Spreading Social Justice through Cinema
Chelsea Balan ’17 spent her summer supporting the creators of award-winning social justice documentaries.
Balan, a senior majoring in communications and minoring in arts administration, interned with JustFilms, an initiative of the Ford Foundation’s “Creativity and Free Expression” program. At JustFilms, Balan assisted staff who process grants and provide resources for filmmakers to tell powerful stories regarding social justice. JustFilms helps produce many award-winning documentaries, notably Academy-Award winning Taxi to the Dark Side , a part of the Why Democracy? series on PBS, and Eyes on the Prize and How to Survive a Plague , both nominated for Academy Awards. “I wanted to experience an internship that would combine the skills I learned in my arts administration and communications classes with my love for film,” she says. “This internship felt like the perfect choice.”
Each day was different for Balan. She reviewed grants, gave feedback to potential grantees, worked in the editing studio, or met with other interns in seminars with Ford employees and social justice advocates. Throughout the summer, she uploaded documentaries for JustFilms’ internal website for employees to watch and reference and updated the JustFilms database. She also completed a video for Ford’s bi-annual world-wide Meeting. “I’m a song-writer and I got to use my skills while writing the lyrics for this mash-up video,” says Balan. “I sang the song and edited it. It was played at the end of the closing ceremony and remains on Ford’s internal website. Going into this internship, I never thought that I’d be using my skills as a musician or editor.”
“Being an arts administration minor was important to my manager,” says Balan. “He also saw that I knew how to edit video, and was impressed that I had hosted a film screening series through Le Moyne’s Her Campus. He loved that!” Balan is hoping that her experience at the Ford Foundation will help her with her future coursework at Le Moyne. “Through this internship, I could more fully grasp the concepts of arts administration that I sometimes struggled with in class,” she says. “It’s one thing to learn about a subject, but actually putting the concepts you learn into action is totally different. It’s like learning a new language – it’s not until you live in the country for some time or converse regularly that you feel comfortable with that language.”
“I think the only challenge my internship posed regularly was that I was constantly dealing with the negative things in the world like inequality and racism— those forces seem impossible to fix,” says Balan. “At the same time, though, it was inspiring to see the work and concrete change organizations have accomplished with Ford’s funding. We’re all stronger when we’re united in fighting for these causes— I felt that when I walked into work every day. I loved my time at Ford; I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”