F.A.Q.
I have a problem with the site

Yes. You can still watch country-restricted videos using Security Kiss or Zen Mate.

They are both free and give you the option of switching your IP location to a different country. 

Contact us via our contact page with the link to the broken video page and we'll get the video back up if we can find an alternate version.

If you already know of a working version, include the link in your email. That always helps!
 

Please let us know and we'll work on getting the issue sorted out.

If we can't get it figured out, it's no problem to give you a refund. 

If an article, video, or action gets a low rating from our community or staff it will be hidden from the site, but still visible and accessible from the profile page of the user who posted it.

Content can be hidden for a few reasons. A few examples include being overly self-promotional, containing back-links to businesses (SEO link farming),  promoting disinformation, being poorly presented or appearing uncredible, adding content not relevant to the site's mission, or simply being "not that great."

Videos can also sometimes be hidden because the video was already posted to the site and we defer to the original submission in most cases.

If something you add gets hidden, don't worry about it too much. Take another look at our Adding Content guide for tips on what kind of content to add, and have another go at it.

Unrated content shows up under New Member Submissions on the homepage, in the community feed, and in our library when you remove the "best" filter.

When a submission is rated highly by our staff or enough members, it will appear in the "New" section and in our library with the "best" filter applied, which is the default. 

The best way to get your unrated submission to show up on the site is to share it on social media. If it gets enough views, it will naturally show up in our Trending section. 

 

I have a question about hosting film screening events

The short answer is, it depends. In the vast majority of cases, the feature-length documentaries on our site are considered for "Home Use Only." This means you can stream them to a group of friends in your own private residence, or in a closed school setting to registered students, but you'll need to get permission for anything beyond this, such as in public settings, with or without an admission cost.

However, there are many videos and short films on our site that are okay to be streamed. The videos we've tagged under short films, trailers, presentations, and videos are all likely to be free to stream in a public setting.

To find out if you need to pay a "public performance" fee (PPR), go to the film's official website to find out. There is usually a 'host a film screening' section that will tell you, or a contact page where you can ask directly.

If you have a unique situation or are unable to pay the fee they're asking for, we highly recommend you email the film-makers and tell them your situation (venue, audience size, low personal funds, the admission cost etc). It's really simple, and they will likely offer to lower the fee or waive it entirely.

The fee will be anything from $20 for the cost of the DVD to $100 to $150 for community screenings. Or free for many short films and 'released for free" type films.

Yes. In most cases you need to get permission from the filmmakers and buy the DVD at whatever rate they've set for community screenings.


Getting permission is also called getting the Public Performance Rights for the film, or PPR's. This is something we get asked about a lot but it's actually pretty easy. You can do this by going to the film's official website. There may be a "Host a Film Screening" option where you can go through a process they've set up, or you can find a contact email address and send them an email asking for permission and explaining your situation.

Here is a sample email:

Hello. I'm the main organizer for a small non-profit group which screens progressive documentaries at our local theater in Lawrence, KS, and we'd be interested in getting permission to screen the DVD of the film at an up-coming (one time) screening. We charge a low $3 admission to cover the $150 cost of renting the theater and other related costs. Any proceeds that are left over after go towards building a better independent media in our local town (see more at www.filmsforaction.org).

If this is possible let us know. Because the last several screenings we've done have brought in an average of 50 to 70 people (just enough to cover our expenses) we have very meager funds, but we'd love to show the film! :) 

Thanks so much for your time. We've already purchased a copy of the DVD. Though we are low on funds we are happy to work on promoting the film through our website and newsletter, facebook page etc. 

Thanks again, Your name

Your Organization Name
Your city

 

The cost of the PPR's will be different for each film. Just released, larger budget or studio pictures will often charge a fee, often in the $100 - 150 range, so be prepared.  This fee may be reduced if your  event is free, but usually it will be the same. Indie film-makers will sometimes let you screen the film for free (besides the cost of the DVD) but to find out you'll always want to get permission first.

If the cost is an issue early on, there are plenty of excellent "low-hanging" films to choose from. For many older films, or less known documentaries, the film makers will often waive the PPR fee for you simply because they'd like to see the film shown and are no longer concerned about recouping their costs. Also many film makers openly encourage screening their films without seeking permission at all. This can almost always be determined from going to the film's website.

Aside from doing a Google search to find the film's official website, you can also often buy these films from larger distribution sites. Here are the main sites we use:

Green Planet Films (Probably the best source for the films we show)
Media Education Foundation (You will need to email them to get a discount)
Bull Frog Films (You will need to email them to get a discount)

Video Project (Lots of great stuff here)
California Newsreel
Education Revolution
Icarus Films
Progressive DVDs
Amazon

Here are 3 frequently asked questions answered via Green Planet Films.

When do I need PPRs? Examples? 

How many times have you seen the phrase "For Home Use Only" on a videotape and wondered if it was really OK to show the program to students in a classroom or a library setting? While there has been a lot of confusion in this area, the U.S. copyright laws are quite clear in offering guidance on this question. The question can easily be answered by examining the context in which the video is being shown.

First, you'll need some background. The "public performance" of an audio-visual work is the exclusive right of the copyright holder to show their audio-visual work in public and charge for that performance. However, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, Section 110 (1) provides an exemption for certain performances of videos in the United States. This law has come to be known as the "classroom exemption" and provides the basis for responsible and legal use of videos in an educational setting, provided certain criteria are met.

There are four main criteria that must be met before an educator should feel comfortable in showing a videotape or DVD in their classroom. The Copyright Act states that the performance of an audio-visual work “by instructors or pupils” in the course of “face-to-face teaching activities” of a “non-profit educational institution” in a “classroom or similar place devoted to instruction” is exempt from the copyright holder's exclusive right to perform an audio-visual work.

The Report of the House Committee on the Judiciary, Report No 94-1476, which accompanied the passage of the Act in 1976, provides assistance in interpreting the four requirements of the classroom exemption.

1) The term "instructors" is defined as the designated teacher of a class and may also include a guest lecturer or substitute teacher. "Pupils" are members of the enrolled class.

2) A performance is only exempt if it occurs during "face-to-face" teaching activities. According to the House Report, instructors and pupils need to be in the same general place, but don't necessarily need to be able to see one another or be in the same room. Excluded from the exemption is broadcasting or other transmissions from a location into the classroom, whether by means of radio or television or open or closed circuit. (In a future article, we will address the various types of technological devices used to play video in schools and what is commonly considered to be an acceptable use.)

The “teaching activities” requirement is explained by the House Report to encompass systematic instruction of a wide variety of subjects, but does not include performances, regardless of their cultural value or intellectual appeal, that are given for recreation or entertainment purposes. The exemption, therefore, would not apply to non-instructional performances used as filler, for reward or for motivation.

3) According to Section 110(1), only performances by nonprofit educational institutions may take advantage of the classroom exemption. The House Report provides examples such as dance studios and language schools as profit-making institutions that may not take advantage of the exemption. Although the law states that profit-making institutions do not meet the explicit requirements of the classroom exemption, according toNimmer on Copyright (1999), Section 8.15[B][3] , a leading legal treatise on copyright law, the exemption may be interpreted to apply to private, nonproprietary educational institutions that charge tuition or other fees to meet operating expenses.

4) The House Report also explains that a performance is exempt only if it takes place in a “classroom or similar place devoted to instruction” in which the audience members are of a particular class. For example, performances in an auditorium or stadium during a school assembly, graduation ceremony, class play or sporting event are not exempt unless the audience members are of a particular class. If the performance is not in a classroom, then the “similar place” must be a place that is actually used as a classroom for systematic instructional activities like a library, studio, workshop, gymnasium, training field, the stage of an auditorium or the auditorium itself. 

So, if all of the conditions of the classroom exemption are met, it is permissible to show a legally obtained video or DVD in a U.S. classroom or school library without obtaining permission from the copyright owner even if labels like “For Home Use Only” appear on the outside of the video cassette. The “classroom exemption” supersedes these written warnings of the copyright holder.

Even if all of these conditions are not met, you still may have rights to use the audio-visual work in various settings under the doctrine of "fair use," which we will explore in a future article. Another alternative would be to obtain the copyright owner’s written permission for the intended use.

This article was created to provide you with general information and may not address your specific question or situation. Your specific question or situation may change the legal implications. In addition, laws are subject to change and varying interpretations and each jurisdiction has different laws and regulations. Consequently, this article is distributed with the understanding that neither the author nor publisher is rendering legal advice or professional services, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. Please be sure to consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction before taking any action on your specific question or situation.

Do I Need Public Performance Rights to show films?

Yes you will in some cases..see examples below. 

Showing a film to a group may require obtaining public performance rights. It is a public performance if ANY of the following are true:

* the screening is open to the public
* the screening is in a public space – access is not restricted
* persons attending are OUTSIDE the normal circle of a family and its acquaintances

Examples of public performances:

* showing a foreign-language film to the community for cultural enrichment
* showing a film to your club or organization
* instructor showing a film in the classroom for curriculum-related purposes, but inviting persons outside the class to attend
* instructor showing a film to the class for curriculum-related purposes, but in a public or unrestricted-access location

Examples of non-public performances:

* privately viewing the film in your room with friends
* instructor showing the film to officially registered students in a classroom, where content of film directly relates to course.

What is Fair Use?

An excellent description can be found at American University's Center for Social Media.

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.
This document is a code of best practices that helps educators using media literacy concepts and techniques to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances—especially when the cultural or social benefits of the use are predominant. It is a general right that applies even in situations where the law provides no specific authorization for the use in question—as it does for certain narrowly defined classroom activities.

This guide identifies five principles that represent the media literacy education community’s current consensus about acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials, wherever and however it occurs: in K–12 education, in higher education, in nonprofit organizations that offer programs for children and youth, and in adult education. 

We're so glad you're motivated to show one of the films on our site!

Films For Action doesn't actually host the majority of films in our library.  Instead, we're more of a catalog of what is available out there on the internet. We also don't own the rights to any of the films, so we can't give permission to do a screening, but we can point you in the right direction if you need help with that. Feel free to contact us (click Explore above then contact in the drop down menu).

 

 

How does the site work?

"Articles" are writings published in our Articles section that have been rated highly by our members or posted by our staff. You can view unrated articles in our library by removing the "best" filter.

Please do not create an alternate account to vote on your own submissions or ask your friends to vote on your submissions. Impartial votes from our community are the best.

The best way to get your submission seen is to share it on social media. If it gets enough views it will naturally show up in our Trending section on the homepage.

Your reputation serves as a general mark of how much others on the site trust and value your contributions. You gain reputation points whenever another user rates something you added 3, 4 or 5 stars. You can also lose a point from low ratings (1-2 stars).

You will also get a small amount of reputation from rating content on the site. 

 

As you add more content to the the site and rate the submissions of other members, you gain levels. You'll level up at different times depending on the type of content.

We had some plans for this feature when we originally launched v2.0 of the site back in 2010 but have yet to implement them. Right now they are just a fun way to see how active our members are.

 

 

We officially launched the pay-per-view section of our website in April 2015. See our full statement about this new section here.

This section features films from Vimeo On Demand, Yekra, Youtube and others as well as our own Films For Action PPV player.

Our mission is to provide the most definitive library of social change films in one place on the internet, available to watch for free or for a few dollars. With this in mind, launching our own PPV player felt like a natural fit.

Here's how it works:

  • The film-maker chooses the rental and purchase price, as well as the rental duration.
     
  • The revenue is split 70/30 (creator/us) after the transaction fee is collected by our payment processor.
     
  • We've partnered with Piano/Tinypass to handle transactions, analytics, and payments to film-makers.
     
  • We help the film-makers by promoting the film on our social media networks.
     
  • We review and hand-pick every film for our PPV section and only feature films that we think are worth paying for. After all, there are a ton of amazing free films always waiting as an alternative.


If you are a film-maker and would like to feature your social change doc on Films For Action, feel free to get in touch.

First, do a search for the video to make sure it hasn't already been added.

Then go to the Add Video page and paste the Video URL into the form and hit submit. We will draw as much info from the URL as possible.

Other Part Urls
If the film is broken up into multiple parts, enter the first part's URL as the primary video, and then add the rest of the URL parts here. Parts must all be from the same video host.

Alternatively, if there are multiple good videos on the same subject, that would work better grouped together as a theme, rather than being posted separately, you can post related videos as parts.

For example, if you've found several videos covering a major protest event (think G20, G8, WTO), add the best video as the primary video, and then add more supporting video clips as additional parts.

If you're posting a documentary, you can post the trailer as part 2 and mention that in the description.

Title
Next, please clean up the title field to display the title only (removing the name of the site the film is from, for example, or other extraneous text), and double check to make sure all the main words are capitalized. If the video is a trailer you don't need to mention that. We will add that text automatically. If the video is a documentary, include the title and the year released in (parenthesis). 

If the title could be worded more clearly, consider changing it slightly to get it up to the proper standards.

Take this title for example: "Former spy tells all, keep blogging and exposing pursue Treason charges." The title is grammatically nonsensical, the main words aren't capitalized, and the confusing lack of syntax makes it hard to read, appearing amateurish. It's a great video, though. So to clean this up we changed it to "Former Spy Tells All; Calls on Citizen Journalists to "Keep Blogging and Exposing Corruption, Truth"

If the video is a trailer, include the title only and we will automatically add (trailer) to the title when you submit.

Thumbnail
Find an image to upload, if one isn't added automatically. See farther below in the F.A.Q. for more.

Category
Choose the category for the film. Here's a break down of  the different types:

  • Documentary: Feature films usually 30 minutes or greater in length. If it's shorter, tag it a short film. 
  • Short Film: Good-quality production that is 5 to 29 minutes.
  • Trailer: a preview of a documentary
  • Video: Any video that doesn't fit another category. Usually shorter videos that lack the coherent structure of more polished short films.

Length
Enter the length in number of minutes (120).

Website Url
Enter the film's official website or related action campaign. If none exists, you can leave this blank and we will add the URL you added above in this space.

Description
For the video description, one paragraph is ideal, but longer descriptions are okay. Most of the time you can simply paste the description provided with the video, but if no adequate description exists, please write your own summary of the film.

Offering a description of the Who and the What should be sufficient, adding the when and where if it seems relevant. Please write the summary from a third-person, neutral point of view (think Wikipedia), and reserve your personal opinions for the comments section after you have posted the video. Two to three sentences is ideal.

Subject Tags
Add one to three subject tags that best categorize the film. If it helps, for each subject you're considering, ask yourself if you'd expect to see the video listed on that subject's dedicated page. We'd like our subject pages to be a high functioning resource for exploring and researching specific issues.

That's it!
Hit submit and you'll be good to go. After you've submitted the video, it will go to our spam filter where we'll manually approve each submission. After that, you can share the video on social networks to help get the video in our "Trending" section. 

You can also edit the video you submitted by hitting "EDIT" to the left of the video title.

Videos: Embedded video from another site, such as Youtube or Vimeo
Articles: Republished articles from other websites or original writings written by you.
Posts: Could be an image, a status update, or a link to any website, which shows up on your profile page and in our community section.

City Chapter Content
Events: Local events happening in the city chapter area.
Groups: Local groups working on social change issues that are generally aligned with our mission and vision.
News: Articles written by you with a local focus. Anyone can become a blogger for a city chapter and can post immediately if you've signed up for an account. You can also republish articles from other websites in this space.

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide funding for documentary projects. Our project is dedicated to helping filmmakers promote their films after they've been released. 

That said, here are a couple resources for funding:

Sundance Documentary Fund Program

The Pollination Project

Kickstarter

If you know of other resources, please contact us so we can expand this list. 

What does Films For Action think about...?

Of all the issues Films For Action has covered, 9/11 is certainly the most controversial. Do we think "9/11 was an inside job?" No, we do not (and we would question what exactly that infers for most people). But we also know that the "official" account as presented by the 9/11 commission or more popularly by the media is far from the whole truth either. Whether someone says "Osama was behind it and our government is blameless or incompetent," or someone says "9/11 was an inside job," whatever that is actually supposed to mean, simple conclusions like these will never encapsulate the truth in its entirety.

The truth about this event is much more complex, and much more muddy, and any attempt to sum it up should need a few volumes to truly do it justice.

As an organization that believes in the ethical principals of journalism, we believe we have a responsibility to impartially look at the evidence available, sift out un-substantiated claims, and present what credible evidence can be found to the public in a coherent and complex narrative that gives fair weight to every relevant perspective. Sadly, this approach has not been taken by the majority of mainstream news outlets as well as well-meaning left-progressive media.

It's true, there is a high degree of misinformation on the subject, which has plagued the efforts of sincere activists, citizens, scientists, elected officials and government whistleblowers who have tried to find representation in the media and been largely ignored.

A few examples of misinformation include: the idea that nuclear, space, or holographic weapons were responsible for the demolition of the WTC buildings, that hijackers were not involved in the plot, or that "Jews did 9/11."

A few examples of films that contain misinformation include: In Plane Site, Loose Change (Editions 1, 2) 9/11 Eyewitness, PentaCon, and Missing Links.

Unfortunately, the most shocking, offensive or absurd claims are the easiest to bolster and amplify by the mainstream media, giving the general public the impression that these fringe claims represented the entire movement.

Even the more moderate parts of the 9/11 justice movement, as you'd expect, are not perfect. They make mistakes, follow dead-end leads, can jump to conclusions too fast, and can diminish their own efforts with misleading and confusing slogans like, "9/11 was an inside job." On top of that, the movement has no leaders or control over the extremely diverse number of people who claim to represent it, and so it becomes incredibly difficult to sift through and find what credible information actually exists, and what stories deserve futher investigation.

So this brings us to the big question every journalist must ask: is there any credible information critical of the 9/11 commission's findings that deserves to be represented or investigated further?

Having done hundreds of hours of research over the last few years, we've been able to sift through a great deal of information and misinformation out there and hope to provide an archive of the most credible, verifiable and factual information we have found thus far.

Contrary to popular belief, the answer to this question is unequivocally yes. There is enough hard data that can be verified to support the movement's basic call for a new, independent investigation. Much of this information, as many new to the issue might be surprised to discover, has actually been reported on first and verified by mainstream outlets, and many government officials and whistle-blowers have spoken out to criticize various aspects of our government's actions, before, during and after 9/11.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the most conservative 9/11 film, with virtually no speculation, sticking just to verified facts, and following the story of the victim's family members would also receive the least mainstream attention.

For further reading, we recommend checking out our main opinion-piece on 9/11: Taboo or Not, Journalists Have a Duty to Report the Full Truth about 9/11

We strongly believe vigorous and rational debate in this country is the corner-stone of a healthy democracy. No matter how taboo or controversial, the free flow of a diverse array of information and perspectives will ultimately benefit us all. For more on this, see our other opinion piece: What's the Value in Conspiracy Theory?

With thousands of videos scattered across the internet on various websites, both obscure and mainstream, we wanted to create a site that catalogs the best of these films all in one place. We've spent hours watching all sorts of videos, researching the issues they cover, and have done our best to include the best we've watched, while importantly, not including any films that are misleading, contain disinformation, misinformation, or are simply not that great.

You won't however, find that we are squeamish when it comes to covering controversial issues. You will see we have several of documentaries on 9/11 and aren't concerned about covering these difficult subjects the way a lot of left media avoids 9/11 and similar 'don't go there' topics. As our motto goes, "Neither left nor right, but straight ahead." When the ideas or assertions are grounded on thorough research and evidence, we will add the videos or articles to the site.

That said, if there's a good film or video that you think should be on the site, it's likely we just haven't come across it yet, so don't hesitate to create an account and add it yourself.

For a direct answer, check out this article we wrote.

For an in-depth answer related to why we need independent, non-profit alternatives to corporate media, check out these videos tagged under our "Big Media" subject.

For those that are a fan of Alex Jones and Infowars, we have written a full explanation of our position about this here: New World Order or Business as Usual? -- An Open Letter to Supporters of Infowars and Alex Jones

Documentaries, like all media, are inherently persuasive. The goal of the medium at its highest ideal is to document reality in an honest, un-biased, informative and entertaining way. But of course, realizing this ideal is not an easy task, and it's certainly prone to abuse. Film-makers can easily use the various story-telling techniques at their disposal to appear impartial, while in reality they distort the truth by omission, by unfair emotional appeals, dramatic music, slanted language or other trickery. Even given the best intentions, to put the whole sum of an infinitely complex world into the span of a feature length film is a task for the impossible.

Given a limited time frame, you have to put emphasis on some parts of the story and downplay others, which inevitably creates a point of view. You want the audience to feel emotional resonance with an issue, but you don't want to unfairly manipulate their emotions. All this brings up a debate about whether all documentaries are propaganda in some form, and especially this new generation of activist documentaries, which don't try to hide the fact that they're advocating a point of view.

So, what's our litmus test for deciding whether a documentary succeeds at realizing the ideal of the medium or is simply propaganda for the film-maker's personal agenda?

Here it is: if you researched the issue yourself for a dozen hours, would you still come to roughly the same conclusion? If the emotional resonance and intellectual understanding that you gained from watching this 90 minute film is roughly the same as if you had researched the issue for dozens of hours, then the film has done its job. Of course, in due diligence, this means doing some research on the films we watch, and A/B testing our impressions.

So, if a film cuts a few corners to get us to that emotional/intellectual epiphany by the end of the film, we think it's an acceptable tradeoff so long as the core foundations of their conclusions are solid.

There is a high volume of unreliable information on the internet, from both mainstream and alternative sources. It takes time to research and discern what is accurate and what isn't, but the quality and usefulness of our website depends on keeping the erroneous opinions and false-statements to a strict minimum. Our recommended news links on the bottom-left column of our News page provides a good starting point for reliable information: http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/

Here are a few examples of films that contain mis- or disinformation, and which use classic propaganda techniques to establish their conclusions:

Please take the time to research issues with a fair, critical, but open-minded attitude, and do your best to avoid adding content that contains misinformation, disinformation, or is otherwise misleading.

Distinguishing the gold from the mud can be difficult, of course, and takes time, especially when diving into this information for the first time. If you're interested in improving your media-literacy skills, we encourage you to check out these resources:

We support and share a diversity of left perspectives, from progressive to libertarian socialist / anarchist. We are here specifically to support the wide variety of left movements working for change. We're also trying to model what "left unity" might look like, since that's kind of been a problem for the left for a long time... the splintering and factions that is.

One no, many yeses is our general philosophy. 

Have a question that wasn't answered?