Filmmaker Q&A with Director Ellen Goosenberg Kent

What motivated you to make this film?

The media is an easy target, especially for paranoid politicians, but many people felt the reporting of the 2016 election campaign was partisan and polarizing – and were losing trust in even the legacy news outlets. I saw the way social media was driving coverage of the most difficult issues, like police violence, without the kind of fact-checking and in-depth reporting we need as a society to make good decisions. It felt critical to encourage young potential voters to become their own news editors, to seek out reliable sources beyond their usual Facebook and Twitter feeds and to offer some guidance in our high speed, competitive media culture.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

Ellen: Get your news from a broad array of sources and if something sounds wrong, it probably is. Dig deeper. Read past the headlines. Retweet responsibly. And most of all, be a well informed citizen and vote.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

Vulcan Productions: A story is covered from a different angle depending on the news organization (CNN vs. Fox News vs. MSNBC, etc.)
Many people get their news through social media
Social media algorithms are designed to keep you on the platform for as long as possible. The algorithm sees what type of news you look at and gives give you more of the same.
Incestuous amplification: an echo chamber of like-minded people heightens the extreme voices and marginalizes the moderate ones.
You can be the most informed voter in history if you know how the system works. You can learn to curate your media.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

Vulcan Productions: Following the November 8th vote, citizens have become increasingly suspicious of mainstream media bias and we’ve seen false media stories hijack the conversation around current issues. Our film was very timely and well-received for that reason.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Vulcan Productions: When you share or retweet, you are a new editor as well as a consumer, so get out of your bubble and think … use your power responsibly.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):

Watch the entire film collection at
Download the Viewer’s Guide and Education materials at


Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Barbara Kopple’s films moved me tremendously as was those by Al Maysles. And I was taken with the technique used in The Thin Blue Line.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

We used the Canon C300 with prime lenses to create a more cinematic feel for the interviews.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

We began by thinking that partisan cable news outlets were polarizing voters, and discovered through more research that this was only true for people who were already at the extreme margins. We also confirmed that social media/networks were the primary news source for many Millennials, which led us to take a different approach with the story. So what we thought would be a piece about bias in the media – how to detect it and how not to fall prey, really evolved into a story about how our media choices confirm our biases… and why it’s important to get out of the bubble if you want to understand the world and engage effectively in the political process.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

The most rewarding part was spending time with the journalists we included, from Brooke Glad­ stone of NPR’s On the Media, to Juana Summers at CNN, to Jim Rutenberg at the New York Times. They were bracingly honest and deeply committed to the best principles of journalism, while also very clear headed about the dangers and opportunities of the sometimes anonymous online universe we live in, and how to navigate it.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Know your audience.  Challenge your assumptions about them.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

I love what happens when the camera is rolling and a story is evolving in real time.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

A good, old-fashioned notebook and a pen.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

Vulcan Productions: Mediaocracy is part of We the Voters, a groundbreaking social impact and web campaign designed to inform millions by presenting the subjects of democracy, elections, and the U.S. governance in a new, accessible, non-partisan format.



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