Note: this is a pretty loose definition of "friends." This is a short list of the many groups and people out there fighting the good fight in the both community/grassroots media and political documentary. I don't actually know all of them (though I've worked with several), so don't drop me a line asking for their contact because I'll just send you to their website.
Appalshop isn't a misspelling of apple shop, it's a multimedia media institute doing all sorts of work on Appalachia. They've produced dozens of films over several decades. George Stoney recommended a film they did about prisons quite strongly, though I still haven't seen it yet. appalshop.org
Big Noise Films Documentaries about struggle that actually resemble the subject: passion, color, noise! They made The Fourth World War and Zapatista, among many other films. bignoisefilms.com
The Black Documentary Collective (BDC) founded by acclaimed documentarian St. Clair Bourne, is one of America's premiere organizations dedicated to documentary films and videos made by filmmakers of African descent. The BDC provides members working in the documentary film and video field with the opportunity to network professionally; promote each other's work, exchange ideas in order to generate productions and advocate on issues impacting Black documentarians. bdcny.net
Brave New Films Somebody's figured out a model! Robert Greenwald's company regularly produces advocacy shorts, feature docs, and sometimes advocacy shorts that become feature docs. Working with unions, liberal nonprofits, and the like, he's one of the few documentary filmmakers out there who has figured out a working financial model. bravenewfilms.org
Cabin Creek Films is Barbara Kopple's film company. She's worked on everything from the Winter Soldier film to winning two Academy Awards for two great documentaries:Harlan County, U.S.A. and American Dream. cabincreekfilms.com
California Newsreel Now in its 37th year, California Newsreel has been putting out excellent documentaries for all of them. Currently, they bill themselves as "a leading resource center for the study of race and diversity, African American life and history and African feature films and documentaries." They also have a number of great articles on their website.newsreel.org
Clarity Films has been around since '79 and made, among other things, the excellent "The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter"Clarity Films
Concentric Films I haven't seen their films yet, but they seem like they're about the right sorts of things: AIDS, Reproductive Rights, and Fix-it Shops. concentric.org
Daylight Factory James Longley made Iraq in Fragments which is high on the list of films that feel and breathe like they were shot with huge teams of people on incredibly expensive equipment with all the money in the world, but weren't. Last I heard, he's now doing other projects related to the Middle East. daylightfactory.com
Deep Dish TV is the first national satellite network, linking local access producers and programmers, independent video makers, activists, and other individuals who support the idea and reality of a progressive television network. Sixteen years and counting of great programming such as the 12-Part Shocking and Awful series, The Last Graduation, and Fallujah. I'm pretty enthusiastic about Deep Dish because, well, I worked out of there for awhile. deepdishtv.org
Democracy Now! is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program, hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 350 stations in North America. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on Pacifica, NPR, community, and college radio stations; on public access, PBS, satellite television (DISH network: Free Speech TV ch. 9415 and Link TV ch. 9410; DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375); as a "podcast," and on the internet. democracynow.org
Displaced Films is David Zweiger's production company. A smart cookie who came back to political work through photography and then documentary, he made the wonderful Sir! No Sir! about the Vietnam-era G.I. resistance movement. Plus, he has a whole strategy behind his hats. displacedfilms.com
Dyke TV is "the first (and only) cable access TV show by, for and about lesbians." Besides broadcasting video expressly to "contribute realistic, inclusive lesbian voices to the public discourse about our lives," they have also developed into a community media resource center where lesbians can learn through the mentorship of experienced video mentors about all aspects of video production, video editing and web design. dyketv.org
Freespeech is a national progressive TV channel based in Denver, Colorado. They run Democracy Now!, Grit TV, and all sorts of radical crazy docs, shorts, one-offs, and what have you. They have a studio, but it's more of a place to check out to get wider distribution of your video and they're a bunch of nice folks, too. freespeech.org
Grit TV with Laura Flanders is a year-young show of politics and art conversation and documentary shorts. They have a weekly independent feature doc promotion called Got Docs, and they run daily political docs shorts. If you're looking to share your new short with a wide audience on satellite and PBS tv, contact them. grittv.org
Grupo Alavío is a fifteen year strong Argentinean video collective. Their motto is "Action, organization, and struggle for a new working class subjectivity." Their films about the Disappeared, the Recuperated Factories (i.e. taken over by the workers), and the Argentinean social movements must be seen. Grupo Alavío (English) | Grupo Alavío (Espanol) (They are also working on Agora TV; Amazing.)
Groupe Intervention Video "Founded in 1975, GIV is an artist run, non-profit center that acquires, distributes, exhibits, and produces independent videos directed by women." Their history states that for the artists that formed GIV "it was important to use video as a tool during an era in which social movements in Quebec were becoming more important and a new generation of intellectuals were making their mark." They have over seventy-five documentaries alone listed at their site. givideo.org
Mo Films is supposed to be sending me a bunch of DVDs, but I haven't seen them yet. They seem to be making films with an environmental bent, but a little different than normal. I think they have it so you can watch their movies online for free and they seems a bit creative.
New York City's Independent Media Center's Video Group puts out Blacked-Out Media, covers local and international activist scenes, and occasionally offers free classes. Always welcoming new members. Like a lot of other people, I learned a lot there. nycimcvideo.org
Newsreel was an exciting sixties-era collective making "the best movies ever made." Over fifty in all, their subject matter ran the gamut from the Black Panthers to one called "Seventy-Nine Springs of Ho Chi Minh." Currently archived with Roz Payne in Vermont, there are hopes of a major re-release of their catalogue on DVD in the near future. www.Newsreel.us
Pan Left Productions has been working on progressive video for over ten years in Tucson. They have an exciting catalog covering subjects from LBGT youth to workers dealing with corporate globalization. panleft.org
Paper Tiger TV is a great "open, non-profit, volunteer video collective." Besides making right-on programs like "Military Myths"(about military recruitment) and "Class Dismissed" (about how U.S. history is mis-taught), they are also model video activists putting together events like the Grassroots Media Conference. papertiger.org
subMedia One part Crimethinc politics, two parts flashy aesthetic, with a pinch of smart direction. I don't know if it's good for me, but it tastes sweet. Is it just Frank Lopez or is there a whole squad of them? Who knows but worth checking out. submedia.tv
Third World Newsreel "Founded in 1967, Third World Newsreel is one of the oldest alternative media arts organizations in the United States." They're "committed to the creation and appreciation of independent and social issue media by and about people of color, and the peoples of developing countries around the world." They have a lot of great films. twn.org
Turning Tide Productions Thirty years of making social justice movement docs, on everything from Tax Resistance to hating on the war. I recently spoke to Robbie over the phone and had a great conversation with him. turningtide.com
Vision Machine "Founded in 2001,Vision Machine Film Project is a not-for-profit filmmakers' collective that seeks to create an international video production and distribution network to research, analyse and respond to the conditions and mechanisms of economic, political and military power. In particular, Vision Machine focuses on the many forms of systemic violence and terror - from organized mass murder to dangerous working conditions - and the contradictions this devastation poses to the dominant notions of Progress and History, the mythology of Power, and the religion of Capital." visionmachine.org
Laura Chipley does work so varied and interesting, that I'm not going to pretend to be able to encapsulate it in one sentence. Fun Fact: she'll build a christmas tree forest in Brooklyn if she wants to.
Flux was doing video in New Orleans for a while, He's currently doing a lot of work with Mobile Broadcast News. His site and blog have a ton of eclectic links to all sorts of media activism. He's going strong and the variety is good. Since Occupy Wall Street, Flux has been involved in a lot of the critical livestreaming going on with that political movement.
Sarah Friedland doesn't front. She sometimes makes docs in Cuba, sometimes films unnamed things, sometimes talks roller derby, and can switch bulbs and operate cameras. Someone to keep an eye on: she is going places.
Sam Green made The Weather Underground and The Rainbow Man/John 3:16. His latest is called Lot 63 Grave C and it is ostensibly about Meredith Hunter, the young black man murdered by the Hell's Angels at Altamont Speedway at a Rolling Stones concert.
Dara Greenwald did video, art, activism, and I don't know if she was formally part of Just Seeds, but she hung with them quite a bit. Her sense of humor comes through in pieces like "United Victorian Workers," which you can see on her website. Honestly, we laughed out loud at this. Dara passed away in 2012 and she is missed.
DeeDee Halleck founded both Paper Tiger and Deep Dish, continues to write and teach, and is an unstoppable force for good in the world of media activism.
Harry Hanbury worked at America News Project for awhile and does a lot of short progressive advocacy video out of the D.C. area.
Ashley Hunt has made a number of documentaries and related media about prisons and police. His most recent is I won't Drown On The Levee And You Ain't Gonna' Break My Back, about the horrific overlap between the the crime of Katrina and white supremecy in New Orleans' Police; I'm watching as I type this and I can see that it is good.
Ryan Joseph Do I even look like I care that Ryan's site just looks like a really good photo site? I know for a fact that he makes documentary and he's a camera op, so just back off, man.
Brandon Jourdan, among many other things, is making crazy documentary films in Europe about the battle against austerity, and by battle, we mean that Brandon gets in the thick of it.
Fernando "Pino" Solanas made the criminally unavailable La Hora De Los Hornos (The Hour Of The Furnaces), among numerous other films. His landmark essay "Towards a Third Cinema" is in the Theory section.
Elizabeth Theis is a "Media Terrorist." She is making a film about "how suburbia is pretty much the american dream gone wrong."
Extreme Low Frequency Travis Wilkerson has already made an Injury To One and is releasing He Who Hits First Hits Twice: The Films of Santiago Alvarez. He also is a big fan of the essay For An Imperfect Cinema.
Sam Alcoff is really into political documentary. He works over at GRITtv with Laura Flanders and is friendly.