Last week, Working Films enjoyed a banquet of good stuff at the Sheffield Doc-Fest, hosting a highly interactive Story Leads to Action on Friday afternoon, and participating in a lively panel discussion on Saturday.
Story Leads to Action, coordinated by our UK staffer Sarah Mosses, brought together the production company Submarine from The Netherlands, a team of NGOs working on key environmental issues, and the Sheffield Doc-Fest audience together for a very robust discussion about potential community engagement ideas and target audiences. To kick it off, I shared some case studies of Working Films campaigns; and Diana Barrett of The Fledgling Fund shared the Working Films/Fledgling Fund Impact video on the No Impact Man campaign as an example to of how to take what’s unique in a film and apply to enagement so audiences can interact with the issues.
Yaniv Wolf, Head of Distribution at Submarine, brought two projects to our interactive workshop, both in the fest: Green Award Winner Rainmakers and the cross platform spectacle Collapsus.
Rainmakers, by Floris-Jan van Luyn, is an investigative documentary about the decline of China’s environment. The story is told from the perspective of four civil activists who refuse to accept the ongoing ecological destruction of their homeland. On the border of heroism and stubbornness, four diverse and remarkable Chinese civilians explain why they have the courage to fight the pettish and aggressive local authorities, against all odds.
Our invited NGO guests, including Claire Arthur of Oxfam, Pete Speller (Third Act Media, consultant for WWF, World Development Movement and many others), Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout and Beatrice Greenfield of Friends of The Earth shared some first thoughts about tactics for audience engagement in China and for Western audiences in the UK and US. One audience member, a citizen of China, gave us insight into the question of the safety of the activists in the film, as their profiles are raised by Rainmakers release. This individual suggested surprisingly that by using social media to raise the activists’ profile in China, prior to the film’s release and perhaps coverage by Western press, we could bring a circle of protection to them, resistant to any government attempt of intimidation.
Other good ideas included building a network for individual activists working in China to reduce isolation from resources and support as well as using the film as a cautionary tale for other nations expanding their industrial output in seek of increased income, as the film highlights the environmental and health effects associated with this growth.
As we wrapped up the afternoon, Sarah introduced us to the second project from Submarine, www.collapsus.com/ an amazing threefold of documentary film, animated narrative and real time interactive engagement with the Web, this site shares a narrative about a group of ten young people, who appear to be caught up in an energy conspiracy. Our NGOs allies and audiences were excited about the potential for this project to engage young audiences in environmental activism.
More than a panel, more than a screening, Story Leads to Action invited our audiences to develop a first look at engagement tactics for two new media projects and gave folks a fresh look at how NGOs can contribute to marketing and take action plans for social issue docs.
On Saturday, Sarah, representing the C4 BRITDOC Foundation and I, representing Working Films, joined Film Sprout founder Caitlin Boyle, and fellow panelists Franny Armstrong and Iris Lamprecht in a session about the power of community screenings and audience outreach campaigns to seed grassroots support for independent film, to earn filmmakers revenue, and to contribute to social change – all at once.
Once again, Sheffield was the place to be, bringing global doc decision makers and great films, accessible venues, and good times in the BRITDOC bar. We’re already looking forward to 2011!