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in Filmmaking
on Mar 25, 2009

Today at the Said Business School at Oxford University, England, the 2009 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship kicked off, and with this year’s edition comes a partnership between the Skoll Foundation and the Sundance Institute that sends four doc filmmakers to the forum.

As the Skoll Foundation describes the conference, “Each year nearly 800 delegates from more than 60 countries convene for this premier gathering of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. Prominent figures from the social, academic, finance, corporate and policy sectors engage for three days and nights in a series of debates, discussions and work sessions focused on accelerating, innovating and scaling solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social issues.”

Sundance describes their initiative with Skill thusly: “It is a $3 million, three-year initiative designed to explore the role of film in advancing knowledge about social entrepreneurship. In essence, there are activists who want to draw attention to social issues and there are filmmakers looking for compelling stories to tell. Sundance Institute brings the two groups together. Film is the medium for modern storytelling. Storytelling drives social change.”

The Sundance Institute’s Ken Brecher and Cara Mertes are attending the forum this year and they brought with them four doc filmmaker fellows supported by Sundance, who will observe the proceedings and network among the attendees. The filmmakers are Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.), Gayle Ferraro (To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunnus Banks on America), Greg Barker (Sergio), and Joe Berlinger (Crude)

Gayle Ferraro will be guest blogging here this week, relaying stories of the people and ideas she comes across at Skoll. Here is her first post.

As more extraordinary things happen with making this film – too intimate and unusual to get into here… I have been invited by Sundance Institute as their guest to attend the sixth Skoll Social Entrepreneur World Forum here at Oxford University.

Since I am in the final stages of production and into post on a feature doc (To Catch a Dollar –WT) portraying 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Grameen Bank Founder and the patron saint of all social entrepreneurs (according to Patricia Finneran Sr. Consultant for Sundance Institute) Dr. Muhammad Yunus AND the film project is a recipient of a generous grant from the Skoll Foundation (Sundance/Skoll Stories of Change) – one could say that it is quite fitting that I participate in this event. Add to that I briefly attended Oxford ten years ago (before switching up for Harvard) and have some familiarity with the University and surrounds so it is an experience I feel very comfortable and engaged in as I arrive on site.

Cara Mertes (Sundance Institute Director) has assured me that it is a truly amazing experience with brilliant speakers and ideas. It seems that it could be a great place to find different points of inspiration as my editor (Keiko Deguchi) and I find our way through our rough assemble. Inspiration and renewed belief are good things even though everyday seems to be in no short supply of the former when you are looking at over 200 hours of events and travel with Yunus on your edit screen. It is nice however to step out of that exact context and be exposed to others who are finding their way and in the sense of how much work it all takes and appreciate what that means as I learn about others in the next few days.

I have a short clip and presentation this first afternoon. I don’t know what I am going to talk about yet. I sense that no matter what I decide beforehand – I’ll wing it in the end. I really like the spontaneity of going with the energy of the room. This seems like the doc filmmaker in me.

From there it is off to the Opening Plenary where Jeff Skoll (Skoll Foundation founder and first EBay President) and Sundance Institute Executive Director Ken Brecher will be making opening remarks. After which we are all ‘assigned’ to College Dinners for networking with the 700+ delegates!

It’s all good……

— Gayle Ferraro, April 28, 2009, Oxford, U.K.

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