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Shira’s Writing

Shira writes articles about documentary filmmaking, social justice, the environment, and media and technology. Her work has appeared in Documentary.org, Shareable.net and MediaRights.org, where she curated and edited content and launched the Shortlist series, featuring the film picks of Albert Maysles, bell hooks, Stanley Nelson and others.

Please get in touch if you’d like to hire Shira to write a piece for your web or print publication.

An Alternative Truth: ‘Cool It’ Addresses Climate Change »
published November 2010 on Documentary.org
Excerpt: But where these earlier films stress the importance of carbon reduction and individual responsibility, Cool It operates under the assumption that it is unrealistic and perhaps unfair to expect society to lower its consumption, especially in the “developing” economies of China and India. Lomborg instead puts forth a two-pronged approach: First, we must look at climate change in the context of systemic problems like disease and malnutrition and address those problems simultaneously; second, we must invest in solutions, high- and low-tech, that will combat global warming in the most cost-efficient manner.

LIONESS Outreach Journal: Engaging Americans Around the Changing Role of Women in Combat »
published July 24th, 2010 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: Since Lioness premiered at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in London in March 2008, the documentary has been educating audiences and empowering women who have served in combat to tell their stories and fight for their rights. Lioness has been embraced by the Department of Veteran Affairs and played an instrumental role in the recent passage of the ground-breaking Women Veterans Bill.

Unnatural Gas: Filmmakers Dig Deep to Expose the Impact of Drilling Across the Nation »
published April 24th, 2010 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: Touted as a clean energy source by those eager to capitalize on the current “green” zeitgeist, natural gas is anything but. It does burn more cleanly, with fewer carbon emissions, than coal and oil. However, it is still a nonrenewable fossil fuel that pollutes the air, water and ground. Furthermore, claims that natural gas is a necessary and environmentally-sound transition fuel ignore the impacts of extraction…When filmmaker and theater producer Josh Fox was approached by gas company “landmen” in late 2008 to lease drilling rights for his family’s 20-acre property in the Delaware River Basin, he was confronted with the same dilemma that landowners around the country have faced. Should he take the money (in this case about $100,000 plus future royalties) or should he pass on the cash and retain control over his land and water?

How to Throw a Community Swap Meet »
published January 24th, 2010 on Shareable.net
Excerpt: Beyond all these tangible activities, we feel we are contributing to the creation of a social fabric rich in giving and sharing. At each swap meet, the “Free” section is bigger. It’s not unusual for produce to be left on my doorstep. Before I go to the store, I ask myself, Is this something I can borrow or get from someone in my community and what can I offer them in return? I encourage anyone to take this idea and run with it in your community…for barter or worse!

A Recipe for Change: Documentaries on Food »
published September 23rd, 2009 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: These days it seems like green is the new black. From designer grocery bags to eco-tourism, popular culture has finally embraced environmentalism and, for better or worse, begun coopting it with profit-driven campaigns. Regardless of how you feel about capitalism, the good news for mother earth is that changing your daily habits to lower your impact is no longer wholly dismissed as radical, hippy behavior, at least not by people in blue states. Core to this cultural paradigm shift is food. Americans are making the not-so-giant-leap in logic that what we eat affects our health and the health of our planet, and documentary films have played a significant role in getting us here.

Striving to Make a ‘Reel Impact’: Planet Green Launches New Environmental Documentary Series »
published September 9th, 2009 on Documentary.org
Excerpt: No Impact Man seems to be the right fit with the Reel Impact series, which highlights stories of individuals who are compelled to take action when they realize what’s at stake for current and future generations. Gabbert and her filmmaking team, including co-producer Eden Wurmfeld and co-director Justin Schein, were themselves inspired to rethink not only their personal daily habits, but also the way they make films. They minimized air travel, employed only practical lighting and used four rechargeable nine-volt batteries for the entire year and half of shooting, as opposed to the hundreds thrown in the garbage over the course of the making of most doc features. They even felt compelled by the Beavans to go car-free, capturing tracking shots from the seat of a rickshaw attached to the back of a bicycle. “It felt kind of wrong to be documenting Colin and following him around in an SUV,” Gabbert maintains. “But I also think it lent the film an intimacy and it makes you feel like part of the family.”

Change: It’s What’s for Dinner: ‘Food, Inc.’ Takes on Agribusiness »
published June 10th, 2009 on Documentary.org
Excerpt: The issue of food and the many ways in which it affects our lives is an enormous one, and the film is a broad undertaking, exploring everything from the health impacts of ever ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup (one out of three Americans born today is expected to develop early-onset diabetes), to water and air pollution caused by intensive factory farming, to human rights violations perpetrated against undocumented workers by mega corporations like Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. Viewers are aided in processing all of this information by motion graphics created by Big Star NYC, which worked with Kenner to create an entertaining and helpful visual language for the film. Ultimately, Food, Inc. is an examination of free market capitalism’s disregard for anything other than the bottom line. “This is a film that’s about more than food,” says Kenner. “It’s really about corporate consolidation and irresponsibility and about the relationship of these companies with government. It’s not that different from what happened with the financial crisis. These companies have been totally irresponsible and at the end of the day, we’re the ones who pay the price.”

Going Green, One Film at a Time: Larry Engel on Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking »
published April 14th, 2009 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: Shira Golding: I noticed that you included a lot of pragmatic statements throughout the Code. For example, “Remember that doing even a few things to cut carbon emissions and resource use is better than doing nothing at all.” I thought that was really important because some people get paralyzed by all the options.
Larry Engel: Those statements came out of the survey and interviews. Some people felt that while they could do some recycling in the office, they were overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of bringing everything green to their production. So we thought, let’s encourage people to embrace the Code and take steps to get buy-in from the team that’s involved in production. The key is that doing anything is a step in the right direction. If you look at what’s going on globally, at industrial levels, at governmental levels, you can sit there and go, “Why bother? Why should I as an individual or I, as a member of a fourteen-person production crew making a film, care about this?” And it’s my true belief, and I share this with all the people involved in this project, that every person has a responsibility to act, otherwise nothing is going to change.

Drawing Truth: Animation in Documentary »
published March 17th, 2008 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: When Richard Linklater’s philosophical exploration Waking Life came out in 2001, animation was still largely considered to be “kid stuff” by American audiences. Aside from anime enthusiasts who had long-known the power and potential of the medium, viewers weren’t used to the idea that an animated feature could make them think and perhaps even shed light on historical events and contemporary struggles for social justice. But the tide is changing. Marjane Satrapi’s 2007 animated feature Persepolis provides a much-needed glimpse into Iranian life and culture, and has been embraced by audiences and critics around the country, suggesting that the time for serious animation is here. This shift comes just in time for the release of Brett Morgan’s Chicago 10, opening in theatres around the country this week, which melds animation and archival footage to tell the story of resistance and repression surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Morgan is not the first documentarian to use the technique in recent years…But Chicago 10 takes the integration of animation into documentary to a new level, which begs the question: if documentary is a reality-based medium, one which seeks to present some version of “truth,” how does the highly-creative art form of animation fit in?

Resistance is Fertile: It’s Time to Start Guerrilla Gardening »
published July 15th, 2008 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: While the guerrilla filmmaker’s most powerful weapon is a camera, there is another group of street-level activists who use a different arsenal – dirt, seeds, and trowels. Guerrilla gardeners see the urban environment as space that needs to be reclaimed and transformed through the planting of flowers, fruits and vegetables. While many community-minded green thumbs nurture local parks and gardens and work within the system to campaign for greener streets, their guerrilla cousins take direct action by planting in vacant lots and sidewalks, without permission and often in secrecy.

Change-a-lujah! A Conversation with What Would Jesus Buy? Filmmakers Morgan Spurlock and Rob VanAlkemade »
published December 20th, 2007 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: I got my first glimpse of the impending “Shopocalypse” a few years ago when I joined Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping in Times Square on Buy Nothing Day. Referred to by the unconverted as Black Friday, it’s the day when Americans flood the malls to spend vast amounts of money on holiday gifts. It’s also the day that many people sink deeper into debt, buying things that their loved ones don’t really need at great economic, environmental and social cost. Surrounded by the lights and crowds, I lent my voice to a chorus of “Change-a-lujahs” as Reverend Billy attempted to exorcize the demons out of a Starbucks cash register and was then arrested.

Magnetic Baby, the “Video Podcast Docu-Series” »
published September 18th, 2007 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: Vodcasting, like podcasting and on-demand television, is the latest in a trend of instant gratification delivery methods that enable audiences to decide what they want to watch and when. And in the case of Magnetic Baby, vodcasting provides instant gratification for the filmmakers as well, or as close as you can come to it in the world of documentary filmmaking, where a feature-length film can easily be three years in the making from the beginning of production to the first time it is watched by an audience.

Use It or Lose It: An Update from the Frontlines of the Fair Use Movement »
published July 11th, 2007 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: Education and outreach efforts are inspiring filmmakers to include material in their work that only a few years ago they may have removed for fear of litigation or because of pressure from insurers or distributors. A parallel campaign has been directed towards these very same gatekeepers—lawyers, errors and omissions insurers, broadcasters, theatrical and home video distributors—to teach them that fair use is not a quaint concept, but a right that protects filmmakers and should be considered fairly and accurately when deciding to insure them or distribute their work.

Games for Change: Serious Fun»
published July 21st, 2006 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: It seems then that the video game, with its combination of storytelling and interactivity, might be a medium tailor-made for social change. At once participatory and addictive, a good game demands engagement and action — at least as long as the joystick is in the player’s hand. But what happens when the computer/game system is powered down? The question that stands before the “Games for Change” movement is whether gamers can be motivated to go out and change the world when they are done playing.

The Corporation: Marketing Documentary to the Masses»
published August 25th, 2004 on MediaRights.org
Excerpt: As documentaries become increasingly viable in the mainstream movie market, corporate techniques such as consistent branding are one of the distinguishing factors in whether or not your film is a box office success. And the more people who see your film, the greater the potential impact. Whereas the end goal of corporate marketing is to create addicted consumers, a notion that is elucidated in the film, the goal with marketing a social-issue documentary is to educate and mobilize the public to take action. As Dodds explains, “Our approach is to use the tools of corporate marketing to empower rather than to manipulate.”

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