Community Partner Spotlight: Undocumented Filmmakers Collective (UFC)

Today, we turn the spotlight over to one of our Community Partners, the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective. The Undocumented Filmmakers Collective is a nonprofit that “tackles the systemic inequities that undocumented immigrants face in the field of filmmaking.” After reading their spotlight blog, we encourage you to follow them on Instagram, X, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

What is the history of your organization, and what is its mission?

Films about undocumented immigrants have become part of the mainstream media landscape. However, opportunities for undocumented filmmakers continue to be sparse due to perceived restrictions around our immigration status. This challenge manifests itself mainly through the following systemic barriers: 

  • Abundance of films about undocumented community that often don’t hire undocumented filmmakers. 
  • Lack of understanding within film industry about their ability to support the livelihoods of undocumented folks. 
  • Lack of access to mentorship/professional development pipelines for undocumented filmmakers.
  • Restrictions in grant applications due to immigration status.

While undocumented filmmakers have found ways to navigate these challenges by producing their own low- to no-budget films, the pipeline to provide mentorship and resources for these artists is important so that undocumented artists can thrive by pursuing their calling in life regardless of the confines of their status. 

Building upon the media justice organizing of other undocumented leaders, the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective tackles the systemic inequities that undocumented immigrants face in the field of filmmaking, by centering the expertise of undocumented people not only as sources of stories but more importantly as creators, artists, and primary audiences.

With the growing popularity of streaming and entertainment services looking towards the various faces of “inclusivity,” now more than ever is the time to assert creative autonomy for undocumented creatives both on and off-screen. The distinct problem isn’t the lack of POC, immigrant, or undocumented creatives in the field, but rather the lack of initiative from studios to collaborate and integrate such creators to participate in the development of creative entertainment.

How do you support members of the creative community, and how can a creator get involved with your organization? 

We support creators who are currently and formerly undocumented at any point of their creative career. We support members in providing access to film festival opportunities, speaking engagements, artistic development opportunities, showcasing member work, and community building events. A creator who identifies as part of our community can join here.

Members of the creative community who do not have the shared immigrant experience can still support our organization by becoming an ally. By becoming an ally you are empowering and fostering the growth of an individual, both as an artist and as a professional.Representation matters in front and behind the camera. This is your opportunity to connect and work with UNDOCUMENTED artists; from actors to editors to creative producers, our community has them all. You can learn how to lawfully work with any person regardless of their immigration status as well as have access to workshops and events.  

What inspired your organization to become a Copyright Alliance community partner?

The Copyright Alliance’s values to uplift and represent the interests of artists is inspiring. This shared value and the work around advocacy and inclusion that Copyright Alliance moves forward is a new and refreshing take on how artists in our community can sustain, value, preserve and protect their work and career. 

How have copyright and related issues affected your organization and its creator base?

Quite often, our community is viewed as a source of poor labor and our work is not regarded with high value. Therefore, extractive practices are quite prevalent. Our organization is fairly new, we have only existed for three years, but we have run into issues around protecting our work and our community of artists from predatory practices that industries and people initiate toward our community. We believe that with tools and help from organizations like the Copyright Alliance, we are able to obtain tools and access to information needed to make informed decisions on how to protect ourselves, such as through registering works for copyright.

What is one thing you wish creators understood more clearly about copyright?

I wish creators understood more about how copyright is a necessary part of the artistic process and how powerful it is to protect their work. There is an overwhelmingness to even the word copyright and I think it has to do with our community’s lack of access and knowledge around it. I wish more arts organizations, fellowships, schools, and mentors spoke more about this process so it can be a priority in creator’s work.

What advice would you give aspiring creators just starting out and unsure of how to protect their work?

The advice I would give to an aspiring creator who is just starting out and unsure how to protect their work is to write down a list of reasons why you need to protect your work and scenarios that worry you and then write another list asking yourself why you shouldn’t protect your work. If protecting your work outweighs not protecting your work, use those scenarios and concerns to research and ask questions of other artists, mentors, professors, or your community. If money is the biggest obstacle for you, which it often is, you can apply for scholarships or grants and factor copyright as a line item in your application. Make it a practice to think about protecting your work so you can make it a part of your practice and fundraising initiatives. 

What are some current debates or issues surrounding copyright law that your organization is paying attention to, and what is your stance on them?

Currently, I am paying attention to how copyright laws are holding up in the metaverse and in AI. I am weary of digital interventions that do not honor an artist’s reproduction and distribution rights. Until the metaverse and AI platforms are able to provide creditable compensation, value, and credit to artists that they are extracting from, I remain cautious and find copyright to be absolutely necessary to protect us from these platforms that are emerging.

What are some common misconceptions that creators have about copyright, and how does your organization address them?

There is a lot of confusion between copyright, licensing, and the overall benefits of protecting your work. There is also a misconception that copyright and licensing can only benefit U.S. citizens. Our organization is committed to obtaining more information and demystifying the process for our community.

If you aren’t already a member of the Copyright Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form! Members gain access to monthly newsletters, educational webinars, and so much more — all for free!

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