Truth Aid produces multimedia content about the social barriers to well being and translates research into action. Our content creates shared value across diverse stakeholders through the use of compelling narratives and ethnographic research while inspiring and empowering communities to affect social change. We work through academic affiliations, grant funded initiatives, and as a fee-for-service consultancy. Our multimedia projects have been funded by Independent Television Service (ITVS), The Righteous Persons Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, San Francisco Federation Endowment Fund, and others.
Our efforts were born out of the experience of physicians working to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in the South Bronx. We came to realize that conversations about HIV prevention had to start with love, trust, identity, abuse, and support in order to make safe sex a reality. Our efforts to uncover this missing dialogue led us to create new communication strategies to teach about social barriers to well-being that hinged on interdisciplinary methods.
The two principals, Mehret Mandefro and Lacey Schwartz, met during graduate school at Harvard while studying medicine and law respectively. Early in their careers they realized that the emerging issues in their respective disciplines were converging and required integrated approaches. Their collective efforts to think across boundaries and cultivate innovative solutions to tough problems led to Truth Aid.
We produce creative content and educational programming that challenges the world to think different. Through insight consultancy and social innovation, Truth Aid leverages interdisciplinary thought to amplify the impact individuals and organizations can make in their community.
Our services include:
- Media production and consulting: We are available to produce media projects from conception to distribution or can be brought in to consult on specific elements of a project. Our media production services include: content design and management, script evaluation, writing film and television proposals/ treatments, copy and script writing, creating and monitoring budgets and schedules, rights acquisitions, fundraising and grant writing, production and post-production management. Our creative consulting services include: strategic guidance, concept development and pitching, creating and implementing legal business structure, drafting and negotiating legal agreements (development, production, distribution and talent agreements) and all facets of project management.
- Outreach: Educational content, programming and audience engagement;
- Research and analysis; and
- Strategic guidance
Our films have screened at festivals all around the world and appeared on national broadcast channels that include:
Dr. Mehret Mandefro is an award-winning film producer/writer who draws from her background as an anthropologist, Harvard-trained physician, and health policy expert to craft textured narratives that explore the social determinants of health. She uses her interdisciplinary training as the foundation to approach social issues she has chosen to tackle as an artist and filmmaker and create what she calls “visual medicine”. Dr. Mandefro’s work stems from a shared belief that storytelling is the most powerful tool we can use to bridge societal divides in our world. Her goal is to create art that engages the public in a deeper conversation about cultural change and challenges audiences to rethink the way they see the world. Integral to her work is the development of public engagement campaigns that help audiences build on lessons learned in her films.
Dr. Mandefro produced and co-wrote the critically acclaimed documentary Little White Lie about family secrets and facing the truth which was the top-rated broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens during the 2014-2015 season. She also produced the narrative film Difret about a famous women’s rights case that outlawed the kidnapping of child brides in Ethiopia and was the first film to win audience awards at both the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.
Prior to film, she began her career as a physician and public health practitioner working extensively with HIV infected and affected communities in Botswana, South Africa, Ethiopia, and New York on issues of prevention and treatment. She completed her primary care internal medicine residency at Montefiore Medical Center and subsequently joined the research faculty of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar where she received a pilot grant to explore the public health uses of media and create the media production company Truth Aid with her producing partner Lacey Schwartz.
She was subsequently appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow and worked on behavioral health policy issues for returning Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and co-chaired the health systems and life experiences sub-committee of the Federal Inter-Agency Health Equity Team, which was responsible for developing the nation’s first public health strategy to eliminate health disparities. Upon completion of her fellowship, she joined the Obama administration and served as a health policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was most recently Chief Medical Officer of Amida Technology Solutions and on faculty in the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services.
Dr. Mandefro is currently Writer/Director/Producer at Truth Aid and Executive Producer at Kana Television. Her latest films include the feature documentary How It Feels To Be Free about the political contributions of trailblazing black female entertainers which she is producing with American Masters and the feature film Sweetness in the Belly starring the Oscar nominated actress Saoirse Ronan. Mehret has a BA in Anthropology from Harvard University, an MD from Harvard Medical School, and a MSc in Public Health and Anthropology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as a Fulbright Scholar. She currently lives with her husband and three kids in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Alexandria, VA.
Lacey Schwartz has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit and media sector. Lacey has served as a production, development and community consultant for a variety of production companies, networks, and organizations including MTV, BETJ, @radical.media, Institute for Jewish Community and Research and NASCAR.
For her clients, Lacey has been involved in all levels of production, business and creative strategy, from the initial development of creative ideas to physical production and the editing process through distribution. Lacey has worked on projects in conjunction with various entities, including the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Pepsi, GM, L’Oreal, Red Bull, PBS, BMW, BBC, Universal Studios, Universal Music Group, Warner Brothers and the Sundance Channel.
Originally from Woodstock, NY, Lacey graduated cum laude in 1998 from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Studio Arts and received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003.
Previous to her career in television and film production, Lacey worked in corporate, civil rights and entertainment law at Brown and Wood LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison LLP, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and MTV Networks. She also worked as a New York City Public School teacher teaching math and theater while she DJed on the side for an arts organization, band and private parties.