Documentary Film and Advocacy

Earlier this summer, a report was released which detailed the relationship between documentary films and public policy. The report begins by explaining that policy does not change quickly, therefore a film’s impact may not be fully understood until years after it premiered. However, it stresses the importance of choosing effective associations and advocacy groups as partners and understanding a story’s unique value.

According to the New York Times, funding is one major road block for advocacy films. However, one director said, “If these funders weren’t funding activist films, they would be funding some other form of activism- not some other form of filmmaking.”  Therefore, finding the right source of funds for a project is crucial. The aforementioned report rebuts this claim by arguing that groups can find an ideal match when both sides agree that they do not have to make money from the film, but rather, ensure that the film is as widely distributed as possible. The report also explains a general recipe for success. These steps include finding the crucial timing for an issue, strategic marketing, and policymaker screenings with specialized versions of the film.

Documentary film makers must also consider their entry point such as: raising awareness, growing a coalition, winning an election, holding a congressional hearing, introducing legislation, passing legislation, issuing regulations, and carrying out the law. Any of those events can drum up attention for the social issue which is the focus of the film. Further, it is essential to work with congress, especially knowing committee assignments and chairmanships, local angles, new members of congress, and congressional staff.

Similar to when organization organize fly ins, documentary films must have an agenda which aligns with the political and social goals of the film.

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