Our History

how we started

The Meaningful Movies Project evolved out of a community film and discussion group formed in 2003 and held in the Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. Neighbors, committed to peace and justice, wanted to learn more about the causes and consequences of military intervention in Iraq. They began educating themselves using documentary film. Soon more and more people were clamoring to meet and talk about important social justice issues and about how the movies that they were watching connected to current events, their lives, families and communities. Thus the Meaningful Movies Project was born. 

As with every great effort, someone needed to lead – to help organize volunteers, recommend films, research screening rights, and more. Rick Turner was this passionate leader. His humility, loving presence, good humor, talent and dedication helped one Meaningful Movies venue inspire others. Community groups from across Western Washington came to Rick to ask for his assistance and advice. And of course, Rick didn’t do this work alone. He relied on the help of many other volunteers and especially the commitment of one important person, the person he fell in love with when he was in college, his wife, Diane Turner.

In 2012 Rick formed the non-profit “Meaningful Movies Project” to provide ongoing assistance to Meaningful Movies neighborhood groups. With Diane at his side, Rick served as the unpaid Executive Director and Board President of the organization for 5 years. 

In December of 2016 Rick Turner passed away. His loss was felt deeply – by his family, friends, colleagues and by hundreds of people across the state whose lives were touched by this extraordinary man. In the last years of his life, Rick was Meaningful Movies’ full-time volunteer. And when he died, Diane made a commitment to continue what Rick had started. She took over where Rick left off and became the organization’s full-time volunteer Executive Director and Board President. 

First Rick and then Diane devoted themselves completely to the vision for Meaningful Movies and to supporting peace and justice by educating people through free documentary film and community discussion events. Over the course of 17 years, because of their vision, commitment, hard work and financial support they expanded this organization from one venue to close to 30 venues. In 2019 alone, there were 210 Meaningful Movies events and over 9,000 people attended. Just as important, Meaningful Movies events provided a space for hundreds of non-profits, activists and community leaders to talk about the work they are doing to support peace and justice. Now, because of the pandemic, the Meaningful Movies has shifted to online events. With Diane’s support and leadership, the Meaningful Movies Project has been able to continue to build community by  providing free documentary film and discussion events and bringing awareness to the work of other people and organizations that are working hard for racial, economic, environmental and social justice. 

In August 2020, Diane stepped down from her roles as Executive Director and Board Chair. On behalf of the entire Meaningful Movies Network, our Board, our volunteers and the thousands of attendees at Meaningful Movies events, we thank Rick and Diane Turner for their dedication, their leadership and most of all their loving guidance over these many years. 



Previous description of our history written by Rick Turner:

The Meaningful Movies Project evolved out of a long-time community film and discussion effort in Seattle, Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies. Out of this grew The Meaningful Movies Network, an expanding collective of groups doing similar events, now coordinated through The Meaningful Movies Project.

Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies started showing films and hosting discussions in early 2003 as a project of Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice (WNFP&J), a member of the S.N.O.W. Coalition (Sound Non-violent Opponents of War) who formed in 2002 to protest further military intervention in Iraq.

While WNFP&J was a large organization, it was a half-dozen of us who, at the suggestion of a visionary woman in our group, Ellie Rose, began educating ourselves using documentary films. At the end of a short film series, our little film event had grown to about 50.  People were clamoring to meet & talk following the films about the evening’s topic, and about how these films connected to current events and to their lives, families and their community.

When it was announced that the series was over, several of us committed to continue this new found source of community building and education. And thus started Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies (FNATMM).

But the amount of work required to successfully organize and perpetuate these film/discussion events is far greater than it at first appears (see Start A Group). Throughout our history, we have received many requests from other community groups for assistance and advice. Although we helped all we could, we were limited by our time commitments to our own group events.

So in 2012 some of the current organizers of FNATMM formed a separate, non-profit entity, “The Meaningful Movies Project,” to specifically focus on providing ongoing support to neighborhood groups operating with a similar model. We work with these groups to assure that adequate resources are available, and to help them become independent and sustainable.

By the end of 2014, we formed the Meaningful Movies Network, a mutually supporting collective of 11 community-based Meaningful Movies groups, with The Meaningful Movies Project serving as its organizing and coordinating arm. Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies (now Meaningful Movies in Wallingford) continues to successfully show their weekly social justice documentaries and facilitate open community discussions on a wide array of social and environmental justice topics in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  Now into their 15th year, Meaningful Movies in Wallingford has hosted over 575 evenings of film and discussion at this single venue alone.

The Meaningful Movies Project remains committed to expanding to communities across Washington State, the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and are looking for new and existing groups with whom to collaborate.

We will continue to advocate strongly for this model and fully commit to its sustainability and success.  You can find the locations of current Meaningful Movie communities near you on our interactive map.