Institute highlights film media as avenue for social change

As social issues such as homelessness continue to affect the Los Angeles community, USC Media Institute for Social Change has taken strides to address these injustices through the artistic expressions of motion pictures, messaging platforms and music.

In partnership with the imagery messaging app Kwippit, USC Media Institute for Social Change is addressing homelessness through stickers and gifs called Kwipps, which are intended to encourage social discourse. Image from Sarah London.

Since the institute was founded in 2013 by professor Michael Taylor, the USC School of Cinematic Arts has been promoting the use of film media to institute progressive social change.

According to the USC MISC website, the organization aims to strengthen SCA’s legacy. It redefines its curriculum to respond to the changing spectrum of media, arts and technology to aid leading social justice movements. According to Taylor, visual media and digital communication platforms are the new language of the 21st century. As a result, USC MISC was eager to form a partnership with digital content network Kwippit to raise awareness within a larger audience.

“When you think of the different touch points with people who are excited about ending the cycle of homelessness, you’ve got technology through the Kwippit app, you’ve got media and sharing the video through the USC MISC, and then you’ve got an entire community of hip-hop artist and musicians who are passionate about doing work around ending the cycle of homelessness,” Kwippit Chief Branding Officer Krista Treide said.

USC MISC and Kwippit combined their digital and media imagery platforms to create a series of untraditional stickers and gifs — also known as Kwipps — to encourage discourse among the younger generation.

“[Kwipps] are all emojis that represent different social issues,” Taylor said.

According to Kwippit Chief Integration Officer Bill Ekeler, Kwippit came across USC MISC while looking for a partnership with an organization that communicated through visual representations and vivid imagery similar to the mobile messaging app.

“[We] want to be able to tell [our] stories through media, and to be able to customize those stories into imagery that represents what we do,” Ekeler said. “We set up a series of meetings and overtime created imagery that represented different social issues that USC MISC has undertaken to set up a channel for them specifically to raise funds and raise awareness.”

According to Ekeler, the USC MISC Channel on Kwippit will generate $1.99 from each user’s subscription fee annually in service of alleviating homelessness rates in Los Angeles. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from channel downloads will be dedicated to foundations seeking to end homelessness.

These organizations include United Way Greater Los Angeles, Skid Row Housing Trust, Downtown Women’s Center and scholarship funding for USC MISC students creating content that addresses homelessness.

“[Kwippit] is also a micro-donation platform … looking to connect with non-profits all over the world,” Treide said. “We have established really unique partnerships that are more innovative than traditional partnerships and traditional marketing platforms.”

On April 19, USC MISC will host a benefit concert to raise funding and awareness for homelessness. The content will take place at the Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles and feature performers such as Del the Funky Homosapien, Ras Kass and Bishop Lamont. According to Treide, these artists have agreed to aid the micro-donation platform on Kwippit by donating profits from their music. 

Additionally, USC MISC seeks to capitalize on the impact of social media and popular culture to expand the audience scope that their humanitarian content can reach. The institution views the media technology platform as an avenue to educate and interest a wider public audience to participate in social reforms and provoke conversations.

“We would like to say that media is the language of the 21st century … Not too long ago, people are writing in papers about all of these issues … You stand the chances of reaching a much wider audience and having a greater impact,” Taylor said. “It may be something that people will watch for its entertainment value. But in addition to being entertained by it … the film may raise their awareness of the issue. And occasionally, it might even change their behavior.” 

According to Treide, the combination of creative content generation, message micro-donation platform and music as an expressive art form is anticipated to raise funds from subscriptions and accelerate conversation around the social issue of homelessness.

“I think getting accessing into the messaging space is very coveted,” Triede said. “Users of smartphones are more likely to open a message immediately. [Taylor] agreed that we can really change the world through media, one Kwipp at a time.”