Call for Filmmakers: Counter Histories Series

counter histories logoSouthern Foodways Alliance Seeks Filmmakers for “Counter Histories” Series

In 2014, the SFA marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with a series of documentary films telling the stories of lunch-counter sit-ins across the South.

The first of these films, Counter Histories: Jackson, directed and produced by Kate Medley and Mimi Schiffman, is already complete. SFA now seeks filmmakers to produce installments of Counter Histories in the following cities:

Durham, NC

Rock Hill, SC

New Orleans, LA

Washington, DC metro area

Jacksonville, FL

Nashville, TN


The product: A 5–7 minute documentary film about the lunch-counter sit-in movement of the early 1960s in one city or metropolitan area. For an example of the kind of film we are looking for, please watch Counter Histories: Jackson. (We also encourage you to watch If We So Choose, an SFA Greenhouse Film by Nicole Taylor that tells the story of the desegregation of the Varsity restaurant in Athens, GA.)

Rough cuts of all films are due on or before December 1, 2014, and final films are due no later than December 15.

What we’re looking for in filmmaking partners:
– A strong interest in telling stories about civil rights history through the lens of food.
– Good interview skills—we expect you to seek out living veterans of the sit-in or others who were closely connected with the local civil rights movement. Treat these individuals professionally and respectfully as you encourage them to tell their stories.
– Strong research skills — We’ve started the research for you, but it will be your job to hunt down archival footage, still photographs, newspaper reports, etc. We’ll step in to help with permissions as necessary.
– Ability to work efficiently and meet deadlines.
– Your own equipment, or access to equipment. At the minimum, this includes: Professional grade camera. Preferably, access to two bodies for two-camera interviews. Separate audio recorder or high quality internal-to-camera audio capabilities. Lavalier mics or a boom mic for high quality recording of the subject. Professional grade editing software.
– Flexibility and willingness to accept edits from SFA team and series director Kate Medley.

What we bring to the table:
– Preliminary research on each city. In most cases, we have chosen these locations as Counter Histories subjects because of existing buildings, accessible archival materials, and/or living sit-in veterans.
– Series director Kate Medley will work with each filmmaker to craft a narrative and will assist with on-site production as schedules permit.
– Stipend is $1500 per project, inclusive of filmmakers’ travel. SFA has a budget to cover archival footage/photos within reason.

How to apply:
– Please send a link to a sample reel plus a 200-word statement telling us: 1) why you are a good fit for this project; 2) your first choice of location; and 3) the kind of equipment you will be using. Send your materials to SFA managing editor Sara Camp Arnold, [email protected]
– You may apply as a team, but please note that there is one stipend available per city, not per filmmaker.
-Filmmaker applications are due by noon central time on Monday, August 11.
– SFA and Kate Medley will make selections as soon as possible after the application deadline.

About Counter Histories series director Kate Medley:

Kate Medley is a documentarian of food culture, based in Durham, North Carolina.  With a background in photojournalism and a Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi, Kate works as a photographer and filmmaker for Whole Foods, documenting the stories of farmers and producers. Kate is currently directing the Counter Histories series about the desegregation of Southern restaurants for the Southern Foodways Alliance.