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 work on local civic engagement: connecting residents to each other and to local media and institutions, in order to cultivate communication across difference 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.
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 series, including the Cities Project, Cultures and Health, The Next President’s Immigration Story, Strange Bedfellows, Learn to Earn, and the 2008 election series.

Cynthia is pursuing partnerships with organizations that are trying to make American democracy more participatory and to counter political divisiveness. She is also considering video’s potential as a way to bring home the implications of climate change.

Cynthia helps partners design strategies for distributing stories and assessing their influence. She is exploring digital storytelling’s value to local media as a combined reporting and audience engagement tool.
Co-founder, Executive Producer, Producer, and Director.
John plays a range of leadership and production roles, including executive producing various projects with Open Society Foundations, global and domestic field production (On the Outside, World Without Walls, Primaries ’08, Degrees of Difficulty, the Farmers’ Film) and direction (Cultures of Health, Farmers’ Film, Election ’08). John is usually the one who builds trust with the individuals and communities featured in Purple States video. On the Outside was John’s idea, and he initiated the relationships that made the project possible.

John has also led our efforts to engage global nonprofits, and to build the storytelling capacity of young people, foundations and their grantees, and advocacy groups. John also brings his experience as a writer and artist to the work. He is currently gathering 100 oral histories and photographs of opiate users in western North Carolina.
We team up with 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, Alissa Shapiro, and YOND3R.