New Day Films

What is New Day Films?
New Day Films is a national distribution cooperative of independent filmmakers who make social issue films. We distribute mainly to colleges and universities, libraries, high schools, and community groups.

Who is New Day?
We are 70 award-winning filmmakers from across the United States who have made the 100+ films in the New Day collection and who run the co-op. Currently, the co-op chair is Tommie Dell Smith (Breaking Silence: The Story of the Sisters of Desales Heights). Other members of the New Day Steering Committee are: Jay Rosenstein (In Whose Honor?); Susan Stern (Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour); Debra Chasnoff (It’s Elementary: Taking About Gay Issues in the Classroom), and Jane Gillooly (Leona’s Sister Gerri).

Total number of employees at New Day:
There are three paid staff members: Karen Knox, of Transit Media in New Jersey, who takes orders, ships films, sends members detailed monthly statements and maintains our database; and Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard, consultants from Seattle, who facilitate New Day meetings, help resolve problems, and maintain records. New Day members, under the guidance of the steering committee, do the work of running the co-op.

How, when, and why did New Day come into being?
New Day was founded in 1971 by four East Coast filmmakers who were tired of being told their films were “too feminist” for the marketplace. They met at the Flaherty Seminar and set about proving the critics wrong. “We could watch the women’s movement spread across the country just by who was ordering our films,” said co-founder Julia Reichert. Soon, the co-op expanded to not just feminist, but progressive films, such as co-founders Reichert and Jim Klein’s Seeing Red, a profile of the Old Left in the United States.

How are business decisions made at New Day?
The filmmaker members make decisions at an annual meeting each summer. They also elect the Steering Committee, which makes decisions between annual meetings.

What distinguishes you from other distributors?
New Day is unique because it is run by its filmmakers. That means its filmmakers can make more money than with a commercial distributor. Currently, active New Day members keep an average of 67% of their gross income. With most commercial distributors, the filmmaker gets 20% of the gross. To reap this high income, New Day members have to share the work of joint distribution of their films. Besides this financial payoff, they also get to be part of a close community of 70 independent filmmakers, often sharing contacts, information, equipment, talent, knowledge and support.

Unofficial motto:
We’re in this together.

What would people be most surprised to learn about New Day?
We give great parties. Our web page with online catalog was up in 1996.

How many titles are in the collection?
There are currently 138 New Day titles.

Films you distribute:
Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press; With Babies and Banners; Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour; Growing Up Female; Bubbeh Lee and Me; Song of the Canary; and Twitch and Shout. Some filmmakers: Jim Klein, Ralph Arlyck, Pat Ferrero, Mark Lipman, Debra Chasnoff, Laurel Chiten, Robert Richter, J Clements, Walter Brock, and Debra Franco.

What type of works do you distribute?
We’re looking for new, high quality films and videos about social issues. Most of our titles are documentaries, but we have fictional and experimental works that deal with social issues. We have no restrictions on content, style, or length.

What drives you to acquire the titles you do?
We look at both film and filmmaker. We want films that deeply, intelligently, and artistically explore social issues. We also want a filmmaker who can responsibly work in a co-op.

How is your collection organized?
Our titles fall into such categories of Multiculturalism and Diversity; Social and Political History; Gender and Socialization; Media, Art and Culture; Physical and Mental Health; Parenting and Family; and Global Concerns.
Best known title at New Day:
Some of our “best known” titles are: Barbie Nation; The Jew In the Lotus; It’s Elementary: Taking About Gay Issues in School; Union Maids; Seeing Red; and With Babies and Banners.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
All titles immediately go up on our web site, with online credit card ordering. New titles are promoted through our customer newsletters, annual catalog, trade shows, and brochure and post card direct mailings. New Day Films holds distribution rights to the domestic, educational market. However, you can almost always find one or more New Day Films at any prestigious film festival, conference, or screening.

How should a filmmaker approach New Day for consideration?
If you are interested in being part of New Day, contact Theresa Tollini, our Inquires Coordinator, for a membership brochure and an application form. Theresa can be reached at (415) 332-7172 or by e-mail at FEFilms@ Or go to our web page to find out more. We don’t look at works-in-progress.

Describe your relationship with the makers you represent:
As Theresa Tollini (Breaking Silence, Stories of Change, Still Missing) puts it, “New Day members are open, receptive and supportive of one another.” And Ralph Arlyck (An Acquired Taste, Current Events, Godzilla Meets Mona Lisa) says, “For me, New Day is a crucial lifeline to other independent filmmakers.”

An advantage of self-distribution is that . . .
you can make more money and with New Day you join a community of filmmakers.

A disadvantage of self distribution is that . . .
you have no one to blame but yourself.

Biggest change at New Day in recent years:
Thanks to a hard-working group of members known as the “Web Team,” we have a terrific web site loaded with information that is widely used by our customers. They also maintain our email system which allows us to communicate very effectively, making it remarkably easy to conduct business with our large group spread all across the country.

The most important issue facing New Day:
Today the world is driven by rapidly evolving technologies which will undoubtedly continue to affect our methods of communication with our audiences and our methods of delivery. We appreciate the efficiencies that new developments in production technologies have afforded us, and we’re looking forward to embracing new ways of delivery as they become available.

Where will New Day be in 10 years?
I expect New Day to be pretty much where it is now—a relatively small, but very successful distributor of high-quality, independent, social issue media that enjoys a close and respected relationship with its audiences. Over the past 30 years, New Day has continued to get stronger and, at this moment, there is every indication that this trend will continue.

The biggest issue facing social issue media making and distribution is . . .
that so much media is available today that I think audiences are overwhelmed with input, much of it mindless “entertainment.” As independent film- and videomakers who are committed to media as a vehicle for social change, our challenge is to continue to find ways to stand out above the crowd and to reach those for whom our work is a valuable tool.

Other distributors you admire:
California Newsreel and Women Make Movies.

One bit of advice to independent filmmakers:
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned as a self-distributor is the importance of knowing your audience. Approach the entire filmmaking process with the idea of how it will be used and by whom.

Upcoming New Day titles:
Award winning filmmaker Laurel Chiten’s The Jew in the Lotus which follows author Roger Kamenetz’s intense personal journey that leads him back to his Jewish roots when he travels to meet with the Dalai Lama; Poetic License by David Yanofsky, a riveting portrayal of teenage poets from across the country competing for the Teen Poetry Slam championships; Robert Richter’s new film, Father Roy and the School of Assassins, which chronicles the story of a Catholic priest who has devoted his life to shutting down the School of the Americas, the U.S. military academy which has trained Central American death squads.

Famous last words:
For me (Tommie Smith), being a member of New Day Films has been a profoundly rewarding experience both professionally and personally. Where else could I freely share ideas and information with so many of America’s most important filmmakers, while at the same time lending my own knowledge and experience to talented new filmmakers just beginning their careers.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.