Filmmaker Selena Burks left the 2006 Working Films Content + Intent Documentary Institute at MASS MoCA feeling charged and armed with the know-how to develop the community engagement campaign for her documentary Saving Jackie.

Saving Jackie is a snapshot of a recovering addict’s attempt to strengthen her damaged relationships with her two estranged daughters. Over the course of the documentary, daughter/director Selena Burks revisits life changing events and examines the long-term side effects of abusive behaviors on family relationships.

Selena recently shared with me, her thoughts on the residency:

I left MASS MoCA feeling focused, re-energized, and confident in the fact that not only had I become an activist filmmaker but that I had the strong support from Working Films and my filmmaker peers to back me up.

She explained how the residency prepared her and focused her ideas:

At the residency, each filmmaker is allotted a block of time to develop creative ways to enhance their film’s impact on its particular social/political subject matter. Robert, Judith and the rest of the filmmakers all participate in this discussion. It was during my session when the idea for developing a website as my outreach tool became a unanimous decision by the group. A stylish, informative, organized, and user-friendly website would be the most effective way to introduce myself, the film, the campaign and the work that I do to the organizations I hope to work with.

I recently worked with Selena to develop the online presence for her film campaign. Thanks to generous support from the Chicken & Egg Pictures, we were able to work with some cutting edge graphic designers to make a site that will serve as a robust tool for the campaign. Having strategized the development of websites for film campaigns in the past, including those for Everything’s Cool, Pray the Devil Back to Hell (theatrical release), and Deadline (youth initiative), I was excited to be a part of the collaboration.

Our vision for the Saving Jackie site included:
• A website for the grassroots community that offers audiences a way to get involved
• Highlighting Selena’s public speaking role and how it serves the needs of the field
• Supporting the work of Selena as a filmmaker, including a strong marketing function

Selena reflects:

The most rewarding aspect of this process is that I’ve been able to strengthen and reconnect to the themes of the outreach work that I want to do, which is to help children-at-risk and recovering substance abusers. One of the lessons that I learned while I was developing my website is that the process is similar to filmmaking in that the devil is in the details and that collaboration yields a solid product. Every page, image and word needs to be intentional.

The best piece of information that I can share with my fellow filmmakers on creating a website is to enjoy every step of the process. This will be one of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had as a filmmaker. Be open and accepting to the new friends who are about to enter into your life and to find comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your specific process. And…Have a great time!

A website can seem like a huge undertaking for most filmmakers, but can be easily managed if the process is broken down into bite-sized chunks that are produced in tandem with the development of the campaign. I can’t emphasize enough that the best websites are connected and integrated into the project as a whole. If you are in production, or are developing a campaign, I urge you to check out the informational resource Tools You Can Use: Maximizing a Film’s Outreach with Web 2.0 and modify it to fit your plans.

Responses (3)

  1. Sounds like a very emotional tear-jerker type of movie. I’m sure that it is down with class. However, I see too many of these at the festivals. This is not my personal preference as I feel too yucky when I come out.

  2. Please I have just finished a radio documenatry script on the abuse of children in Uyo, capital city of Akwa Ibom state, South-South Nigeria. So called Witch Children, as aired on BBC Channel 4.

    I am an indigene of the state. I will like to send you a copy of the radio script, and see about doing something similar for film.

    My problem is I don’t even have the funding to participate in workshops like the Working Films: otherwise I would be most disposed to create more activist materials for further exploration. Please send me your email, so that I can post the radio docu-script, which I could possibly make into a film.

    PS: I will also send my Resume.

  3. Kristin Henry says:

    This film is emotional, as you point out Oscar, but it’s a story of healing. Please check out the site to see how Selena is using her film to support children-at-risk and recovering substance abusers: http://www.savingjackie.org/screenings-find-a-screening.php. Her story and work are truly remarkable.

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