#GivingTuesday and Responsible Giving

#GivingTuesday and Responsible Giving


#GivingTuesday and Responsible Giving

By Alexandra Blaney

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States, November 28th, is #GivingTuesday – the designated day to give to charities. Since its founding by the New York-based 92Y in 2012, along with the United Nations Foundation, #GivingTuesday has grown into a global phenomenon with similar campaigns extended in many other countries.  You probably have been inundated with emails from charities asking you to give on #GivingTuesday and have seen the social media posts.  But before you give, you should do your due diligence and make sure you are giving responsibly.

The issue of responsible giving is something that was really brought home to us in the making of our latest film The Wrong Light.  Mickey Choothesa had founded an organization in Thailand called COSA with an “upstream” prevention approach to trafficking. He promoted COSA as a sanctuary providing educational opportunities for young girls and his work drew international donors, a steady stream of western visitors, and global press attention. However, conversations with both the girls and their families contradicted Mickey’s version of their stories, and we unexpectedly uncovered both financial and marketing fraud.  As a filmmaking organization, we were already sensitive to issues of representation (and recently wrote about our thoughts on media literacy), but this experience led us to believe that narrative transparency is just as important as financial transparency for non-profits and donors.

A new survey done by the BBB (Better Business Bureau) found that millennial parents are more likely than Gen X, boomer, or Silent generation parents to research charities before making a donation and to discuss giving with their children.[i]  We should follow millenials’ lead and all do this.  To help you, we’ve developed this checklist of what you should be looking for before you give.

    1. Verify Your Charity is actually a charity. Just because they are asking for donations does not mean they are actually a registered charity. There are a number of websites that provide information on charities, including whether or not they are a 501(c)(3) public charity registered with the IRS (in the US). org, Guidestar.org, and Give.org are a couple recommendations.
    2. Check for Financial Transparency. Transparent organizations should have their financials publicly available for you to view.  You can read over the 990 tax returns but also check to see if they have annual reports that may present financials in an easier to understand format (along with impact information).
    3. Check for narrative transparency. The choices that organizations make in their use of images and messaging reflects the organization’s values and has an impact on the people they are trying to help.
      1. Does the organization have a published Images and Media Policy or is it a signatory to an existing code?
      2. If not, when you look at the organizations images and messaging, do they appear to be presenting people with dignity and respect and providing context for the images.  You can read a comprehensive images and message code of conduct developed by Dóchas here.
    4.  Follow Through. After you’ve given, does the charity follow through?
      1. You should receive a receipt for your donation, at least for tax purposes
      2. The organization should also report on their work and how they used donations to further their mission.
    5. This is just a starting point on giving responsibly and respectfully.  You are giving because you want to help make the world a better place for all people, so take steps to ensure your money is actually contributing to long-term, sustainable impact that will transform people’s lives.

      [i] http://www.give.org/news-updates/news/2017/11/new-survey-millennials-are-raising-the-next-philanthropic-superheroes/

Media Literacy Week 2017 & The Wrong Light

Media Literacy Week 2017 & The Wrong Light


Media Literacy Week 2017 & The Wrong Light

By Alexandra Blaney

With #FakeNews trending and the current investigations into Russian propaganda revealing that an estimated third of Americans saw Russian ads during the 2016 election, media literacy has become an essential skill.

Think back to the last interesting thing you read on social media.  Do you remember the source of that post?  Did you click through to read the actual article or did you only look at it in your news feed (perhaps click share) and then move on?  With the amount of time we all spend consuming a cornucopia of media via words, images, and sounds carefully composed and targeted based on data – we need to expand our literacy skills to be able to think critically about the messages we receive – and also that we create and share. If we can develop into informed and reflective media consumers, we will be able to be better donors and activists and wiser voters.

For us, we came face to face with the issue of how media and storytelling is used to play to our own biases and interests in the making of The Wrong Light (2016).  We decided to make that film because we were drawn to (an ultimately false) story of the sex trade in Thailand and how desperate parents had to consider selling their children while one heroic activist worked to stop them.  It had all the elements of a great narrative arc and we had incredible access to the story through the purported activist Mickey Choothesa.  But as our directors Josie Swantek Heitz and Dave Adams uncovered over the course of filming, his story was completely fabricated.  He had been relying on people’s attraction to these types of stories to raise funds and gain media attention – it didn’t matter that these stories were made up by him and didn’t represent the lives of the girls at the COSA shelter at all.  It is what people wanted to hear and what they responded to and so that’s what he used.

And we were not the only ones attracted to this story: VICE published a glowing portrait of Mickey; PRI used him as one of their main sources in a multi-part piece on sex-trafficking; donors and volunteers around the world gave money and time to his organization.  This widespread support of a fraudulent organization made us reexamine our own role in creating narratives as filmmakers and also our role as donors and activists. We felt that we all – creators and activists alike – needed to be more aware of the ethics of humanitarian storytelling and how representations of other people, especially the most disenfranchised, can affect their everyday lives.  We hoped that audiences would see our film The Wrong Light and be inspired to consider the public’s desire for exaggerated and/or untrue narratives and move towards a greater demand for transparency, informed consent from subjects of stories, and due diligence in storytelling.  We faced the obstacle of trying to convince people that representation and narrative transparency actually mattered and had real world consequences. And then the 2016 presidential election happened and the topic of media transparency and media literacy has been at center stage.

A recent Stanford study showed that students at almost every grade level cannot distinguish fake news from real news and while they consume media for as many as 10-11 hours a day, they do not have the critical media literacy skills they need to judge it. To develop future citizens, future activists, future media consumers and creators, we need to ensure they have the critical media literacy skills they’ll need to navigate a minefield of content coming at them from every side.

We’ve compiled a list of resources teachers and parents can use:

[1] https://namle.net/publications/media-literacy-definitions/
[2] https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/11/17/remarks-president-obama-and-chancellor-merkel-germany-joint-press
[3] https://ed.stanford.edu/news/stanford-researchers-find-students-have-trouble-judging-credibility-information-online
[4] Rideout, Victoria J., et al. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2010.

The Wrong Light on Digital and DVD this November

The Wrong Light on Digital and DVD this November


The Wrong Light on Digital and DVD this November

Pre-Order on iTunes

The Wrong Light will be available in the US exclusively on iTunes starting November 7th with other digital platforms following later in November.

It will be available on DVD from Amazon starting Nov 14th and the DVD will include special extras including deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage.

We need your help to be a success!

Even if you’ve already seen The Wrong Light – we could use your help to get the film in front of more people!

1.  Rate the movie on iTunesIMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes

2. Share the link on social media so more people find out about the movie:

Post on Facebook:

Example Post:
So excited for The Wrong Light to be coming out.  The New York Times calls it “an engrossing cautionary tale.” You can pre-order on iTunes now: http://bit.ly/iTunesTheWrongLight 

Tweet about it:

Example Tweet:
So excited for @TheWrongLight – You can pre-order on #iTunes now bit.ly/iTunesTheWrongLight  #TheWrongLight


An engrossing cautionary tale – Daniel Gold, The New York Times

The film sheds valuable light on the potentially damaging effects of grand-scale deception on the needy and vulnerable. – Gary Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times

A truly eye-opening documentary  – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film

WINNER – Grand Jury Prize – NJ Films – Montclair Film Festival
Official Selection – Cleveland International Film Festival
Official Selection – Atlanta Film Festival
Official Selection – Heartland Film Festival
Plus an Official Selection at UNAFF Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival, Louisiana International Film Festival, Cine-World Film Festival

Official Movie Website:

Official Facebook Page:

Runtime: 78 minutes
USA, Thailand/ Not Rated
In Mien and English with English subtitles

Shine Global’s 3rd Annual Gala

Shine Global’s 3rd Annual Gala


Shine Global’s 3rd Annual Gala

Last Wednesday, October 11, 2017, we hosted Shine Global’s 3rd annual gala at a private club called 3 West. With more than 150 guests, filmmakers, staff and volunteers and a wonderful trio of Julliard students in attendance, our party went into full swing early and built from there!

We’re so honored that 10 of our 2017 filmmakers from The Election Effect, The Difference, Liyana, Tre Maison Dasan (working title), and Virtually Free (working title) were able to join us to share their works and chat privately with our guests. Thanks to generous donations of experiences and destinations by board members and friends, auctioned by the incomparable Lucas Hunt, Shine raised over $100,000 in donations and pledges that will help us in our work next year to transform children’s lives through film. It was a night to remember!

Check out the photos on our Facebook page:

Thank you to everyone who came to our 3rd Annual Gala last week! It was a huge success and a fun and inspirational evening!

Posted by Shine Global Inc. on Monday, October 16, 2017

Shine Global 2016 Annual Report

Shine Global 2016 Annual Report

Shine Global 2016 Annual Report

We are pleased to share Shine Global’s 2016 Annual Report with you. 2016 was one of Shine’s busiest years with The Wrong Light and The Eagle Huntress reaching their first audiences.

Thank you to every one of our board, staff, filmmakers, interns, donors, sponsors, film subjects, social media fans, and community partners for making this all possible.



Shine Board Member Profile: Anne Prost

Shine Board Member Profile: Anne Prost


Shine Board Member Profile: Anne Prost

As part of an ongoing series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.

Anne Prost, Chair of Board of Directors, Shine GlobalName: Anne Prost
Joined Shine Board of Directors: 2005
Title: Non-profit consultant
Current Role at Shine: Chair of the Board of Directors (as of Fall 2017)

I was born in the French Alps and grew up just outside Paris where, as the cliché goes, I was fed a solid diet of obscure art-house movies. The closer I got to filmmaking however was probably when taking high resolution pictures of atomic structures during my physics postgraduate studies (carried out in a building that used to house Isadora Duncan’s dance school). After a few years spent as a scientist in an industrial research laboratory in Paris, I moved to London where I worked as a strategy consultant for large multinational corporations, across several European countries.

I eventually came back to science and spent the next 7 years as Scientific Attaché at the French Embassy in London. To fulfil a long-term interest in the not-for-profit world, I became trustee and later chief executive of Medical Aids Films, a charity that produces teaching and training films focusing on maternal and child health in low resource settings, in particular sub-Saharan Africa. My family relocated to the New York City area in 2012, and I decided to focus on advising not-for-profits in a pro-bono capacity, with a particular interest in education, the media and the arts. In addition to Shine Global, I sit on the Board of Children’s Academy, a school in NYC for children with speech and language delays.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?

I first came in contact with Shine Global as a pro bono consultant, working on its strategic plan with Susan MacLaury and Alex Blaney. Spending a couple of months interviewing Board members, directors, distributors and funders, I found myself in the privileged position of getting to know the organization and its mission quite intimately. I witnessed the high artistic standards of Shine’s productions, the vision and the intense dedication of its founders and executive team, and the great expertise and warmth of its Board members. Shine actually finds itself at the intersection of several of my long-term interests: the power of film to educate and incite change; the condition of children and the extraordinary resilience that they often display; the role that not-for profit organizations can play towards social change. Later joining the Board was really an obvious decision!

These are exciting times for Shine: the organization has worked very hard on consolidating its governance and can now grow confidently from this strong foundation. I look forward to supporting Shine in any way I can for the years to come.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?

Being introduced to a new project and watching the first images during a Board meeting is always a rather unique moment. Before being brought to the Board, the project has gone through a stringent evaluation process by Shine’s New Projects Committee and there is always a great sense of anticipation, artfully built up by Susan and Albie. The first few minutes of footage carry the promise of engrossing storytelling and high cinematographic values. And then the hard work of fundraising and production starts.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?

I try to bring to Shine’s Board the professional skills that I picked up over the last decade, as chief executive, board member and consultant for other not-for-profit organizations, on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as those acquired as a strategy consultant. I have thus been involved in Shine’s strategic planning and been chair of its Development Committee. I also ask a lot of questions, probably a persistent habit from my “scientific years.”

Hopefully, I will bring to my new role as chair some of the skills retained from my years in diplomacy.

I may also bring a few gallicisms that my fellow Board members have been kind enough to ignore!

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?

There is no doubt that you must be really passionate, persistent and very patient, to produce documentaries. Producing the film in itself is no mean feat, with funding often difficult to gather, but getting the film distributed and watched is also a challenge. Shine supporters can play an important and central role by spreading the word, sending feedback and recommending our documentaries to organizations that they are involved in. And there are so many remarkable children whose stories deserve to be told!

Anything else you want to say?

Shine often works with directors who are at early stages in their careers, mentoring them if needed. Although this is not explicitly part of its mission, I feel that this is also an area where Shine has a very positive impact.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the other profiles of board members Dario Spina here, Keith Brown here, Kay Sarlin Wright here, Marilyn DeLuca here, Al Cattabiani here, Bill MacArthur here, Don Melnick here, and Robert Baker here.