Shalini Kantayya: Suncatcher
About the Project
Shalini Kantayya's Suncatcher video campaign built on her feature length film, Catching the Sun, to engage and empower local communities across the country with the tools to access and advocate for solar energy on a local level.
The Suncatcher campaign aimed to close the gap in public education about how solutions like solar and energy efficiency have become affordable, and in the long term, can save the consumer money. The campaign leveraged Catching the Sun screening events as a potent tool in education. As the world prepared for the climate talks in Paris in December 2015, Suncatcher created host screening events and created original accompanying short films as part of a social media platform to build and strengthen local communities that spread vital education and advocacy tools. Suncatcher was an organizing campaign designed to use the award-winning feature length film Catching The Sun and ancillary shorts to engage communities across the nation in the push for affordable clean energy options. The overarching goal was to raise public understanding of the complex issues surrounding the U.S.’s transition to clean energy and move them to act in ways that advanced policies, programs, and regulations that would enable solar to become a mainstream energy source. As Rosalind Jackson of Vote Solar explained, “We need more visual content and stories like Catching the Sun offers. Energy is something that impacts everyone, but it's not well understood. As a renewable energy community, if we lack visual storytelling resources, we miss out on a huge opportunity to inform the public and make change."
CMG met Shalani through an Action Grant pitch session at the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF). Her project was one of eight chosen to pitch and was selected as one of three winners. CMG awarded Suncatcher a $10,000 grant which will cover necessary production and distribution costs. The final campaign will consist of a series of 4-minute films making a call for people to advocate for local and state policies that create a 100% renewable energy future.
Shalini planned to work closely with partners on the ground, using these short films to provide key messaging in conjunction with a curriculum guide and an activist tool kit. Impact was to be measured through tracking numbers of audience response, and the amount of media attention that the film garnered in mainstream media outlets. Other measurements that were to be used was the number of curriculum and tool-kit downloads, participation in accompanying campaigns, and website hits. Long-term outcomes were to be measured by local and statewide policy outcomes.
About the Grantee
Shalini Kantayya finished in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers on Fox’s "On the Lot," a show by Steven Spielberg in search of Hollywood’s next great director. Her sci-fi film about the world water crisis, a Drop of Life, won Best Short at Palm Beach International, and was broadcast on national television in the U.S. and India. A William J. Fulbright Scholar, Shalini has received recognition from the Sundance Documentary Program, IFP Spotlight on Documentary, Jerome Hill Centennial, New York Women in Film and Television, and Media Action Network for Asian Americans. She is a Sundance Fellow, a TED Fellow, and a was a finalist for the ABC Disney | DGA Directing Fellowship. Her debut feature, Catching the Sun, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Project Updates and Milestones
Shalini's film Suncatcher: Net Metering was released in mid-October via Working Films. She also released 8 other films, part of the Suncatcher series that stem from her feature film Catching the Sun.
The shorts have been featured in major press outlets including Grist and Indiewire. Grassroots partners in Richmond, California (where much of the feature film is set) and in North Carolina are using the films to support solar jobs training programs and just transition organizing. Vote Solar used one of the short films to launch a Solar Right Pledge that will be delivered to decision makers shaping solar policies around the U.S. In 2017, the shorts will be used within a national campus initiative to engage the leaders of tomorrow: students and young professionals. Each film directs viewers to catchingthesun.tv, a website that has opportunities to take direct and locally relevant action.
Vote Solar also has plans to utilize the short films within trainings and outreach in 2017, and will use it online to gain signatures to their Solar Rights pledge, which launched with Working Films’ posting of the Net Metering short film in the Suncatcher series. They are starting a social media campaign to gain attention and signatures to the pledge in December 2016.
All of Shalini's films are below!