This past Saturday I attended a workshop led by Robert West of Working Films on how to create a social justice impact with your films and engage your audiences beyond the screen. I was happy to see dozens of talented Philly indie filmmakers there and share in the great energy in the room.
Working films links activists with filmmakers and vice versa–they are a much needed antidote to documentaries ending up in the isolated environments of film festivals that less then .01% of the population ever attends. Instead, they work with filmmakers to get their films in the hands of people who are really doing the groundwork and community organizing on a variety of social justice issues and create impact.
One key point that Robert shared is that your film’s engagement strategy needs to be able to answer the question “What can I do?” for audiences, and in an authentic way. People are bombarded with information, but often feel lost about what to do about it and how to make a situation better. There’s no time that they’ll be more motivated to do something than immediately after viewing your film. In order to begin creating your engagement plan you need to ask yourself as a filmmaker why did I tell this story? What is my purpose and vision for this?
Robert also covered the process of developing and building partnerships with people on the ground working on the issues presented in your film. The partnerships don’t necessarily need to be with big organizations–your focus should really be on partnering strategically. Who is doing the work in a way that is believable? (ie not just a flashy website but no actual engaged membership).
For more on the ideas presented in the workshop visit the free resources section of Working Films’ website.