Member Spotlight: Cole Bankston of Donnie from Death Row
Cole Bankston is the creator of "Donnie from Death Row," an autobiographical short film project designed to change the way Americans view prisoners and the prison industrial complex. Cole is a designer and multimedia artist based in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a very new member of Fractured Atlas, having joined this year. His recently launched campaign on Fundraising by Fractured Atlas seeks to raise the funds needed to bring his film to life. Cole shared with us some of his story, inspiration, and the impact that he hopes his project will have on its viewers.
How would you describe "Donnie from Death Row"?
This project is a unique blend of documentary, narrative filmmaking, and animation. The people on death row are never allowed to be heard, and their artwork is to never be seen. This project gives inmates, like Donnie, a voice that would otherwise go unnoticed inside the prison industrial complex. By animating his paintings, or by directing the short films he has written, audiences can listen to the story of a man society has forgotten.
Metaphor is important in my work. Donnie showed glaring signs of sexual abuse during his childhood. Filming the story on an empty theater was the only plausible option in my mind.
What were your biggest challenges before working with Fractured Atlas?
Before Fractured Atlas, I had no clue how to raise funds or write grants. Fractured Atlas has given me the resources for a crowdfunding platform and several grant proposal templates. All of this is done with a minimalist and easy-to-use website paired with great service. I have been a member of Fractured Atlas for about a month now and I am already amazed by the opportunities they provide.
What brought you to Fractured Atlas?
Fractured Atlas was a name that was thrown around a lot in art school. Students and faculty were always recommending it. Once I received Donnie’s script, I immediately knew where I needed to go. Now that I have these resources at my disposal, my work can thrive and come to life. The videos I make will no longer collect dust on Vimeo, I can host screenings and raise money through Artful.ly and Spacefinder.
What was your first big win with Fractured Atlas?
Seeing my first donation gave me hope for the future. When I saw that, I knew I was working with an amazing organization. I have just recently started using the crowdfunding campaign platform, which is incredibly user-friendly. Here, I could pitch my project to the world with posted rewards for different levels of donations.
"I’ve been doing a series of hand drawn animated shorts on toilet paper about the prisoner with whom I work." ~Cole Bankston | Photo Credit: Sam Angel
Why do you think artists and organizations should become members of Fractured Atlas?
In today’s world, it becomes more and more difficult for an artist's work to be seen, especially if you are the sole-proprietor. Fractured Atlas gives an artist the status they need to successfully raise funds for any artistic project.
Do you have any upcoming events?
On March 20th, I will be releasing a new animated documentary short “Birthday Boy” based on a painting given to me by Donnie himself. It tells the heart-breaking story of when his mother gave him heroin as a birthday present at the age of thirteen. The animation will be hand-drawn on toilet paper inside a square 1:1 aspect ratio.
What sort of impact do you hope your project will have?
I hope the viewer struggles with the moral reckoning of Donnie’s childhood. A majority of inmates on death row are lived in poverty and abusive households. Once the viewer sees the humanization of this man, their preconceived notions of the death penalty will certainly be challenged.
You can learn more about and support this project at Fundraising by Fractured Atlas. You can follow Cole and his work at colebankston.com; on Facebook and Instagram at @donniefromdeathrow; and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/bankstonmedia.
About Molaundo Jones
Molaundo Jones is a visual artist, entrepreneur, and arts adminstrator. As Social Media Specialist, he creates strategies and content for social media marketing and works with our members to develop a comprehensive calendar of events. Molaundo is a New York native, earned his MFA in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, and BA in Marketing at Morehouse College. He is founder of The Clever Agency, a communications consultancy and develops professional development programs for Queens Council on the Arts. He has also worked with the New York Foundation on the Arts' Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and Artist as Entrepreneur Bootcamp and has served as a grant panelist for Bryant Park Corporation, Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Museum of Art and Design.