Meet the impact producer
Whether it's you or an external hire, to successfully deliver an impact campaign an individual or a team needs to devise strategy, fundraise for the campaign work, secure key partners, execute or oversee the execution of the campaign, and evaluate the change campaign top to bottom.
For Doc Society and others in the field, this is the role of a dedicated Impact Producer. Just as films have producers to manage the creative and financial process from script to screen, they also need Impact Producers to take the film campaign from production to impact.
In response to the growing scale and ambition of impact campaigns in the past few years, we have seen the rise of this new professional group. Some operate as freelancers (see Impact Producers Group), others are part of organisations (Active Voice, Working Films, Film Sprout, Borderline Media, Firelight Media, etc). Some come from a film background, others are activists, strategists, lobbyists and even marketeers.
'Because the film was so personal to us, we didn't want to pass it to someone else, because we realised no one could do this stuff better than we could. Looking back, it could have been so much more if we weren't doing it so reactively'
'I think it worked particularly harmoniously because the producer and director were totally on board with campaign aims. It's incredibly difficult if there are goals that are too divergent'
Some filmmakers will be lucky enough to be able to hire a top notch Impact Producer - or even a whole team of people - for a period, helping them to figure out the smartest campaign strategy and funding opportunities. For smaller scale projects and budgets, this may not be realistic, but impact producers can be consulted on a short-term basis to help develop and refine strategy.
In other teams, someone inside the film team (often the director and producer) will share the role of the Impact Producer, switching hats to deliver on campaign goals.
'IThe job of an impact producer is one part sociologist, one part behavioral psychologist, one part historian, one part activist, one part publicist, one part fundraiser, one part program evaluator, etc. Clearly, no one person can encompass all these skills, but a great impact producer knows how to put together and lead a team that does'
Impact campaign skillset
Of course there are a lot of skillsets needed for those who are embarking on an impact campaign - and we're sure this list isn't the final word. It's important to remember these skillsets may be 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). It all depends on resources and what you are trying to achieve.
Devising strategy, objectives & activity
Someone needs to focus on the central message of the film and the impact it will have on audiences, and the steps to get there. Identifying the current needs of the movement is essential along with assessing what role the film can play in supporting the movement and figuring out the appropriate timeline and ideal partnerships.
Take the above strategy and iterate it into a budget and a cashflow. (More on budget coming up)
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: grants, donations, and crowdfunding, which will be ongoing throughout the life of the campaign.
Time must be invested in understanding how film distribution works, whether you are going it alone or working with traditional partners. They need to be able to collaborate and negotiate an optimal position that works for the film and for the campaign, i.e. devise the impact distribution strategy.
As the campaign builds and more and more partners get on board, including but not limited to funders, advocates, VIPs and sponsors it's helpful to allocate responsibility for this to someone in the team.
Evaluation & assessment
As soon as the strategy is in place, the team needs to start to thinking about how the narrative of this project can be captured and evaluated. It will be essential, not just at the end but as you go along if you are going to be successful at fundraising and building more partnerships.
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, an advocacy partner or other contributor.
Influencing government officials and lawmaking is a specialized skills set where who you know can make all the difference. You may want to find someone who has some practice in this art form, and might consider combining it with spokesperson.
Publicity (inc PR & press, fulfilment)
If changing minds, behaviours or structures is your primary impact dynamic – then publicity, including public relations, press outreach and fulfillment this is an essential function of the campaign.
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. Interns are a valuable source of support in this area. It's also useful to think about how you want to split film and campaign platforms or whether they are one entity. Either way, there needs to be coordination - this community is a significant portion of the audience for your film.