How can filmmakers make meaningful connections with social action organizations, and vice versa? Two case studies illustrate the steps required for an effective, multi-layered campaign.
Two of this year’s biggest film + social action campaigns focused on women’s issues: Half the Sky and 10x10 (whose film is titled Girl Rising). Both campaigns were conceptualized by media professionals with established reputations.
The 10x10 campaign began at the Documentary Group, an offshoot of Peter Jennings’ production company, and Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions, along with strategic partner,Intel Corporation. The 10x10 Emmy-award winning leadership team had worked for decades within the world of broadcast media, which endowed the project with a devoted network of media, corporate and non-profit contacts.
Both projects leveraged their contacts expertly. While we recognize these examples are extraordinary—and most independent documentary filmmakers are significantly less networked—both campaigns evidence the power of a diversified partnership strategy.
The table below dissects these partnerships across 6 categories:
Govt / Federal Funds
Ford Foundation, Fledgling Fund
UN Foundation (GirlUp)
FHI, Plan International USA, World Vision, Room to Read
Afghan Connection, CARE USA, United Nations Foundation/Girl Up, Partners in Health, Plan, Pratham, A New Day Cambodia, Room to Read, World Vision
Half the Sky
Ikea, Coca Cola, Vagisil, Goldman Sachs, Nike
USAID, National Endowment for the Arts
Ford, MacArthur, Gates, Rockefeller
World Vision, Save the Children, CARE
Nearly 30: Examples inc Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, GEMS, Umoja Womens’ Village
By targeting many different types of organizations—and creating numerous partnerships within each category—the campaigns were exponentially strengthened.
Getting organizations on board to engage in meaningful partnership with your film can be an epic challenge; the large ones are slow moving, and the small ones are limited in their scope.
All this being true, progress can be expedited by employing these tactics:
Understand the organization’s program areas and its communications infrastructure. Conduct extensive research on relevant, direct contacts. Gather all the info in a spreadsheet.
2. Create goals.
Create a list of possible areas for collaboration, with the greatest opportunities for the film at the top. Think BIG.
3. Align interests + communicate your goals.
Clearly communicate how the partnership will help you meet your campaign goals, what you need from the partner, and how it’s in their interest to partner with you. Articulate all the ways the partner organization might benefit. Be willing to compromise. Log all these ideas into your spreadsheet.
4. Make it official.
As much as possible, create a simple agreement that outlines what the organization has said they would do, and what your team has committed to doing. Log all these commitments into your spreadsheet.
5. Track results.
Every mention in newsletters and on Facebook pages, every time the organization hosts a screening—log it in your spreadsheet. Also, record the number of people within the organization’s communications network. In other words, how many people received that newsletter? How many Facebook likes? How many people were at the screening? All this information quantifies your campaign’s reach and overall impression.