Purple States produces video with people affected by an issue or a political choice, to bring their voices and experiences into the discussion of what's happening, what's at stake, and what should be done.
Origins and evolution
Purple States was co-founded in 2007 by Cynthia Farrar, John Kennedy, and Cinnamon Kennedy. The idea emerged from Cynthia's ongoing work on local civic engagement: connecting residents to each other and to local media and institutions, in order to cultivate communication across fault lines and seed pragmatic solutions.

When digital media took off, Cynthia seized the opportunity to take engagement across difference to scale. She, John (a local journalist and writer), and Cinnamon (a writer) all reinvented themselves as producers.

Purple States launched with citizen coverage of the 2008 election, featuring five people from different backgrounds, locations on the political spectrum, and parts of the country. The series aired on the New York Times and the Washington Post, as op-ed video.

Since 2009, Purple States has been producing short-form video on a range of social, economic, and political issues, with individuals who have a stake in how those issues are framed and addressed — and with a variety of production, funding and distribution partners.

Until 2015, when she left to pursue other interests, co-founder Cinnamon Kennedy was our Creative Director — as well as a producer/director and editor. She originated many of Purple States' innovations, including using remote and global self-filming as a new journalistic and advocacy tool. She pioneered the creation of focused, watchable, professionally edited self-filmed media.
Leadership team
CYNTHIA FARRAR Co-founder, CEO, Executive Producer and Producer.
Cynthia leads the company and works with John to develop ideas and assemble partners. She has executive produced or produced many of the company's projects, including the two Health Reckonings series, the Cities Project, Cultures and Health, The Next President's Immigration Story, Strange Bedfellows, Learn to Earn, and the 2008 election series.

Cynthia helps partners design strategies for distributing stories and assessing their influence. She aims to enhance the value of digital storytelling to local media, as a combined reporting and audience engagement tool.

She is especially interested in tapping the power of stories to reveal the personal experiences that lie behind statistics, and to show how systems constrain what individuals can do. She is developing a video series that will explore the impact of longstanding practices of segregation on the choices people make about where to live.
Co-founder, Executive Producer, Producer, and Director.
John plays a range of leadership and production roles. He produced and directed our most recent documentary series on health equity: Davis, CA vs COVID-19, and Health Reckonings.

On the Outside was John's idea, and he initiated the relationships that made the project possible. He co-produced the resulting documentary about individuals leaving the prison system — Life on Parole — which aired on PBS Frontline and The New York Times in 2017.

John directed and produced the 14-part series on cultures and health for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. John has also led our efforts to engage global nonprofits, and to build the storytelling capacity of foundations and their grantees, and advocacy groups. His productions have included series for Open Society Foundations, the UN Millennium Campaign, and the Global Fund.

John is usually the one who builds trust with the individuals and communities featured in Purple States video. John also brings his experience as a writer, musician, and art activist to Purple States and other projects. He is currently directing/producing narrative videos for Dogwood Health Trust. His short documentary Braided Prayer was an official selection at four film festivals. He is the Director of Musicians for Overdose Prevention, which distributes naloxone to musicians and to music venues.
We team up with producers, directors, videographers and editors with the skills and experience required for specific productions. We have had the good fortune to work with very talented professionals, including: DCTV (led by Matthew O'Neill); Jeff Arak, Christopher Brown, Phil Frank, Aaron Granes, Ben Lear, Bryan Litman, David Matorin, Beth Morrissey, Amy Overbeck, David Saich, Alissa Shapiro, and YOND3R.