The role of film teams
Whether it's you or an external hire, in order to successfully deliver an impact campaign an individual or a team needs to be in place who can devise the impact strategy and ensure the impact goals are met. In other words, whereas a film might touch audiences, deepen their understanding and help them to make connections, a strategic impact campaign will orchestrate a plan to translate those reactions into actions that support social and environmental change. Doc Society and others in the field refer to a person in this role as an “Impact Producer.
Don’t worry if you are scratching your head. This is a new professional class and new professional credit. Back in 2013 when we drafted the first edition of the Field Guide, the term had only just been coined. And, at Doc Society, we wanted encourage the acknowledgement of the work that an Impact Producer delivers. Work that was often invisible, work that had been undervalued and thus underpaid. Therefore we advocated for the creation and adoption of the formal title Impact Producer, and argued that they should be written into proposals and budgets and formally credited.
When members of the community gathered in 2012 to first try to codify the role, we started with some pretty simple language.
‘Just as films have producers to manage the creative and financial process from script to screen, films also need impact producers to take the film from completion to impact. They devise strategy, they fundraise for the campaign work, they secure key partners, they execute or oversee the delivery of the campaign and they evaluate the campaign.’
The term was gradually adopted by practitioners and a new professional class began to self-identify. Credits started appearing on films, listings in IMDB and then, in 2018, the US Doc Producers Alliance established an official “Impact Producer” listing in its crediting guidelines:
‘The Impact Producer is responsible for maximizing a film’s potential for social change. Responsibilities may vary based on the film’s content and defined distribution goals, but often include strategy development, issue mapping, braintrust facilitation, organizational partnership development and management, digital content production and engagement, and evaluation and impact measurement. An Impact Producer may also coordinate and/or oversee a film’s semi-theatrical screening campaign and release. The Impact Producer may also play a role in story development and fundraising, beginning as early as pre-production.’
While the term ‘impact producer’ is now more commonly understood, a great deal of specialisation has also taken place so that it is possible to get a whole lot more specific when we think about the kind of impact producer we need on our team.
Some impact producers work as generalists, others are specialised - in marketing, strategy or community outreach. Some Impact Producers come from a film background, some are issue experts. Others are activists, strategists, lobbyists and even marketeers. In any case, they arrive at a project with the explicit aim of ensuring the film will have a tangible effect on the issues that it addresses. But what specific work they’ll take on will differ from case to case.
For example, when an Impact Producer focuses exclusively on developing the impact strategy and plan for a film, and then possibly overseeing the team’s implementation of it, this person can be referred to as an “Impact Strategist”.
Other Impact Producers, however, specialise in on-the-ground implementation, event planning, and grassroots or targetted event promotion and outreach. This person can also be referred to as an “Impact Manager” or “Implementor.” They may have strong community organising, partner cultivation, event planning and/or facilitation skills.
We are going to break this down in much more detail in the section Impact in Action: Build Your Impact Film Team. But the point, is when hiring an Impact Producer, be clear about the skills and expertise you’ve got in house, what it is you’re looking for and the kind of work you expect them to do.
Geek Out: Ideas for further reading
Check out this powerful resource, Creative Coalitions: A Handbook for Change, which is designed to help unlock effective collective action and secure the systems change that’s needed for our movements to succeed. It raises valuable lessons about the role of a convenor, much like that of an Impact Producer