Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Entertainment


Peter Samuelson, MA, President


Dr. D. Andy Rice, PhD, ASPIRE Fellow at UCLA


The Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Entertainment (ASPIRE) partners with universities, community organizations, scholars, and activists to advocate for sustainability and social justice through media-focused teaching and research.  ASPIRE teaches digital media production to undergraduates of all majors to enhance their lifelong capacities to undertake social issue advocacy.

Documentary Production for Social Change: Mobility in Los Angeles


Urban Studies/Disability Studies M164a

Spring 2014, Fall 2014

Dr. D. Andy Rice

ASPIRE Fellow in Socially Engaged Media



This course explores the affordances of documentary filmmaking and social media for catalyzing social change.  Our case study centers on questions about daily commutes through and within Los Angeles to UCLA.  We focus in particular on issues of neighborhood density and access to public transit; race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and class on the experiences of commuting; environmental communication strategies; and car-based versus alternative (bike and pedestrian) forms of transportation.  We explore how to intervene in these issues in the face of in historically car-centric policy platforms.  In addition to conversations about a small number of topical readings, the course grapples with such questions through video production.  Exercises along the way introduce students to observational, interview-based, participatory, and performative documentary shooting and editing techniques. Weekly film screenings and discussions explore avenues for using media production as a tool for promoting social justice.  We also study social marketing strategies that have become a vital part of documentary production and distribution; each student develops a relationship over the quarter with a campus or community organization invested in alternative commuting, environmental sustainability, health equity, or a related set of concerns.  The course concludes with screenings of student work that will be open to members of the public, partner organizations, and subjects of films.  The goals of this course are thus twofold.  First, the course teaches students technically and conceptually how to undertake longer nonfiction video production projects of their own in the future.  Second, the course leads students to explore, understand, and meaningfully contribute to an ongoing dialogue amongst policy makers, academics, and everyday people about access, environment, and equity for the future of commuting in Los Angeles.  Equipment provided free-of-charge to students enrolled in the course. 

This course is generously funded by the Academy for Social Progress in Responsible Entertainment (ASPIRE).  Many thanks to Undergraduate Education Initiatives, the Luskin Center for Public Affairs, Powell Library, and the Charles E. Young Research Library for facilitating spaces for class sessions.


As part of the course in the Spring of 2014, we hosted three prominent professional filmmakers at public, special event screenings at UCLA. 

Geralyn Dreyfous, Co-Founder of Impact Partners

Sarah Johnson, Partner of Worldview Entertainment

Amy Ziering, Producer of The Invisible War

We also invited special guest visitors to closed class sessions, including:

David Rowe, Director of To Live and Ride in LA (2011)

Emily Best, CEO of Seed and Spark

Sandra de Castro Buffington, Director of the Global Media Center for Social Impact at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Carla Blackmar, Project Manager for the Public Health Alliance of Southern California