Documentary films and their strategic campaigns are important tools in achieving collective impact goals. Because filmmakers, funders and non-profits are all keen to demonstrate impact, the reach and relevance of documentaries has become an area of increased study. The methodologies are still evolving, and much evidence remains qualitative, but it indicates that yes, documentaries stimulate dialogue and spark action.
For example, Waiting for Superman (VIFF 2010) partnered with DonorsChoose.org, which helped raise $2.4 million in support of a gift card campaign and led to 75,000 new people donating on its site. Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie (VIFF 2010) rolled out live webcasts with 40,000 students across Canada. Dr. Suzuki hosted the ‘virtual classroom’ interactive educational sessions, guided by a comprehensive downloadable teacher's guide. And Invisible War (VIFF 2012) inspired a groundbreaking trauma recovery program for survivors of American military sexual assault. Over twenty pieces of relevant new legislation have since been introduced.
Not all documentaries purport to be activist films. VIFF pre-selected from the Canadian Images Program a shortlist of Impact documentaries, and the jury will choose the winner based on the potential for the prize to stimulate positive social change. ‘Impact production’ includes strategic goal setting, partnership building, audience development, outreach, social marketing, web extensions, educational materials, community tours, evaluation metrics, and more. In Canada, financial support at this crucial time in a film’s life is almost impossible to secure. The VIFF Impact Award will give a boost to these documentaries, which, if more widely seen, are poised to improve all of our lives.
The award consists of a $5,000 cash prize from Agentic and Story Money Impact, paired with $5,000 in marketing and strategic in-kind services from both, in order to amplify the winning film's message.
In creating a microsite for the VIFF Impact Award, we wanted to do two things. First, the site needed to spread awareness about the various issues brought up by the nominated films, and second, to provide details for viewers about the films' show times and ticketing details. The microsite features exclusive interviews with each filmmaker, in which they describe their film's particular relationship with creating social change. The site includes clickable links to our Twitter and Facebook pages. We also created a Twitter ticket giveaway and engagement with other filmgoers using the hashtag #VIFFImpact. Once the Impact Award winner is announced on October 4th, the microsite will serve as a key location for their subsequent work to be featured. We hope that our co-sponsorship of the VIFF Impact Award will spark further dialogue surrounding the use of digital media to promote positive social change.
Exciting was the news that Just Eat It won not only the audience award for Must See, but as well, they won the inaugural 2014 Viff Impact Award. As filmmaker Grant Baldwin points out, "25% of what we purchase is discarded, so the financial burden could be lightened if families decreased their food waste. Additionally, taxes are saved if we compost rather than throw food away in the garbage. Film gives viewers a chance to connect with the protagonists, who in this case were Jen Rustemeyer and myself (Grant Baldwin). If you do it the right way, documentary film gives people the opportunity to insert themselves into the story and to connect more deeply with the protagonist’s situation."