If You Build It is a documentary that follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller on their journey to transform a community through design and building. Emily is the founder and executive director of Project H, a non-profit that teaches youth to design and build their future with heart, hands, and hammers.

The film shows the impact of the organization’s Studio H program, a design/build public school curriculum they created to engage communities through real-world build projects. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Emily and Matthew lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills.

Emily_projectHEmily launched Project H in 2008, believing in the power of design and building to excite learning and citizenship. Her fascination with problem-solving and tinkering was sparked by her first crush, MacGyver, the main character of the action-adventure TV series of the same name, that first aired in 1985.

MacGyver was known for getting out of sticky situations with noting but the contents in his pockets, and would often exclaim, “A paperclip can be a wondrous thing.”

Fueled with the passion to create something out of nothing, Emily went on to study architecture and building because it was the one thing that allowed her to “geek out” about everything, from math and structural engineering to ethnography and the fascinating behavior of people.

Today, in addition to the Studio H program featured in the film, the organization also hosts Camp H, a summer camp and after-school program that engages girls 9-12 in hands-on building, problem-solving and “meaningful making”. And, through Workshop H, they offer training customized for teachers, leaders, and organizations.


Emily believes that by giving youth, particularly girls and students of color, the skills to design and build their wildest ideas, we can support the next generation of creative, confident changemakers.

We think so too!

To find a screening of the film near you, click here