Cinema For Change: How Filmmakers Can Make A Difference With Their Films

Cinema for Change

When it comes to film I can honestly say I have a great love of documentaries. There’s something so magical about a filmmaker being able to show lives through a lens and present the viewer with unique true stories.

Recently, I watched the documentary I Am Jane Doe.  Written and directed by filmmaker Mary Mazzio (who also serves as producer with Alec Sokolow), I Am Jane Doe is the powerful story of American mothers waging a war against online sex trafficking on behalf of their daughters who were trafficked. The film is narrated by Jessica Chastain (who is also an executive producer).  I highly suggest looking at the film’s synopsis page to find out even more about this incredible documentary.

As the credits rolled on I Am Jane Doe, I was in pieces. I wanted to do something about this. I didn’t just want to be a passive viewer. What sprung to mind was the famous quote by Aung San Suu Kyi: “if you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” Making my way to the film’s website, I was pleased to see a section dedicated to actions that viewers can take themselves: actions like signing petitions, donating to organizations listed on the page, right through to spreading the world via social media.

The reason I wanted to talk about I Am Jane Doe is twofold: firstly, because it impacted upon me so profoundly, I knew I wanted to spread the word. The second reason is that I Am Jane Doe highlights the fact that filmmakers can make a significant social impact. I Am Jane Doe goes beyond just being a documentary- it is a call to action.

Does that mean that only documentary material can make a social impact and create a movement outside the cinema? Not at all. Over the years of running Film Sprites PR we’ve seen films from filmmakers who have chosen to create a narrative around an issue they are passionate about. For instance, filmmaker Evan Kidd’s short film Displacement Welcomed talked about the reality of homelessness using a fictional scenario. If you’re passionate about an issue/cause and it is weaved into your story you have the ability to not only raise public awareness about the film itself, but about the issue/cause in your film’s narrative.

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So, what are some ways to achieve awareness of your film as well as the issue or cause you are championing?

Firstly, if you’re crowdfunding it’s a great idea to let people into your ‘why’. What drew you to this issue or cause in the first place? What do you hope your film will achieve in terms of public awareness around the issue? Is it something you have personal experience with? People who are passionate about the issue or concern your film talks about are likely to want to support your crowdfunding efforts, be it pre-production or post-production. On the I Am Jane Doe website’s press page, filmmaker Mary Mazzio has provided a powerful and honest director’s statement that is well worth reading.

You might also want to team up with charities, organizations and community groups that are relevant to your film. This could mean collaborating with an organization, charity or community group to organize special screening events, and finding out relevant statistics and information regarding your cause or issue that can be used in your press release and/or with social media posts.

Nowadays there are film festivals that cater to specialist subjects as well. From sustainability and architecture through to festivals that highlight feminist films and filmmakers, it’s worth doing your homework and seeing if there are specialist film festivals that would be ideal for your film.

If you’re looking for media coverage, don’t forget to take the ‘grassroots’ approach while sourcing media outlets to cover your film. Sometimes people forget that Facebook groups, newsletters and specialist blogs and podcasts are ideal for spreading the word. Have a film that would appeal to people who live an environmentally-conscious, sustainable lifestyle? See if you can have posters displayed for VOD or cinematic releases (and/or special screenings) in stores, cafes and restaurants that cater to sustainability, environmental consciousness and organic products/food.

When it comes to social media, think about creating a Street Team to help spread the word. You can set up a special private Facebook group and provide your Street Team with sample social media posts and graphics that can be used on their social media accounts. If possible, make sure you credit them in the film as a way of giving thanks.

There are so many ways to make a difference with your filmmaking, and the film itself is just the beginning. Happy filmmaking!

I Am Jane Doe is available via Netflix. ITunes, Vimeo, Google Play, Amazon and on DVD. Visit the website for more details.


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