What happened at the close of the Producers Institute is a process that not every presenter has the luxury to invoke. Producers for the five teams had to make the tough decisions. Presentations were initially due Wednesday at 6pm. Wednesday quickly became Thursday at noon. By Thursday at 6pm, the slides were finally in, but the challenge was just beginning.
I had the privilege of sitting through the rehearsal for all five teams, the true turning point for each. This was when participants got to see each other's final products coming out of the labs--some of it smoke and mirrors, and some of it ready for application. But more to the point, do the slides fit into the 10 minute limit? Is the team telling a compelling story? Is the right person speaking? Every single team had to go back to the drawing board at some point to revise: cut slides, tighten narrative, add in that crucial missing piece--thanks to the finely tuned advice of Wendy Levy.
The end result was five powerful presentations that pushed the limits of technology to imagine what more is possible. In the house: Skoll Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ro*Co Films, Sundance Documentary Institute, California Council on the Humanities and ITVS.
Funders emphasized the following considerations when imagining your own socially engaged media:
What is the call to action?
What is the impact on the issue?
What are the future measurements?
Question Bridge: Over 1,000 questions and answers from 150 black males is not just the start to radically changing black male identity, internally and externally, its redefining identity in the 21st century.
Equal Footing: The indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico can use technology to build their first movement in community forestry and equal distribution of knowledge management.
Kashmir is Beautiful: Games can invoke real life actions and have the power to inspire a new generation of environmental stewardship, and demonstrate potential for community building in regions of serious conflict.
Rekindling Venus: The Last Ocean: The coral reef ecosystem is a crucial metaph or for people, a large community that works together; our legacy can be to preserve that way of life both in and out of oceans.
We Were Here: Timelines aren't just for the past; its a storytelling tool that can empower a new generation of activists.
The stories and conversations aren't over. All teams will be strategic partners with BAVC moving forward, and models for future ideas.
On Saturday, the Institute participants regrouped at the San Francisco Exploratorium to talk engagement--there couldn't have been a more appropriate venue than a space for "ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception." Exploratorium staff talked about their own evolution in community engagement and using media to enhance science awareness and education. They reminded the group that seeing is also engagement. And after all, seeing is where filmmakers start.
Active Voice opened up the discussion to the Ecosystem of Change and engaging relevant sectors from the start. Their strategies, tips and case studies, available online, are an excellent source for understanding how research, grassroots organizing, leadership, policy and funding can be integrated. Socially engaged filmmakers have to be prepped to facilitate conversations in different communities and contexts.
The next step? Well first get the project off the ground. But the inevitable challenge is to measure if the conversation has shifted. BAVC isn't letting us down, Wendy Levy and Eric Doversberger unveiled the Impact Dashboard at SXSW just a couple of months ago. This prototype may change the way we understand impact and change--the ideal follow up to a groundbreaking space for imagining the power of storytelling and technology for social change.