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Big Picture Alliance’s mission is to engage, educate and empower Philadelphia youth through filmmaking and digital media arts. They provide transformative learning experiences and a supportive pathway for youth in marginalized communities to have their voices heard, develop as young professionals, and reach their full potential. The program provides students with digital literacy and self-expression skills, social and emotional empowerment, professional development, and civic engagement. One long-term goal is for participants to contribute to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable industry.

Founded in 1996 by Jared Martin (Actor/Director) and Jeffrey Seder as a filmmaking apprenticeship program for underserved youth, in its first 15 years BPA expanded its programs across 6 Philadelphia city council districts. They have partnered with schools, cultural institutions, and social service agencies. In 2013, BPA joined the School District of Philadelphia to design, develop and implement a digital storytelling curriculum – “resulting in improved academic achievement and exemplary skill development” (Rand Corp Report, 2014). BPA brought this programming to hundreds of youths across Philadelphia through dozens of new school and community partnerships. In 2015, BPA youth explored the impact of gentrification in west Philadelphia through “Stories from the Promise Zone”, a partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity, PHMC, and UPenn. The film was screened at City Hall. In 2017, youth documented their journey using DNA to trace their African Ancestry in “We Are Sankofa,” winning Best Youth Film at BlackStar Film Fest. In 2018, BPA launched Via Lux Media, a youth-led media collective producing independent films and a youth film fest. In 2020, BPA created the Covid Resiliency Project – an Emmy-Award-winning web series created by and for Philadelphia youth as a virtual space to share vital information during the pandemic.

Since 1996, BPA has served 7200 youth through 100 partnerships resulting in academic achievement, 150 scholarships, 250 internships, and 850 films (70 award-winning). Through their 25-year history, they have cultivated a generation of artists, leaders, and media professionals.serves as a point of community engagement, a social hub, and a food distribution center for the Latinx community of Norristown and Montgomery County, a community hit particularly hard in the past year as the pandemic exacerbated existing food and job insecurity.

Media is vital in our society, yet youth from marginalized communities often lack access to digital media education. This can hinder their academic achievement, career paths and representation in film and media. Through BPA’s programs, youth learn the digital literacy skills they need to prepare for their future and shape their own narrative. Through learning the collaborative craft of digital storytelling, youth make critical connections among themselves, their communities and society. Filmmaking offers a creative approach to exploring one’s history, culture, identity, and role in the world – as well as developing a deeper understanding and empathy for others. Our young filmmakers explore the world around them and develop a deeper understanding of themselves, what they are capable of, and where they want to go in life. They share their original films through screenings & broadcasts to self-advocate, spark dialogue & inspire action – providing a crucial response to their underrepresentation & misrepresentation. This process from script-to-screen can be transformative, whether that means building confidence, improving academically, making social connections, transforming perceptions, developing professional skills, or even pursuing careers in film & media.

Year Awarded: 2022

Grant Type: Operating

Focus Area: Arts & Culture

Grant Amount: $50,000