What does “impact” (and “strategy” and “engagement”) mean to you? If you look "impact" up in the dictionary, you’ll find a definition like: “the strong effect or influence that something has on a situation or person.” So by common use of the term, lots of things count as impact. If your film moves a person emotionally, then DVD sales, butts in seats, anything that gets a film "out there" and in front of people count as impact. However, when we are talking about meaningful social change, what counts as "impact" necessarily differs. Sometimes, for example, the most important audiences are already aware of the problems, so raising awareness among them will not necessarily help advance the issues. Similarly, engagement is not necessarily an end in-and-of-itself (though I have seen it treated that way). What is the intent? Towards which ends? What is the quality of engagement you're looking for? Will it help you achieve your social change objectives? So, impact - and therefore an impact strategy - can often mean different things to different people. Be sure to explore what you mean by the terms. Start with these questions:
- What are the film's strengths? (This resource can help you.)
- How can those strengths support the movement for change?
- What changes in the issue landscape do you expect to see?
- Are those changes realistic over the course of a 1-2 year campaign?
Consider your needs because not all “Impact Producers” are built alike. They each have different and valuable strengths. They may have different objectives or definitions of "impact." They may also each understand their role in a campaign somewhat differently. For example:
- Some Impact Producers spend the bulk of their time producing events.
- Some Impact Producers focus on research and building a campaign strategy.
- Some excel at online engagement and action campaigns.
- Some care more about building partner capacity and relationships.
- Some oversee all a campaign’s moving parts, others focus on specific pieces.
- Some see their role as supervisory, others are much more hands-on.
There are many new and emerging models for funding film campaigns, so much so that it increasingly seems there is no longer a clear standard. Some film campaigns are fully funded - start to finish - by major philanthropic institutions. Some film campaigns are partially funded, implying for example that:
- Strategy development is covered but implementation is not, requiring further fundraising and often the filmmaker stepping into coordination.
- Filmmakers need to charge for screening licenses to recoup costs, shaping the screening host relationship as more client than partner.
- Campaign leadership may shift over a campaign, requiring added attention to smooth hand-offs and consistent communication.
So partners, impact producers, and other key players are often having a variety of different experiences with filmmakers and their campaigns. Be sensitive to this when entering into these new relationships. Take a potential partner’s experience, for example:
- In some cases they are responding to an RFP or announcement from a national issue organization that is spearheading the campaign’s implementation.
- In other cases, they are responding to RFPs that are put out directly by the philanthropic institution (and thus working directly for that funder).
- In some cases they are responding to targeted partner outreach from the filmmakers and/or their impact teams.
- In other cases they are responding to “impact distribution” companies.
These varied relationships and roles mean that sometimes we're talking past each other. They require sensitivity, and clarity around expectations and power dynamics between the key players. Take a look at the Active Voice Lab resources at the bottom of this page, which can help you.
Be generous to grassroots and national organizations; campaigns lean heavily on them to advance the work. We ask partners to provide us with access to their networks. We often rely on them to plan events. We draw on their knowledge and expertise heavily. They deserve as much support as we can offer them for a campaign to be successful. Even when a film is perfect for an organization, there can be barriers to successful events. Some of the most effective organizations are working on a number of intersecting issues at any given time; their work is focused and intensive. Often this means they are over capacity and under-resourced. So while putting on a simple screening event can be easy - when it’s a plug-and-play kind of deal - if you want an event that is deliberate and strategic, it often requires more resources, planning, and relationship building. And this means more resources and support to help the partner make it happen.