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Programs

The R.E.S.T. Summit

A virtual symposium that explores the nature of resilience, safety, and trauma for those working in video journalism and documentary film.
Resilience | Emotional & Digital Security | Trauma

A Mental Health Symposium for Nonfiction Video Storytellers

Presented by the Video Consortium and supported by the Google News Initiative, the R.E.S.T. Summit (Resilience, Emotional and Digital Security, Trauma) is a collaborative week-long virtual symposium that explores the nature of resilience, safety, and trauma for those working in video journalism and documentary film.

The R.E.S.T. Summit will provide a safe, inclusive, and inspiring virtual space for nonfiction film and video storytellers to collectively lower their protective shields, be vulnerable, and find more balance while reporting on real-world events. Using a community-driven and grassroots approach, this summit is made by creators for creators—to dive into sensitive, often overlooked topics around mental health and safety.

This program took place March 21-25, 2022, and applications are currently closed.

Please email rest@videoconsortium.org for updates on next year's program.

This program is generously supported by:

Google News Initiative

“While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last two years, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information and quality journalism. Through the Google News Initiative, we’re proud to support The Video Consortium as they seek to connect a global community of video journalists and creators to help learn from each other and where possible seek best practice tips and techniques.” – Matt Cooke, Head of Google News Lab
Why

Why the Summit?

While video continues to play an increasingly integral role in how the news is delivered, there is still an opportunity to improve the tools and services available to help strengthen the wellbeing of creators and video-journalists. It’s easy to focus on accomplishments and awards as the main barometer of success, but the emotional toll of covering today’s most pressing issues is leaving an indelible mark on those who are driving the industry forward. Trauma and mental distress supersede accolades; regardless of a journalist’s achievements, actively acknowledging and discussing the challenges of this work is a necessary step towards healing long-held wounds and preparing for ones yet to be inflicted.

Over the past six years, the Video Consortium, a global nonprofit organization that supports, develops, and connects the new generation’s nonfiction video storytellers, has built a tight-knit professional network, bringing together both freelance and staff visual journalists who are working with today’s top media outlets and brands. Drawing on the trust, talent, and diverse experiences of its membership, the Video Consortium will marshal its resources and community to come together to discuss, destigmatize, and offer solutions for these pressing issues that are often left ignored.

What

What's the Goal?

The R.E.S.T. Summit will provide a safe, inclusive, and inspiring virtual space for nonfiction film and video storytellers to collectively lower their protective shields, be vulnerable, and find more balance while reporting on real-world events. Using a community-driven and grassroots approach, this summit is made by creators for creators—to dive into sensitive, often overlooked topics around mental health and safety.

How

How will it be presented?

Over a period of five days, the virtual Summit will consist of daily closed sessions broken up into three parts: conversational interviews with filmmakers, community roundtables, and masterclasses with leading voices. Focusing on solutions, we will invite participants from diverse backgrounds to (1) explore the effects of trauma across sectors and roles in the field, (2) collectively consider new approaches to personal and industry-wide issues to further change and (3) build community to heal and process trauma, now and into the future.

Areas of exploration will include: conflict journalism, engaging with traumatic material in post-production, the impacts of reporting on personal tragedies and emotional triggers in the field, racial injustice, sexual abuse, facing anti-journalist sentiments, trauma through the female lens, civil unrest and capturing protests, and much more. In addition, we will be hosting conversations around best practices for dealing with trauma on a daily basis: defining PTSD for participants to recognize the symptoms in themselves and others, exploring resilience practices and highlighting spaces for collective processing, maintaining a healthy work/life balance while juggling time-sensitive work, and digital security training to manage sensitive and/or dangerous projects.

Who

Who is eligible to participate?

This pilot program is open to 150 members of the nonfiction film and video industry who want a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and are interested in elevating the mental health of journalists, both individually and collectively. Our hope is that this experience will help participants heal, contribute their perspectives to a much needed cause, and find greater balance in their lives.

Cover photo by Carlos de Toro

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

MONDAY, MARCH 21

12:00-1:30pm ET: REST Kickoff: the Summit Rundown + Meet your fellow RESTers

An introduction to the REST Summit and a filmmaker roundtable led by award-winning visual journalists Ed Ou and Souki Mehdaoui, with an introduction from VC’s founder, Sky Dylan-Robbins. Join us to meet your fellow RESTers, get familiar with the schedule, and commune with fellow filmmakers in breakout sessions.

Presenters: Ed Ou and Souki Mehdaoui, moderated by Sky Dylan-Robbins

3:00-4:30pm ET: Ethical Reporting and Resilience Strategies for Documentarians

An essential REST session with Bruce Shapiro, Executive Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. An award-winning reporter on human rights, criminal justice and politics, Bruce will take us through a variety of trauma-reporting best practices and self-care strategies for documentary journalists — from tips for interviewing vulnerable contributors and effective approaches to handling graphic imagery to what it means to be a good colleague on trauma-facing projects. Afterwards, stick around for an interactive Q&A and solutions-focused community conversation.

Presenters: Bruce Shapiro, moderated by Ed Ou

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

TUESDAY, MARCH 22

12:00-1:30pm ET: Brandon Bell: Maintaining Hope while Covering America in Turmoil

Houston-based Getty photographer Brandon Bell speaks about his experiences covering the last two years of America in turmoil, from immigration issues and the protests of George Floyd to Covid at its peak. Brandon sees beauty in the everyday and is so adeptly able to convey humanity in his photos, no matter how fraught the situation. How does he do it? Brandon will speak with Ed about his process and hopes while documenting this deeply divided and tumultuous moment in history.

Presenters: Brandon Bell, moderated by Ed Ou

3:00-4:30pm ET: Ed Ou: Finding the Humanity within Conflict and Calamity

Ed Ou is an award-winning visual journalist who has covered conflicts — wars, humanitarian crises, natural disasters, you name it — around the world for almost seventeen years. Throughout it all, his ability to lyrically capture the moving personal stories of those who are most affected by tragedy is profound. We'll hear from Ed about his own experiences with trauma, how he processes difficult situations, and what it means to hold onto humanity and optimism while documenting today's toughest calamities.

Presenters: Ed Ou

6:00-7:30pm ET: The Power of Trauma: How to Heal and Harness it in Your Work

We all know from its representations in the media that trauma can be debilitating. But what we don't talk about is that it can also be a superpower. In this talk, we'll explore how ignoring that fact can build stigma and prevent people from healing. We'll also explore how to manage traumatic experiences and use them in a healthy way in the workplace.

Presenters: Stephanie Foo

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23

12:00-1:30pm ET: Secrets to Finding Peace in Everyday Life

As journalists and filmmakers, we tell stories to improve the world around us, yet rarely do we pause to look inside and care for ourselves. In this very special workshop, Sister True Dedication, Sister Hien Tam, and Brother Phap Dung, ordained by celebrated Zen Master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, will share secrets and insights to help us not only become more effective storytellers but also lead more balanced, joyful, and peace-filled lives.

Presenters: Sister True Dedication and Sister Hien Tam, moderated by Sky Dylan-Robbins

3:00-4:30pm ET: Being Your Own Best Advocate: Setting Boundaries and Managing Mental Health On- and Off-Set

Award-winning visual journalist Amanda Mustard — currently in production on a personal feature documentary about generational trauma, eight years in the making — will offer insight about what it takes to be your own best advocate: how to set boundaries as a freelancer, stand up for yourself in challenging situations, and what it could look like to challenge the status quo and work with a wellness-informed film crew. Amanda will also discuss the nature of making films about very personal subjects, and the ethical implications involved. After sharing her experiences, Ed Ou will moderate an engaging Q&A and round table with filmmaker-attendees that explores solutions-focused approaches to topics covered in this session.

Presenters: Amanda Mustard, moderated by Ed Ou

6:00-7:30pm ET: Playing the Unspeakable: How Traumatic Stress Impacts Your Life

Towards a Trauma Informed Filmmaking Practice: this highly experiential workshop will provide participants with a greater understanding of how traumatic stress impacts not only development but our everyday lives. Participants will gain a definition of trauma, explore different types of trauma and gain an understanding of how trauma performs in our day to day life. Participants will learn and experience creative strategies for supporting those we work with to address challenges and promote resilience. Through case examples, reflection and purposeful play, participants will explore how these concepts can be applied to their own life and work.

Presenters: Heidi Landis, moderated by Souki Mehdaoui

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

THURSDAY, MARCH 24

12:00-1:30pm ET: Navigating the Filmmaker/Participant Relationship

How much do you consider your own influence when you enter someone's life with a camera? The relationship between a filmmaker and a participant is complex and often fraught. The filmmaker holds another's vulnerability, identity and sometimes even trauma in their hands and with this comes huge responsibility. This workshop will look at the unique dynamic of this relationship, asking the audience to contribute their own examples and providing guidance and support for building safe and compassionate working relationships.

Presenters: Malikkah Rollins and Rebecca Day

3:00-4:30pm ET: Creating a Cohesive and Compassionate Culture in News: DEI Tips for the Office and Beyond

Diversity and equity have risen to become top priorities for media companies. However, while newsrooms are changing, their cultures aren't as much. Join Fritzie Andrade (INSIDER's Managing Editor of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) with Duy Linh Tu (Journalist, Documentary filmmaker, and Professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism) as they discuss tips, tricks, and secrets to navigating DEI issues, both in the office and in the field. How do we create a more cohesive and understanding office culture over zoom? How can we all, no matter our backgrounds, develop more self awareness for ourselves and understanding towards our colleagues? This interactive panel will be a constructive, solutions-focused, and frank conversation regarding best practices around diversity and equity no matter where or how you work.

Presenters: Fritzie Andrade and Duy Linh Tu

6:00-7:30pm ET: Trauma-Aware Journalism: Self Care and Being a Good Colleague

Award-winning filmmaker, musician, and artist Quincy Ledbetter will talk about self-care in two contexts: first, after covering emotionally traumatic stories and, second, while working within a media company. We spend a lot of time telling stories of disenfranchised and underrepresented communities, seeing firsthand how systems fail them. However, as journalists — and specifically as journalists of color — a diminishment of one’s own needs, guilt, and helplessness towards the subject one covers can often ensue. Further, once back from the field and in the office, there are commonalities in the experiences of Black and Brown people that go beyond a lack of diversity. Overtime, these experiences take a toll that aren’t always acknowledged. How do we fix this? Quincy has some ideas. Join him, in conversation with Ed Ou, and participate in an interactive round table Q&A that follows Quincy’s talk.

Presenters: Quincy Ledbetter, moderated by Ed Ou

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

FRIDAY, MARCH 25

12:00-1:30pm ET: Beyond Trauma Informed: Understanding Reciprocal Impact

Join us for a much-needed interactive panel discussion to explore how filmmakers and participants have a reciprocal relationship of impact, even though they may have significant power, resource, and status differences. In a conversation led by filmmaker Jennifer Crystal Chien, you'll learn from JoAnn DePetro, a therapist experienced with narrative therapy to gain insight on how narrative agency affects those involved in filmmaking on both sides of the camera; you'll also learn from Sherizaan Minwalla, a human rights lawyer involved in the Sabaya film campaign advocating for the rights of Yazidi women to gain insight into best practices for working with traumatized participants ethically. You'll leave this session with a new model that centers reciprocal impact and how story participants can be empowered in the process of engaging with media in situations that involve issues related to trauma and mental health.

Presenters: Sherizaan Minwalla and JoAnn DePetro, moderated by Jennifer Crystal Chien

3:00-4:30pm ET: Digital Security Secrets for Nonfiction Filmmakers

Join Harlo Holmes, Director of Digital Security at Freedom of the Press Foundation, in conversation with journalist Ed Ou, as they discuss the essential best practices and often overlooked secrets of digital security for nonfiction filmmakers and video journalists. Viewing the topic of digital security specifically through the lens of trauma, Harlo will cover the basics (safeguarding your accounts, managing basic security settings, et. al.) as well as crucial areas such as communication with sources, covering protests, online harassment, and surveillance. This is a workshop not to be missed!

Presenters: Harlo Holmes, moderated by Ed Ou

6:00-6:45pm ET: With Gratitude: Closing Ceremony

Join us for a final debrief to share thoughts and experiences that were meaningful to you, and close the Summit together!

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

VIRTUAL WELLNESS ROOMS

With the understanding that difficult topics are being addressed throughout the Summit, a staffed wellness room is open during and after each session as an option for all attendees, to support your wellbeing with a listening ear, help with processing workshop material, and provide trauma-informed resources. Please note that these rooms (staffed by masters level drama therapy students and supervised by Heidi Landis, LCAT, RDT, BCT, TEP) are for support and not for psychotherapy. If necessary, staff will help you connect to therapy resources in your area.

SUMMIT SCHEDULE

PLAY SESSIONS

Following the workshops, join an optional 20-minute session using drama therapy techniques to connect with your own sense of imagination, loosening the ties of anxiety and creating space for emotional well-being.