Katy ChevignyKaty Chevigny is the filmmaker behind Election Day (POV 2008) as well as the co-founder of the non-profit media organization Arts Engine, whose production arm, Big Mouth Films, has produced eight feature-length documentaries. This week, Arts Engine celebrates its 10th anniversary with a series of screenings at the Paley Center for Media in New York. Katy writes in to tell us more about the occasion.

It was a little over 10 years ago when Julia Pimsleur and I started our own production company in New York to make documentary films. Our plan then, as it still is now, was to establish a creative, collaborative environment to make documentaries on a range of topics, working with a number of different directors.

Julia had just spent seven years living in Paris, where she learned how to be a producer at the French National Film School. As a result, she was inspired to borrow from the model of many French documentary production companies, in which producers bring a creative vision to their slate of films and work collaboratively with a select group of filmmakers to achieve that vision.

We started Big Mouth with a simple business strategy of developing long-form documentaries for production (our first film was Kirsten Johnson‘s Innocent Until Proven Guilty) while also producing work-for-hire documentary projects for European production companies. And while our production department was steadily plugging away making this eclectic roster of documentaries, we developed into a non-profit organization called Arts Engine, eventually launching the website MediaRights.org and the Media That Matters Film Festival.

Over the course of the last decade, we have completed eight feature-length documentaries by six different directors. Our two latest films were both lucky enough to find themselves a home on POV: Andrew Walton‘s Arctic Son was part of POV’s 2007 season, and my film, Election Day, will have its broadcast premiere on POV on July 1, 2008.

Arts Engine logoLater this week, as part of our 10th anniversary celebration, the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) here in New York City will be showcasing our work in a special four-day (May 1 – 4) retrospective and workshop series. For the first time ever, all eight Big Mouth films will screen, along with highlights from several years of our Media That Matters Film Festival. In addition, on Thursday, May 1, we are offering a special workshop to educators on the uses of social justice media. All screenings and events are open to the public, and the full schedule can be found on Arts Engine’s website.

None of us here can really believe that it’s been 10 years since we started — but we’re looking forward to seeing what the next 10 years have to offer. Marking this decade of work by sharing these films with an audience is a great privilege for us, and we hope that some of you will join us at the Paley Center this weekend!

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POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.