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In 1998, filmmaker Charlotte Lagarde founded Swell Cinema, a 501 (c) (3) film production, distribution and educational outreach organization. Swell Cinema’s mission was to produce documentary films with an independent vision and to educate the public about contemporary issues. It's goal was to create documentaries that are intimate portraits of individuals living unique lives. And it's objective was to challenge viewers to more closely examine their beliefs, values, lifestyles, and history in order to encourage their participation in social issues and deepen their connection to the natural world.Twenty years later, Swell Cinema has produced close to 20 award winning films, which have aired on PBS, the Sundance Channel, HBO and been distributed internationally. Some of the issues tackled in the films ranged from living with breast cancer and AIDS to voting suppression and rights, LGBT rights and jazz.

Swell Cinema's latest project, Colonial White, is a participatory project created for the Racial Imaginary Institute. It opened at The Kitchen in New York and was featured in Art in America and Hyperallergic. In 2019, curator Amber Esseiva commissioned Colonial White as a city wide project in Richmond, VA for the Institute of Contemporary Art -VCU. It was included in the exhibit Great Force, which addresses the force of whiteness, the counter-force of black resistance, and the persistence of the color line in the United States. 


In 2019, after twenty years of issue-based documentary storytelling, Lagarde shifted her professional focus to solutions-based work in climate change, social inequities, and the housing crisis. In this professional pivot she co-founded the Public Benefit Corporation B.PUBLIC, with a vision to create a future with better homes for more people, with less impact on the environment. In 2020, the Board of Directors of Swell Cinema voted to expand the purposes of the organization to include the effects of the built environment on the deepening climate crisis. The Board also adopted a new name to be more inclusive of its new mission- and thus Swell Cinema became the Swell Foundation. The expanded mission will continue to support storytelling, movement building, as well as community development and targeted project-based initiatives towards a more equitable society and planet.

Heart of the Sea (1996)
Rell 1996: photo by Tom Keck.jpg

Photo courtesy of photographer Tom Keck



Margaret Heimbrodt

Meg Heimbrodt has over 20 years of professional experience in marketing communications, project management, non-profit and education. She is the College and Career Counselor at Redwood High School. She has been on the Board of the Swell Foundation since its founding.


YY Lee

YY Lee is the Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of Anaplan. YY has worked at the intersection of math and technology throughout her career; applying software and computational techniques in machine learning and data science, enterprise software, and large-scale systems. She has held CEO, COO, GM, and leadership positions across a broad range of technology businesses. Most recently, she was CEO of FirstRain from 2015 until its acquisition in 2017, and previously served as the company’s COO leading its engineering, product, data science, and operations teams. Prior to FirstRain, YY was VP and GM of Worldwide Services at Cadence Design Systems. She also co-founded the software company Aqueduct Software and led the company through acquisition by NetManage. YY began her career at Bell Labs. She currently serves as an independent board director for Commvault, and is an advisory member of The Data Guild. YY holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Harvard University.

Image by Burgess Milner

Scarlet Nerad

Scarlet Nerad has been mitigating on behalf of men and women facing the death penalty for over 20 years. As the Director of Community Resource Initiative, which she co-founded in 2007, she investigates death penalty cases at the trial and post conviction level and train others while creating and developing initiatives designed to combat risk factors in children most at risk for incarceration. Scarlet is a Founding Director of Swell Cinema.


William Rogers

William Rogers is the President & CEO of Goodwill San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin (SF Goodwill) and is leading the revitalization of this 104-year-old, nonprofit social enterprise.  As a trusted resource serving some of the region’s most underserved populations, Goodwill provides opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment—those who are justice involved, homeless, veterans, have language barriers, or have struggled with addiction—to acquire 21st century job skills and move into career pathways that help break the cycle of generational poverty. Before joining Goodwill, William served as Deputy City Manager for the City of Berkeley, a municipal government with 1,400 employees and a budget of just under $400 million.


Lee Ann Slinkard

Lee Ann Slinkard has an long record of success building teams and methodologies in software organizations serving  government and healthcare organizations. These solutions empowered patients and citizens all over the world. Most recently, she served as Vice President for a company that partnered with global health delivery providers to implement a wearable vital sign monitoring device to collect data enabling the prediction and prevention of life threatening conditions. This technology will be a game changer as our populations grow larger and get older. She serves on the board of Breast Cancer Action.

Our Mission


Environmental Resiliency

Sustainable Housing

Arts and Culture

Social Equity  

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