Equipping for impact

Now you've got your vision expressed, a first draft Strategic Plan, it's time to get cracking on figuring out the delivery. How much work is this? Who is going to do it? How much will it cost and how can that be funded?

Back when kangaroos were fish, filmmakers could just focus on making the film, selling the rights to the distributors, at most giving a nod to a few campaigners in the field, and then move on to the next project. But when developing impact campaigns, filmmakers and their teams have to think about what it will take to really move the meter on an issue with their film, how to raise funds for that part of the work, engage new partners and evaluate impact.

It can be a lot. But the work is also really rewarding.

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

Here is the thing: there are no fixed rules. You can decide what shape/form the impact team takes. How big or how small the campaign work is. How how long the campaign work lasts. Let’s start with identifying the key skills that most campaigns rely upon and which is going to help you think about your team and who can take on which roles.

Impact campaign skillsets.

Devising strategy, objectives & activity

Someone needs to focus on the central message of the film, the effect it will have on audiences, and how to leverage that towards impact. Often, this requires a strong understanding of the issues that the film addresses. This work can range from interviews and online research to stakeholder gatherings (braintrusts) and focus group testing. Whatever it looks like, identifying the current needs of the movement and where the film fits in is essential. It’s also important to figure out the appropriate timeline and ideal partnerships to move the work forward.

Budgeting

Someone needs to take the above strategy and turn it into a budget and a cash-flow. (More on budget coming up.)

Fundraising

More on the best approach to this in the next few sections of this chapter, but needless to say - someone in the team needs to take charge of fundraising to deliver the impact work, including raising grants, donations, and crowdfunding, which will be an ongoing activity throughout the life of the campaign.

Distribution

Someone in your team needs to strategise and then negotiate an optimal position for the film’s distribution that also allows the project to achieve maximum impact. Whether you are going it alone or working with theatrical and broadcast distributors, online and educational distributors, the challenge is to figure out how to combine this with your impact plans so that you also reach the target audiences that matter most for you. i.e. devise the impact distribution strategy." %}

Partnership cultivation & management

As the campaign builds and more partners get on board, including funders, issue-based community groups and sponsors, it can be helpful to allocate partnership responsibilities to one person in the team. This work can be fairly sophisticated: from connecting with leadership at major institutions to identify points of alignment and cultivate broad-reaching agreements, to building detailed plans with on-the-ground organisers for how to strategically use the film in their efforts. The tasks can also get granular, involving screening coordination and event planning, managing partner databases to track what stage each relationship is at, coordinating DVD shipments and link shares, arranging contracts and stipend payments (when applicable) as well as conducting ever more research.

Evaluation & assessment

As soon as the strategy is in place, the team needs to start thinking about how the narrative of this project can be captured and evaluated. It will be essential to capture the story, not just at the end, but as you go along if you are going to be successful at fundraising and building more partnerships. Sometimes film teams will take this on in-house. Other times, they might chose to work with university departments or hire evaluation firms like Harmony Labs or Impact Architects to run the impact evaluation." %}

Community organising

If building communities, including education and outreach, is your primary dynamic, or even part of your plan, you'll want to consider who will take this on – it may be led by a member of the team, but we have also seen this activity led by an advocacy partner or a contributor from the film who is taking up a leadership position.

Toolkits & film guides

Someone needs to craft the materials which will support successful screenings events and conversations. These can include discussion materials, facilitation guides, action kits and more. Remember that academic curriculum development may require someone with knowledge of classroom learning standards. You can find strong examples of each of these kinds of materials here: www.activevoice.net/av-library/ here:www.blueshifteducation.com/lessons/% trans " and here: " %}http://archive.pov.org/educators/.

Dialogue Facilitation

If your impact campaign is about a contentious issue and one of your goals is to facilitate dialogue around it, you may require the help of an expert facilitator with deep knowledge around how to manage difficult conversations, and even on-the-ground partners who understand the issues may not be equipped with this particular skillset. If you do need facilitation expertise, this person may end up traveling with the film and needs to be built into the budget.

Lobbying

Influencing government officials and lawmaking is another specialised skillset. You may want to work with someone or an agency who is confident and connected in the area of government or law you are focused on.

Publicity (including PR & press fulfilment)

Publicity, marketing, public relations - these can all be highly useful aspects to any campaign, and is particularly important for films that aim to reach a broad public and shift popular discourse. The work can involve writing op-eds, developing buzz-generating action campaigns and celebrity engagement. But this work on its own is not the same as impact campaigning. And, unless co-ordinated carefully, it can be in conflict with what the impact team wants to facilitate or emphasise.

Strategic Communications

In some cases this might be a subset of publicity, but it is a distinct set of skills. Some film campaigns, particularly those dealing with a sensitive issues or exposés, require a crisis communications team to be ready to go as soon as the film is released. Other campaigns require messaging and framing expertise, especially for more nuanced films with a lighter touch, to ensure that the film team is talking about the issues their story addresses in ways that will advance a campaign’s objectives, and then to strategically determine how these ideas get translated across platforms.

Publicity (including PR & press fulfilment)

Publicity, marketing, public relations - these can all be highly useful aspects to any campaign, and is particularly important for films that aim to reach a broad public and shift popular discourse. The work can involve writing op-eds, developing buzz-generating action campaigns and celebrity engagement. But this work on its own is not the same as impact campaigning. And, unless co-ordinated carefully, it can be in conflict with what the impact team wants to facilitate or emphasise.

Publicity (including PR & press fulfilment)

Publicity, marketing, public relations - these can all be highly useful aspects to any campaign, and is particularly important for films that aim to reach a broad public and shift popular discourse. The work can involve writing op-eds, developing buzz-generating action campaigns and celebrity engagement. But this work on its own is not the same as impact campaigning. And, unless co-ordinated carefully, it can be in conflict with what the impact team wants to facilitate or emphasise.

Strategic Communications

In some cases this might be a subset of publicity, but it is a distinct set of skills. Some film campaigns, particularly those dealing with a sensitive issues or exposés, require a crisis communications team to be ready to go as soon as the film is released. Other campaigns require messaging and framing expertise, especially for more nuanced films with a lighter touch, to ensure that the film team is talking about the issues their story addresses in ways that will advance a campaign’s objectives, and then to strategically determine how these ideas get translated across platforms.

Online community management (inc. social media, web campaigns, email etc.)

Managing the online community crosses over with a lot of the above functions - emails to supporters, website creation for visibility, social media for promotion, and so much more. This could be taken on by a single person or alternatively spread across the team. It's also useful to think about how you want to split the film and campaign platforms, or whether they are a single entity. Either way, there needs to be coordination - this community is a significant portion of the audience for your film.

Does our team have what it takes?

Compared to the process of filmmaking, campaigning requires equal levels of commitment and focus, but is generally much more facilitative, and much more process-driven, although 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.

There are a lot of skills listed and we're sure this list isn't the final word. It's important to remember that these functions are often combined into two or three roles, or even fewer if necessary. You may concentrate all of them in the hands of a dedicated Impact Producer (more on that below), distribute them amongst a team which changes over time, or hire a firm to handle chunks of it. It all depends on resources and what you are trying to achieve.

A good way to think about it is to ask yourself yourselves these three questions.

  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 time/energy do we have for the campaign work?
  3. What skills and 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 step into the leadership role of the impact campaign as well as 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; that’s often the conclusion most film teams come to. 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. It might also be the recruitment of an Impact Producer to join your core team. The next section provides context for the role of an Impact Producer, and offers a peek into what tasks you might expect them to take on and how they might work.

Finally it’s also crucial to remember that your film is 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.


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