The Blackfish Effect

Three years after it hit theaters, Blackfish continues to resonate well beyond the movies. In response to public pressure catalyzed by the film, SeaWorld announced an end to its orca breeding program and a plan to transition the whales to a more natural, yet still captive, environment.

PR Collaborative is proud to have played a role in changing attitudes toward SeaWorld. We handled the Washington, DC press campaign for Magnolia Pictures in addition to spearheading the grassroots outreach to animal conservation organizations such as PETA and the Oceanic Preservation Society. 

Establishing early relationships with top animal welfare organizations and ocean conservation groups proved essential to building the film’s theatrical audience while simultaneously activating a community to agitate for reform. The stellar press reception coupled with the grassroots support helped make Blackfish one of the top-grossing documentaries of 2013 and scored a ratings coup for CNN.

SeaWorld has suffered since the release of Blackfish in 2013; its profits fell 84 percent in 2015 and attendance dropped by 100,000 visitors. Additionally, the “Blackfish effect” has echoed beyond the sea-park industry. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is retiring its iconic elephants in May, citing a “mood shift” in customers’ attitudes towards performing animals.

Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing orca that killed several people while in captivity. Filmmaker Gabriella Cowperthwaite created an unforgettable portrait of these highly intelligent animals and the trauma they endure living under the whip of a multi-billion dollar entertainment giant. Cowperthwaite, in a recent interview with NPR, called SeaWorld’s new policies a “defining moment.”

Watch the trailer

PR Collaborative joins Trapped at the Supreme Court for the rally to #StopTheSham

Today, PR Collaborative joined hundreds of activists demonstrating at the Supreme Court as oral arguments were heard in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a critical case dealing with abortion rights and access. We were there in support of the documentary Trapped, which follows the efforts of clinic workers and lawyers to keep abortion safe, affordable, legal, and accessible for millions of American women. 

Activists on both sides of the abortion debate rallied in front of the Supreme Court while oral arguments in  Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt  were being heard. (March 2, 2016)

Activists on both sides of the abortion debate rallied in front of the Supreme Court while oral arguments in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt were being heard. (March 2, 2016)

The documentary Trapped takes its name from so-called “TRAP” laws, or Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, that impose onerous regulations to facility construction, physician licensing, and staffing requirements. Following its premier at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Trapped won the Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking


Trapped closely examines the impact of TRAP laws on abortion clinics, providers, and patients in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. At the heart of today’s Supreme Court case is one central question: do regulations created by Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill (often referred to as HB2) pose an “undue burden” on a woman’s Constitutional right to an abortion?

As SCOTUSblog explained, “Two provisions of H.B. 2 are now before the Court. One requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the clinic, while the second requires abortion clinics to have facilities equal to an outpatient surgical center.” If the Supreme Court decides that these provisions pose a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking an abortion, they will be struck down. 

From right, PR Collaborative's Gabrielle Flamand, Renee Tsao, Jamie Shor, and Kate Reutersward on Capitol Hill with  Trapped  director Dawn Porter and Gloria Gray, owner and director of the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa. 

From right, PR Collaborative's Gabrielle Flamand, Renee Tsao, Jamie Shor, and Kate Reutersward on Capitol Hill with Trapped director Dawn Porter and Gloria Gray, owner and director of the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa. 

Trapped opens in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC on March 4, and will be opening in other cities across the country throughout March (see a complete list of screenings here). In DC, you can see Trapped at the E St Cinema (buy tickets here).

You can follow Trapped on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Meet Our Spring 2016 Film Interns!

Brianna Hall

I’ve learned a few unexpected things at PR Collaborative so far: wearing a sweater featuring a white tiger is great, not everyone likes zombies, and if given the opportunity to attend a free screening, you should (because it’s someone’s job to get you to go).

Hi, I’m Brianna, and I’m a film intern.

My knowledge of film stemmed from watching obscure Netflix recommendations on the couch with my mom every night after dinner in high school. Let me back up. I grew up in a wicked small town in Maine. We didn’t have a movie theatre, the video store was in the Laundromat, and the internet would go down during every blizzard. Good times, right? I grew up watching VHS versions of Shrek, XXX: State of the Union, and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams – this is where I’m drawing my critical cinema eye from.

As an intern, it’s my job to convince people to move past the binge-worthy Netflix choices, leave their apartments, and watch a decent feature film in a movie theatre with popcorn. I love it, and who wouldn’t love free films?

Aside from PR Collaborative, I’m a sophomore at American University majoring in public relations and strategic communications with a minor in international relations. I’m interested in traveling, living abroad, and new languages. This summer, I’ll spend two months in Colombia at an Eco-Yoga retreat re-finding my inner Zen, after losing it during my commute to Georgetown twice a week this semester. You can often find me in coffee shops drinking almond milk mochas or watching Criminal Minds in my dorm’s twin bed.

It’s the Suite Life of Brianna Hall, film intern.

Martin Valderruten

I have always been fascinated by the entertainment world, and I feel so lucky to be able to combine my love of PR and movies with such a unique and exciting internship.

I was born in Colombia, South America, but grew up South Florida. My father would always take me to my local movie theater growing up, and we would spend afternoons watching movies. So it’s not surprising that film became my largest passion in life, along with English and adventures. I’m pursuing pursuing a major in Public Relations and a minor in Spanish, with the goal of ultimately going into the PR industry and opening my own firm.

PR Collaborative has rolled out the red carpet by making this internship both interesting and engaging. Not only have I started to learn about the organization, but I also learned how to deal with clients and the general public when debuting a new film. Any intern with PR Collaborative is in for an amazing opportunity. This is a hands-on opportunity to learn not only about PR, but also, about how film is able to change the world one documentary at a time.

Meet Our Spring 2016 Policy Interns!

Tess Palladino

I’m a senior at The George Washington University studying international affairs. I discovered my love for public relations and communications recently and have enjoyed immersing myself in the world of media. In addition to my media interest, I have a passion for food and culture.

During my time so far at PR Collaborative, I’ve learned a lot and been given exposure to different aspects of public relations. I’ve been working on the policy aspect of public health and learning how PR impacts the field. I enjoy researching the public health industry and learning about all of the critical work that public health officials deal with on a day-to-day basis. I’ve also witnessed how film PR works and the ins and outs of word-of-mouth screenings. I’m looking forward to learning more about policy PR, and to honing my skills to contribute more to the office and further my endeavors.

Fun facts: I love all things pink, plaid, and polka dots (but not together). When I’m not at yoga or Soul Cycle, you can find me in the cheese section of Whole Foods crafting the perfect cheese board.

Nora Sanzo

 I too am a senior at George Washington University majoring in international affairs and public health. My interest for public relations has been steadily growing ever since I became a college student and noticed the great impact it had on my daily life. Being in a city like Washington D.C., I’ve been able to connect with many people in the field of PR and communications. The combination of public health and public relations here at PR Collaborative is a perfect match for me.

As a policy intern, I’ve had the opportunity to work in all aspects of the media and communications process. From day one, I was given responsibilities for each policy client such as researching healthcare trends, gathering information for directors and developing more knowledge regarding public health in all aspects of the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to work closely with a team so passionate about similar things. My prior knowledge of public health has helped me understand PR Collaborative's work, but I’m so excited to continue to learn from everyone in the office.

Fun facts: Originally from Texas, I’m a huge fan of football and salsa. My passion for health can be seen daily as I am a personal trainer and competitive power lifter. I apparently love D.C. and GW so much as I just finished applying for the Master of Public Health Communications and Marketing program. I look forward to sticking around for another two years!

It’s Always Sunny in Utah

The Sundance Film Festival kicked off on January 28 in Park City, Utah. Vice President of Film, Renee Tsao, attended the festival and experienced the excitement firsthand. Here’s our round-up of films that made the news and news that made headlines. 

  • The Birth of a Nation received a preemptive standing round of applause before the film even began. That auspicious start was followed by critical and popular accolades for the “searing slave drama,” which was awarded the grand jury prize for a narrative film and was voted best movie by audiences. Read more here
  • Diversity dominated Sundance. Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, called 2016 “the year of the women.” Given the abundance of female directors to breakout actress performances with resounding standing ovations, we hope Bernard is right. However, Variety asks whether this diversity can last in Hollywood.
  • “Stop complaining.” Kristen Stewart shared a controversial piece of advice for women in Hollywood: “Go do something.” Stewart was at Sundance promoting her movie, Certain Women, a portrait of intersecting lives in Montana. 
  • Swiss Army Man divided audiences and made headlines at Sundance. It was later purchased by A24. Think Castaway – minus Wilson, plus a dead body. Read more here.
  • Amazon and Netflix are the latest big spenders in the film industry. These two new players in the industry made it clear that they have money to spend and that they’re here to stay. What does this mean for the average moviegoer? Renew your Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts this year. It’ll be worth it.
  • Speaking of Amazon and Netflix, director Sian Hader says, “We are living in a new age of film.” Hader wrote and directed Tallulah, staring Ellen Page and Allison Janney, and was also a writer and producer for Orange is the New Black. Netflix scooped up Tallulah before it even debuted at Sundance. 

88th Academy Awards: Documentary Features Shortlist

PR Collaborative was honored to have worked on eight of the 15 films in the Documentary Features category that were shortlisted for the 88th Academy Awards: 

  • Best of Enemies (Magnolia Pictures) - In the summer of 1968, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. As they debated politics and policies, their explosive exchanges devolved into vitriolic name-calling, keeping viewers riveted and changing television news forever.
  • Cartel Land (The Orchard) - In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as "El Doctor," leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona's Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the American border. CARTEL LAND is an on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy: the murderous Mexican drug cartels.
  • The Hunting Ground (RADiUS-TWC) – A haunting expose of sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice, despite ongoing harassment of them and their families. Scrutinizing the gamut of higher education from elite Ivies and state universities to small colleges, the filmmakers reveal a system of institutional cover-ups, rationalizations, victim-blaming, and denial that creates perfect storm conditions for sexual predators to prey with impunity.
  • The Look of Silence (Drafthouse Films) –Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: confront the men who killed his brother. A powerful companion piece to Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated documentary, The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence
  • 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets (Participant Media) - On Black Friday 2012, a white middle-aged male and a black teenager exchanged angry words over the volume of the music in the boy’s car. Michael Dunn fired 10 bullets at a car full of unarmed teenagers and then fled. Three of those bullets hit 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who died at the scene. Thus began the long journey of unraveling the truth. The film follows that journey, revealing how hidden racial prejudice can result in tragedy.
  • We Come as Friends (BBC Worldwide North America) - At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old “civilizing” pathology re-emerges – that of colonialism, the clash of empires, and new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. The director explores the landscape in his tiny, self-made, tin and canvas flying machine, entering improbable locations and getting access to people’s thoughts and dreams in both stunning and heartbreaking ways. Chinese oil workers, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese warlords, and American evangelists ironically weave common ground in this documentary.
  • Where to Invade Next – Michael Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. This eye-opening comedy is a call to arms. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted. Click here to read more about our work with Where to Invade Next. [Link to blog post]
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Netflix) - Chronicling events that unfolded over 93 days in 2013 and 2014, this film witnesses the formation of a new civil rights movement in Ukraine. What started as peaceful student demonstrations supporting European integration morphed into a full-fledged violent revolution calling for the resignation of the nation's president. Winter on Fire captures the remarkable mobilization of nearly a million citizens from across the country protesting the corrupt political regime that utilized extreme force against its own people.

PR Collaborative managed media strategy, outreach and research for the documentaries. We take great pride in helping these documentary filmmakers share their stories, which often shed light on important current issues and promote social activism. 124 films were originally submitted in the category, and the five nominees will be announced on January 14, 2016. 

Big Cities Health Inventory Launch

PR Collaborative was thrilled to be part of the successful launch of the Big Cities Health Inventory (BCHI) by the Big Cities Health Coalition. The BCHI report assessed the state of urban health in 26 cities while making an unprecedented database of urban health data available online at

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The BCHI's key findings included: 

  1. While significant challenges remain, cities have improved health outcomes, both when compared with their standing in 2007 and when compared with the nation as a whole.
  2. Health disparities between black and white Americans remain, while the health of Hispanics outpaces the general population.
  3. Cities are on track to meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 goals.

In support of the release, PR Collaborative developed a media campaign to reach out to national, trade, and local press. In coordination with the press offices of the 26 health departments included in the BCHI, PR Collaborative created local pitches and managed the execution of the outreach leading up to the release on November 18. Media coverage included: 

As part of the digital strategy for the BCHC, PR Collaborative designed and executed the development of the "Data and Research Center" on the existing BCHC website. This new section was unveiled simultaneously with the release of the BCHI and now provides a home for previous academic work, including the publication of a special supplement edition of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and 12 case studies highlighting innovations and best practices emerging out of local health departments.

Middleburg Film Festival 2015

For the third year in a row, PR Collaborative contributed to the success of the third annual Middleburg Film Festival. The festival featured a carefully curated selection of 26 narrative, foreign and documentary films in an intimate theatre environment, followed by fascinating Q and A's with world-renowned filmmakers and actors.  

The films screened October 22 – 25, 2015 in Virginia’s historic wine country located one hour outside of Washington DC. The 2015 main slate featured titles from seven women directors including ITHACA, SHERPA, SUFFRAGETTE, THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, MUSTANG, PEGGY GUGGENHEIM – ART ADDICT, and MISS YOU ALREADY. The festival also screened a selection of foreign language submissions to the Oscars.

Middleburg Film Festival welcomed many special guests, including director and actress Meg Ryan, directors Lee Daniels, Catherine Hardwicke, and Marc Abraham, actor and film subject Tab Hunter, and actress Bo Derek. Carter Burwell was honored as 2015's Distinguished Film Composer with a selection of his most memorable scores presented by the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra. The festival also honored Academy Award-nominee Dante Spinotti as this year's Distinguished Cinematographer.

SPOTLIGHT won the Audience Award for Best Narrative, and HARRY & SNOWMAN won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. The winners were chosen by audience ballot.

In addition to securing media coverage for the festival, PR Collaborative also worked on the campaigns for two films in the festival: Abigail Disney's THE ARMOR OF LIGHT and Catherine Hardwicke's MISS YOU ALREADY.