What is an impact film?
The impact film is a short or long non-fictional film. Its objective: to encourage the viewer to get involved and take action. In this article, we explore what an impact film is. This is the first article in our series on socially conscious documentary production.
The Power of Documentary Cinema
According to Doc Society impact field guide & toolkit, “because filmmakers see the story of an issue in new ways, we can sometimes see what others can’t, provide indispensable points of contact and bring together coalitions and partnerships that didn’t exist before.
Unlike shorter forms such as news and social media, long-form documentaries take time to build empathy, directly involve the audience and immerse them fully in the situation of others, inspiring them to engage and act.
Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has demonstrated the effect of storytelling on brain chemistry. According to Zak, it increases levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and oxytocin (the love hormone). The presence of these hormones makes us more inclined to act.
In working with the film, we do not write policy or advocacy recommendations. Rather, we create cultural moments. This opens the door to change, to more stories to tell and hear, and to people who are willing to seize the opportunity to act.
Despite their name, impact films tend not to be about the film alone. Typically, the impact film is part of a series of communication activities that could be more accurately described as a campaign.
However, the word film is important and deserves its title for several reasons. First, films are projects that use marketing strategies to make their audience aware of them at a particular point in time. Second, social films are simply the most powerful and effective way to communicate about social causes.”
Where are impact films seen?
Impact films are usually screened at film festivals, broadcast on television and shown in major media outlets. This has a crucial impact on the visibility and familiarity of the subject of the film and can play a considerable role in informing public and political opinion.
Sometimes the most powerful impacts caused by impact films can come from contact points such as screenings organized by partners, social media and distribution through educational channels including schools, universities and institutions.
For what purpose?
Impact films tend to benefit causes in a variety of ways, but most often contribute to significantly increased visibility, positive social outcomes, greater community engagement and more funds.
Evaluate the impact of a film
Evaluating the impact of a film helps determine whether the film was able to achieve the impact objectives set at the beginning of the project. These objectives can be :
- Changing minds (e.g.: Accumulate direct feedback after the film’s screenings that illustrates the impact on the audience)
- Changing behaviors (e.g., increasing the number of signatures on a promise or petition associated with the film campaign)
- Building communities (e.g.: The film is used by associations for community or influencer screenings).
- Changing structures (e.g. screenings in local governments / national legislatures / transnational institutions such as OECS, UN or EU).
Cross-sectoral and multi-scale partnerships
Impact films usually involve close collaboration between impact filmmakers, such as the production company CREATIV SÜN FILMS, and change agents, including philanthropists, activists and opinion leaders.
Impact films and the mission of foundations, NGOs and corporate social responsibility tend to create a natural alignment and synergy. This can lead to collaborations with broadcasters, private donors, distribution platforms, governments, charities, hospitals, universities, professional associations and ordinary citizens.
Actors outside the documentary film ecosystem – activists, philanthropists, brands, media, decision-makers, foundations or NGOs – can enrich the impact campaign in a variety of ways outside of financial support, from organizing meetings with key stakeholders, arranging out-of-theatre screenings or lobbying the media.
With their own knowledge, contacts and experience, they can help the film team gain access to decision-makers and audiences, extending the reach of the campaign and strengthening its voice. In short, what they can offer is priceless.
Who can make an impact film?
Any organization, NGO, association, public institution and company can engage in the creation of an impact film in collaboration with a film production company. Impact films are not exclusively reserved for the tertiary sector, even though it is usually the latter that engages in this type of project.
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Film & Impact is the blog of Creativ Sün Films, the Caribbean impact film production company. If you want to know a little more about what we do, visit this page.
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Stephanie Saxemard is a filmmaker and director of nonfiction impact films. Her favorite playground is the Caribbean. She has been writing articles and producing videos for Film & Impact since 2019.