Producers Institute: Indigenous Science

Past Producers Institutes: 2012 | 2011: Summer | 2011: NYC | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | THE STREAM

Indigenous Science

 Six documentary teams have been selected to develop interactive web, mobile, multimedia, and game projects at the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies from June 10-18, 2011, at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) in San Francisco.

"BAVC's Producers Institute is the future."

--Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program

Since 2007, the Producers Institute has helped independent producers and documentary filmmakers deepen and expand the impact of their socially relevant filmmaking by connecting them with technologists, scientists, data visualization experts, interaction designers, social media strategists, installation artists, developers, and computer programmers to create interactive platforms, new models of participatory media and data-driven tools to enable social change movements on the ground.

Prototypes developed at previous Institutes include mobile data/story collection interfaces to combat human rights abuses and public health crises, geo-located story maps for environmental justice, video games to raise awareness about Iraqi refugees and human trafficking, augmented reality experiences on National Park land, national social action networks for communities fighting hate crimes, and much more. Video stories on past projects can be found at and

For the first time in its five-year history, the Producers Institute has curated projects around a single theme: Indigenous Science. All six selected producers will develop a science-based interactive platform as part of a crossmedia storytelling strategy that includes the participation of global communities.

Mentors from leading technology and design companies, including Google, Twitter, Digital Democracy, Phantom Compass, Free Range, MakerLab, Project Factory, Desperate Comfort, Tomorrow Partners and others, work with teams to develop project prototypes which are presented to an audience of national funders, community partners, and potential investors at the end of the Institute.

Journalist and documentary producer Jehan Harney (Producers Institute alumni 2010) has said,

BAVC has exposed us all to a “paradigm shift” that needs to be shared among the bigger audiences who will be inspired…we have learned revolutionary ideas that will change our media future, and the effective use of films to transform society.”

Projects selected for 2011 include stories from local, national, and international producers on a wide range of topics at the intersection of social justice, astronomy, biomedical research, anthropology, environmental science, and global health, including the impact of AIDS activism on medical research, grassroots public health initiatives, and the upcoming transit of Venus in 2012. Platforms being developed include innovative data visualization, augmented reality & locative media, 3D virtual communities, interactive mobile applications, immersive installations, and much more.

Meet the Producers Institute mentors > 


Nicholas Bruckman,
Producer Musa Syeed,
Director Noah Keating,
Mathbeat Industries

KASHMIR IS BEAUTIFUL is a unique, hybrid social game for Kashmiris who are rewarded online for doing real-world actions of environmental restoration in their communities. Inspired by the narrative film Valley of Saints, the game creates an online playspace within the locally popular Facebook platform that incentivizes players to share, support, and compete in cleaning and greening their homes and neighborhoods. Non-profit partner Mercy Corps is supporting the on-the-ground development, implementation, promotion and impact evaluation of the project. They plan to use KASHMIR IS BEAUTIFUL as a scaleable model for their programs in transitional communities in over 40 countries around the world. The goal is to empower and connect a global network of youth leaders and environmental stewards in regions fraught with conflict and ecological devastation.

Dr. Dean Hamer, Chief of Gene Structure and Regulation at National Institutes of Health, Outreach Director, WE WERE HERE
Kiki Aluko, Kaiser Family Foundation, Greater Than AIDS
Ed Wolf, HIV/AIDS Curriculum Specialist

WE WERE HERE is a digital initiative to promote intergenerational dialogue, and provide support and a fresh framework for education in the HIV/AIDS community. Inspired by the recent Sundance documentary of the same name, the film looks back at the devastation caused by AIDS in San Francisco in the 1980’s and provides insights into how individual action now can lead to critical advances in medical care. In an era when AIDS statistics are growing, through a coordinated campaign with Kaiser Family Foundation, the WE WERE HERE team has created a unique video and audio-enabled timeline of the epidemic that reframes the science and the story for a new generation. A standards-based community learning guide for no-tech, low-tech, and digitally connected audiences provides a rich network of resources for educators and facilitators nationwide.

Lynette Wallworth, Installation Artist
Peter Brundle, Developer Jacob Martinez, 3D Animator

Lynn Dewitt, Environmental Research Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, a division of NOAA
Coral spawn just once a year along the entire coral reef -- an event driven by the moon, and the sun. REKINDLING VENUS is a new, 3-part cross-platform work about the threat to the world’s coral reefs from interactive installation artist Lynette Wallworth. The first stage of the project, an augmented reality application for mobile phones called In Plain Sight, premiered at the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival in Feb 2011. It is currently on exhibition at BAVC. At the Institute, Wallworth developed Lost Ocean, an immersive social web experience that will launch prior to the third part of her project, a full dome film for digital planetariums coinciding with the next Transit of Venus in June 2012. For Wallworth, the Transit of Venus provides a metaphor for global scientific co-operation that was achieved once before in the 1700s and is needed urgently to address the critical scientific challenge of our times — climate change. REKINDLING VENUS will be part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Chris Johnson, Co-Director
Hank Willis Thomas, Co-Director
Bayete Ross-Smith, Producer
Kamal Sinclair, Producer

QUESTION BRIDGE is a web portal and an interactive museum installation designed to facilitate a collaborative dialogue about racial identity – black males in particular. Working with institutional partners - Brooklyn Museum and Oakland Museum – the storytelling platform synthesizes social science discourse, realtime data capture and visualization in both the gallery environment and online. Ultimately, the goals of the Question Bridge project are to overcome social exclusion and estrangement through reimagining a community and breaking institutionalized cultural stereotypes. Linguistic and geo-social data mining will be used as evidence to inform new remedies for long-ingrained racism.

Aaron Soto-Karlin, Producer/Director Fulbright Fellow
Mark Belinsky, Technology Director, Digital Democracy
Tim Trench, Anthropologist, Chapingo Autonomous University

The film Keepers of the Earth uncovers the battle between environmentalists and indigenous peoples in Chiapas, Mexico in the shadow of the global environmental crisis. Government policymakers insist relocating jungle villages will mitigate climate change and preserve biodiversity, but resident communities won’t leave without a fight. EQUAL FOOTING is a two-tiered interface: a paper and GPS community mapping project designed to empower indigenous farmers to participate in land regulation and defend land rights; and an opensource, fully searcheable video, audio, and data-enabled archive based on the Collective Access platform. Working closely with NGO Enlace, local partners will receive training in GPS mapping and data mining.




The BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies is generously funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation with additional support from the Adobe Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and general operating support.