donators, via their Fiscal Sponsorship programs. Burgeoning filmmakers can make use of AE’s large audience to help find potential sponsors, and can even create their own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in an effort to produce and distribute their films.

AE relies on both independent film distribution revenue as well as donations from a wide variety of businesses, individuals and production companies interested in the distribution of alternative media. Arts Engine’s widespread berth is immediately apparent after viewing their Funders and Supporters list: such prestigious donors as the Rockefeller Foundation, HBO, Sundance and even TimeWarner (as well as a myriad of others) have donated to the cause of independent filmmaking.  In addition to the online and brick-and-mortar distribution of films, AE has worked in conjunction with PBS’s “POV” and “Independent Lens” to show films to a television audience.

Arts Engine’s direct involvement with the independent media movement places it in an interesting and powerful position as the medium through which many social issues are spread through the art of independent documentary. In this especially turbulent and corporate-minded age, it is comforting to know that there is still a group concerned with the views of those who, due to inaccessibility of  larger publishing funds, would  be otherwise left abandoned. AE’s mission to fund, publish, distribute and discuss independent film and filmmakers sets it apart as one of the most impactful non-profits operating for the benefit of public media in existence today.


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