NOVAC is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that has provided media training and production resources to New Orleans since 1972.
“Access” was the buzzword in the alternative television movement of the 1970s. Although television was a part of daily life, underprivileged populations had little opportunity to influence or participate in programming content. At that time, New Orleans had the largest percentage of poor residents and the most inequitable income distribution of the fifty largest American cities.
VISTA Volunteers (Volunteers in Service to America, a government agency designed to help low income communities become self-sufficient) were the force behind NOVAC’s initial success, and created a media center with borrowed equipment and space and produced an extraordinary body of work that had tremendous community impact. On July 19, 1972, the New Orleans Video Access Center was established with the purpose of making the medium of television an effective educational and social action tool for this disenfranchised community. In its early years, NOVAC was a strong advocate for the development of a cable franchise advantageous to the city, especially its low-income citizens. By forming a broad based, racially balanced coalition with the Free Southern Theater, the Urban League and Tulane University that was ground-breaking for its time, NOVAC’s efforts led to the formation of a mayoral task force to create a plan for involving the community in cable television.
NOVAC has continued its efforts to involve racially and economically diverse communities in television production and community programming. By collaborating with local social service agencies and low-income citizens to produce TV projects on housing, literacy, health care and other issues of importance to their communities, NOVAC has provided a voice to the full spectrum of our city’s citizens. In January 2005, NOVAC and the Tipitina’s Foundation of New Orleans Music Office partnered to offer video editing, music recording, mixing and other training services for video producers, filmmakers and musicians.Shortly after Hurricane Katrina caused a levee system failure in New Orleans on August 29th, 2005, NOVAC organized a group of local filmmakers to create a series of short documentaries on post-Katrina New Orleans from a local point of view. The project gained global attention and quickly exceeded 1,000,000 views online and through dozens of screenings throughout the nation. One of the projects titled, The Drive: Lower 9th Ward, was nominated by the American Library Association Notable Videos for Adults list.
In January, 2006, NOVAC received a Community Block Development Grant to fund its workforce initiative, the Louisiana Film Crew Training Program. Since 2006, NOVAC has trained and certified over 200 local individuals (most of whom are considered low to moderate income by HUD standards and were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita) so that they may obtain entry level jobs in New Orleans’ booming creative and film industries in key areas such as Grip and Electric, Scenic Painting, Set Design and Construction, Wardrobe, and Production Assistance. Our graduates successfully continue to work in the film industry locally and NOVAC will continue the training program until the end of 2010.
The current face of NOVAC is evolving to meet the needs of the burgeoning film industry and independent film community. NOVAC offers educational seminars, panels and workforce training, affordable equipment rental as well as broadcast-qulity production services to nonprofits and other organizations and businesses through our Virtuous Video Program. Now in our 40th year, today NOVAC is the longest continuously operating media-arts nonprofit in the South Eastern United States.
Do you have a story about your involvement with NOVAC over the years? Please share your experiences.