In addition to co-founding his own extraordinary organization, Working Films, Robert West worked for ITVS in the late 1990s as one of our field organizers in what was then our Community Connections Project (later rebranded and significantly enhanced as Community Cinema). During the years that Robert was a part of the ITVS enterprise, he brought a level of commitment and sophistication to the art of community engagement – or as he later dubbed it “reel engagement.” Those of us who had the great pleasure of working with Robert during those years saw first hand his deep commitment to supporting social issue documentaries and connecting people and organizations in a way that resulted in creating real change. He was an unstoppable force then, and he remains one today.
Robert has been a visionary and a leader in the intersections of media and public engagement. Last fall, he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), an aggressive and terminal brain cancer. We at ITVS and Independent Lens, along with countless colleagues who have been beneficiaries of his work, were devastated by the news. Not surprisingly, in the months since then, Robert has earned our even deeper admiration for the dignity, humor, and grit he has shown. Someone wise once wrote, “A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a dream is drudgery. But dreams and tasks together are the hope of the world.” Robert epitomizes “the hope of the world” through his courage, his action, and his contributions – back in the day at ITVS, at Working Films, and with all the films and filmmakers he has helped. Continue reading