A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA

A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA


A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA

A still from Shine Global's 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

A still from Shine Global’s 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

As you may have heard, the recently proposed FY 18 federal budget eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with 16 other independent agencies.  Shine Global wishes to join the hundreds of artists and organizations expressing dismay over these cuts.  The NEA plays a vital role in the cultural life of the US, as well as being an economic driver of a thriving arts and culture industry.

The budget of the NEA represents a tiny portion of the overall Federal Budget – about 0.004% or 46 cents per American per year.  Founded in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, the NEA’s current annual appropriation amount is just under $148 million.  To compare, this is one third of what the US budget allocated last year for military bands alone.  And internationally, the Canada Council for the Arts budgets eight times as much, on a per-person basis, with plans to double that by 2021.  Cutting these programs will not balance the budget but will have an extremely negative effect on those benefiting from the work of NEA-supported artists and organizations.

Each year, the NEA supports programs of art and education in every congressional district of the US, strengthening the creative capacity of our communities, celebrating our rich cultural heritage, and promoting equal access to the arts in every community across the country.  Most of the NEA’s grants are awarded to small and mid-sized nonprofit groups, and many are targeted at both urban and rural economically disadvantaged communities.

We at Shine have seen first-hand the impact of the arts on people.  Our Academy-Award® winning short documentary film Inocente followed the story of a homeless 15-year-old girl who found hope and support through an after-school arts program in San Diego.  She now is a working artist but has served as an inspiration for the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen the film.  Inocente was even screened for members of Congress in 2013 to show them a personal angle on the importance of funding for the arts.

The NEA has supported our new IGNITE program which brings our films and companion materials to underserved youth who do not have regular access to high quality documentaries or the tools to engage with them.  With the support of the NEA, we are able to bring them a valuable and inspirational experience through the community film screenings.  In addition to sparking an appreciation for film, educating about new issues, and encouraging critical thinking, the IGNITE program inspires viewers to try new things, see the world in a new light, and have hope.  One middle school teacher reported: “I showed this film and taught the lesson plans to help a group of struggling 8th grade English learners, who have lost all hope and ability to “dream,” to once again believe in a better tomorrow.”  Youth themselves have reached out to tell us how inspirational a film was and how it has made them think differently about their own situation – and have hope for improvement.  This emotional impact is just as important as the exposure to film, new ideas, and learning opportunities.

The NEA not only supports Americans expressing our values and culture, but it also supports our economy.  According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and culture is a $704 billion industry, comprising 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity each year and returns $22.3 billion in government revenue.

When Congress enacted the National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act back in 1965, they affirmed a conviction that the arts and humanities are vital to the health and progress of the US.  And they were building on a tradition of the Federal government supporting the arts.  In his first annual message, President George Washington told Congress “there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature.” And Presidents year after year continued to affirm the importance of the arts to our continued prosperity.  The United States Constitution itself mandates that Congress be empowered to promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

The arts are not a partisan issue.  Every president since the NEA’s inception has continued to support its work.  The arts and humanities serve us all and public support is vital to ensure our common participation and common heritage.

The proposed budget is under reviewIf you’d like to join the conversation, please visit the Americans for the Arts’s Action Center to send a customizable message to your elected representatives. Be sure to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media with #ArtsVote, #SaveTheNEA, #StandfortheArts and tag your elected officials.


International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film

International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film


International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film

Shine Global Women - Intl Womens Day 2017

By Alexandra Blaney

Today is International Women’s Day and Shine Global is very proud to celebrate the many women we have worked with over the years as filmmakers, subjects, and activists.  Over 70% of the films Shine has produced or been involved with since our founding, have been directed or co-directed by women while all of them have had female producers.  And on screen as well, we have shared the stories of many resilient and strong women and girls including Rose and Nancy in War/Dance, Perla and Zulema in The Harvest, Inocente in the Oscar-winning Inocente, Lois and Noor in Dancing in Jaffa, Pushpa in Waiting for Mamu, Phreeda Sharp in 1 Way Up, Aisholpan in The Eagle Huntress, and Fon and Eye on The Wrong Light.

In the film world, gender inequality both on and off the screen has become a push button topic.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation of major Hollywood studios just found that they “systemically discriminated” against female directors and the EEOC is currently in talks with those studios in an attempt to address the charges.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University has conducted extensive research and published many studies on women’s on-screen representation and behind-the-scenes employment.  They found that in 2016, only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films were women, which actually represents a 2% decline from the previous year and is on par with percentages achieved almost 2 decades ago, in 1998.  In independent film, outside of the major studios, women are better represented, accounting for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. The Center for the Study of Women also found women are much more likely to work on documentaries than on narrative features. In the festivals they studied for the 2016 The Women in Independent Film Report, women comprised 35% of directors working on documentaries versus 19% of directors on narrative features. These numbers show there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity.

This behind the scenes inequality is reflected on screen as well.  While the number of female protagonists of the 100 top grossing films in 2016 increased from 2015 by 7% to make up 29% of film protagonists, in films helmed exclusively by men, women were only 18 percent of protagonists.  In films with at least one female director or writer, 57% of protagonist were women.  Overall, audiences were still more than twice as likely to see male characters than female characters in top grossing movies, even with such blockbusters as the female-starring Rogue One.

And why does this matter?  Media has a huge influence on our social and cultural behavior, especially on children who are engaging with media up to 7-10 hours a day.  Omission or negative depictions in media can have lasting consequences for children’s beliefs and values.  Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media operates with the belief that “if she can see it, she can be it” and has been working towards increasing representation of women both on and off screen.  We’ve seen this maxim at work first hand with The Eagle Huntress.  Since Aisholpan’s debut as the first female to compete at the Golden Eagle Festival, three more girls have entered.

An article in AAUW Outlook magazine titled “The High Cost of Hollywood’s Gender Bias” found that women on screen are mostly see in traditionally female-dominated occupations, such as teachers and waitresses, and underrepresented in high-level occupations, such as doctors and engineers. A Geena Davis Institute study that analyzed gender roles in popular films distributed between January 1, 2010, and May 1, 2013, found that women held only 13.9 percent of senior executive positions, and only men were depicted as partners in law firms.

While women are underrepresented as a whole, representation for women of color is even worse with only 24% of women on screen being non-white.

At Shine we are proud of our track record of women-lead films and we are part of the movement demanding gender equality in the film industry and across all professions. Women and girls deserve to be seen and heard.