Chicago Media Project (CMP)




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2016):

Revenue: $521,047
Expenses: $372,235
Assets: $204,658

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The Chicago Media Project (CMP) funds and produces documentary films, frequently with a left-of-center political perspective. The organization is credited with providing one-third of the funding for Icarus, a film about state-sponsored athletic doping by the Russian Federation that received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2018 Oscars. 1 As of December 2018, CMP has supported 30 films and awarded $3 million to film projects. 2

The organization seeks to unite institutions, individuals, cause organizations, and philanthropic foundations to make films that promote social change. The organization is based in Chicago and is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. It has been around since 2013. It is sustained by both grants and paid memberships.


CMP supports movies that promote “social justice, human rights, environmental rights” and other left-wing causes. CMP CEO Paula Froehle said in an interview that “Social impact and community are the core tenets of CMP. It is our mission to make a difference and to change the world, but it has to be anchored in great storytelling. Without that no one will pay attention long enough, or become emotionally hooked in a way that can command their attention and direct them toward action.” 3


Paula Froehle

CMP is led by CEO Paula Froehle. She is an entrepreneur, producer, and film director. 4 Froehle helped found CMP after the 2013 “Good Pitch Chicago” event at which Froehle helped raise $400,000 and connect filmmakers to over 50 organizations that would help them maximize their film’s impact. 5

Prior to founding CMP, Froehle was the founding dean of the Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, a school that teaches prospective filmmakers. While at Flashpoint, Froehle pioneered an “immersive learning” concept that taught filmmakers by having them actually make and produce films. 6

Steve Cohen

The co-founder and chairman of the board is Steve Cohen. Cohen is an attorney who has been representing whistleblowers since 2001. He is also active in political activism and campaigns in Chicago. 7 In both 2008 and 2012, Cohen served on the Obama for America national finance committee. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama appointed Cohen to serve on the board of trustees to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, an independent federal entity which provides scholarships for students going into government service. 8

Prior to his involvement with CMP, Cohen produced several documentaries as member of Impact Partners. 9 Impact Partners supported the 2011 film The Island President, a documentary about then-Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed and his efforts to draw attention to climate change. The documentary saw airtime on PBS stations across the country. 10

Another documentary Cohen helped produce was the 2012 film How to Survive a Plague which focused on the far-left group ACT UP and its fight against AIDS. 11

One of the last documentaries that Cohen helped produce at Impact Partners was the 2013 flim Inequality for All, which featured far-left former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich giving his ideas on how to fix income inequality. 12

Cohen is also a member of the Gamechanger film fund. That organization’s goal is to finance and produce women-directed feature films. 13

Other People

Among those on the board of CMP is Vicki Hayman, who also served on the Obama For America National Finance Committee. In 2011-12, she served as the co-chair of the Illinois Finance Committee for President Obama’s reelection campaign. 14

Another member of the board is the Ken Pelletier, who is an entrepreneur. He served as the founding CTO of Groupon and he serves on the board of directors of the far-left Mother Jones magazine. 15


The most famous movie CMP has helped make is the 2017 Oscar-winning documentary Icarus. The film is about Russia’s government-sponsored Olympic doping program. 16

Another film that it has supported is the 2016 documentary The Return, which focused on inmates released from prison after California’s “three strikes” law was weakened. The movie focused on the inmates’ attempts to return to society. 17

CMP also backed the 2017 documentary Water Warriors which told the story of activists in New Brunswick, Canada opposing natural gas exploration. 18

One of the first movies CMP backed was the PBS documentary Whiteness Project in 2014. The documentary was also supported by the left-of-center MacArthur Foundation. 19 The documentary featured interview subjects who alleged suffering hardship for being white. Many left-wing commentators criticized the focus on white people’s suffering. 20

CMP also supported the 2017 documentary Whose Streets, a profile of the Black Lives Matter movement; and the 2019 drama The Infiltrators, which features a group of illegal immigrants who get themselves arrested in order to be put in a for-profit detention center to set other illegal immigrants free. 21 22


CMP uses various ways to help promote movies. Some of these movies are exhibited at various film festivals, such as the famous Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Other movies have been picked up by streaming services such as Netflix. Still other movies have been picked up by networks such as CNN and PBS. 23


According to its 2015 IRS filing (Form 990), CMP received $512,683 in contributions and grants and spent $667,404. 24 Its largest reported expense was $508,448 to hold Big Table Dinners and eight film screenings. It also traveled around the world at various donor and film pitching conferences to search for movies to support. 25

It also sponsored the 2015 Good Pitch Chicago that raised $300,000 for six participating movies. 26

The only reported salaried employee for CMP in 015 was Paula Froehle, who reportedly earned $112,000 that year. 27

Among the organizations that received grants is Impact Partners which received $10,334. It also gave $103,000 to the Sundance Institute. It gave $60,403 to Good Pitch Chicago. 28

Among the organizations that support CMP is the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation. The foundation, which also supports the far-left Rainbow PUSH Coalition, gave CMP at least a $1,000 grant in 2017. 29


  1. Rosenthal, Phil. “How Chicago Money Helped Oscar-winning ‘Icarus’ Expose Russian Doping.” Chicago Tribune. March 06, 2018. Accessed February 19, 2019.
  2. “Spotlight Interview: Paula Froehle, Co-Founder Chicago Media Project”. 2018. Ms. In The Biz.
  3. “Spotlight Interview: Paula Froehle, Co-Founder Chicago Media Project”. 2018. Ms. In The Biz.
  4. “Spotlight Interview: Paula Froehle, Co-Founder Chicago Media Project”. 2018. Ms. In The Biz.
  5. “Spotlight Interview: Paula Froehle, Co-Founder Chicago Media Project”. 2018. Ms. In The Biz.
  6. “Who We Are”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  7. “Who We Are”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  8. “Steven H. Cohen”. 2019. Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.. Accessed February 18.
  9. “Who We Are”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  10. “The Island President”. 2019. Independent Lens. Accessed February 18.
  11. “How To Survive A Plague (2012)”. 2019. Imdb. Accessed February 18.
  12. “Inequality For All (2013)”. 2019. Imdb. Accessed February 18.
  13. “Who We Are”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  14. “Vicki Heyman”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  15. “Ken Pelletier”. 2019. Chicago Media Project. Accessed February 18.
  16. Rosenthal, Phil. 2018. “How Chicago Money Helped Oscar-Winning ‘Icarus’ Expose Russian Doping”. Chicago Tribune.
  17. “The Return (2016)”. 2019. Imdb. Accessed February 18.
  18. “Water Warriors (2017)”. 2019. Imdb. Accessed February 18.
  19.  “Whiteness Project”. 2019. Macarthur Foundation. Accessed February 18.
  20. Chumley, Cheryl K. 2014. “PBS Under Fire For Documentary, ‘The Whiteness Project,’ On Caucasian Hardships”. The Washington Times.
  21. McNary, Dave. 2018. “Film News Roundup: Immigration Drama ‘The Infiltrators’ Backed By Chicago Media Project”. Variety.
  22. “Whose Streets? (2017)”. 2019. Imdb. Accessed February 18.
  23. Pickett, Leah. 2017. “After Sundance, The Impact Of The Chicago Media Project’s Films Continues”. Chicago Reader.
  24. Chicago Media Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015
  25. Chicago Media Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015
  26. Chicago Media Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015
  27. Chicago Media Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015
  28. Chicago Media Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2015
  29. Ochs, Alyssa. 2017. “Two Thumbs Up: How Roger Ebert’s Legacy Lives On Through Chicago Giving”. Inside Philanthropy.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: September 1, 2014

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $521,047 $372,235 $204,658 $182,145 N $508,329 $0 $148 $109,500
    2015 Dec Form 990 $512,683 $667,404 $65,132 $191,431 N $512,683 $0 $0 $112,000 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990EZ $162,039 $133,617 $70,260 $41,838 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Chicago Media Project (CMP)

    301 W GRAND AVENUE 170
    CHICAGO, IL 60654-4640