Equipping for impact

Now you've got your vision expressed, and working Strategic Plan (call it version 0.1), it's time to really get cracking on figuring out the delivery – where the rubber hits the road – how much work is this? Who is going to do it? How much will it cost and how can that be funded?

One thing that will be all too clear to you already is that when a film becomes an impact film, the size of the project becomes something far greater than you ever imagined. Back when kangaroos were fish, filmmakers could just focus on making the film, sell the rights to the distributors, at most give a nod to a few campaigners in the field, and away you went to the next project.

Now, with new distribution options coming online (and offline for that matter) almost every day, and an ever more demanding campaigning environment, there's a lot more work to be done.

In our experience, the reality is that the passion of film teams and their desire to create impact usually far outweigh the resources and time available to them to do the job. But the aim of this chapter is to guide film teams to navigate through the thorny issues of team dynamics, the role of subjects, budgets, partners and funders.

What you need to do is decide how much you're going to do – and how much you want to leave to everyone else.

What do filmmakers say? We surveyed over 250 filmmakers who've been there and done it – 94% of respondents to the question about their experiences of running an actual campaign said they felt it worked out 'great'. 'good' or 'OK'.

However the vast majority of filmmakers do not want to do impact campaign work by themselves. Neither do they want to give up control completely. Instead 80% said that they would be looking to develop a dream team of inhouse, agencies and partners working together to deliver their next impact project.

The differences between filmmaking and impact campaigning

As a film team, there's a time when you'll need to be single-mindedly committed to the goal of making a great film, giving full attention and focus to every detail in order to deliver on the art on which the impact campaign will depend.

It also often involves flying by the seat of your pants, being responsive to the ebb and flow of the documentary narrative over time. Slowing down sometimes to wait for the right talent to join the project. Accelerating away when you have cracked a new source of funding.

Campaigning leadership requires equal levels of commitment and focus, but is generally much more facilitative – and much more process-driven, though the capacity to be reactive still matters. It usually requires you to build a project team to execute different aspects of the campaign, with a leader to coordinate and manage the team. Although some filmmakers are keen to take control of the impact work as well as the filmmaking, we wouldn't want you to underestimate the scale of this task. A good way to think about is to ask yourself yourselves these three questions. Take a moment to write down your thoughts:

  1. How much time do I we want to commit? Full time or part time – over how many years?
  2. Where are we in the process of making the film itself and how much energy/time do we have for the campaign work?
  3. What resources do I/we bring to this as an impact campaign?

If the answers are that you have a lot to give in each case, you may well be ready to take on the step into the leadership role of the impact campaign as well as the filmmaking. If not, you probably need to review the skills you do/don't have, and then consider bringing in help to bolster the team. Don't feel at all bad if you or your team don't have all the desired skills or energy; the impact will be best served by people doing what they're good at, not breaking themselves and the project in the process. We've seen it happen!

Extra help might be in the form of agencies or freelancers to help you fulfill some of the skillsets required. It might also be the recruitment of an Impact Producer to join your core team.

It's also crucial to remember that your film is often part of a broader movement ecosystem; don't operate in a vacuum. You're not the only one working on this issue, so develop relationships whether as team members or partners, that integrate your impact campaign into the existing movement.

This section helps identify roles and expertise you may need and builds towards helping you put together team organization charts: organograms. The decisions you'll make might mean you have to link off to other sections and come back, but it's a good place to start.

Made byDoc Society Made possible by: Ford Foundation - Just Film Bertha Foundation Sundance Institute Knight Foundation