REPORT BACK FROM REEL FOOD RESIDENCY
(November 5th-9th, 2011, San Francisco Bay Area)
By Natalie Difford
Chicken & Egg is committed to serving our filmmakers beyond the monetary grants we make via our bi-annual open calls. When we take on a film it is because we have seriously considered the field, the theme, and the filmmaker's voice and identify that this film and filmmaker demonstrates potential. But what happens next? Potential is great but with an ever-evolving landscape of media, filmmaking tools, and outreach possibilities filmmakers—-now more than ever-—need help navigating their craft and developing their strongest stories and characters.
In an effort to create a supportive and creative outlet for such filmmakers, Chicken & Egg Pictures is proud to present the REEL ENGAGEMENT series with our partners The Fledgling Fund and Working Films. Together, we believe in collaboration over competition. We strive to bring filmmakers working on similar topics together to hone their audience engagement strategies, understand where collaboration makes them stronger, and finally offer them an opportunity to engage with each other during a one day summit at the end of the residency.
The topic of the second 2011 residency was FOOD: Seeding Change. Over four days, nestled in beautiful San Rafael, California, we learned about topics such as what the food movement is up to and how social media can advocate for your project, all the while figuring out ways to create an effective pitch.
With the idea that this blog will help widen the reach of the lessons learned at the residency, here are a couple of useful tidbits filmmakers should be thinking about when working on their audience engagement plans.
BIG QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF:
1. Question of sustainability: How long do you envision doing this particular project for? What should you build into your planning and fundraising to allow for that time frame?
2.What is your “return” on investment of your time and resources? What will allow you to “sleep at night”?
3. What is part of your mission and what is not? Don't take on every possible opportunity that arises —In the end, such opportunities may not be beneficial and could potentially take you away from you achieving your goals. As Sheila Leddy of the Fledgling Fund reminded us: Strategy is what you are NOT going to do.
4. What are you metrics by which to monitor your progress? This can be anything from how many Facebook “likes” you have or being integral to the passing of a bill.
5. Question yourself before you reinvent the wheel-- How can your film contribute to the movement without duplicating the work? Food Inc has a interactive “cafeteria” on their website where you can learn about all the issues they are working towards. However, to contribute to the actual social change, you can click on the food items and it will take you to the page of their partner working in that area.
6. Yes, the education market can be quite lucrative but understand that no program will take your entire curricula. Talk to those in the field, try to understand what they need and what components you have that can work in tandem with their lesson plans.
7. Impact is not centered on how many people you reach, but that you reach the right people. This is especially true if your demographic includes youth audiences. Understand your audience and how they are consuming the tools you are putting out there.
8. Be aware of specific dates and political agendas coming up that may affect your timeline. However, be wary of committing to work around them because they can then influence your priority levels. You want the resources going in and coming out of your work to be sustainable past this millisecond in time.
9. We were honored to be joined by Destin Joy Layne of GRACE Communications who contributed many of these points listed. She also made an empowering speech on the final day when she urged us all to remember that outreach does not remain an elitist tool, but that you are always working towards figuring out how the “mom at Walmart” can make her own food consumer choices without telling her how, where, and how much.
10. Another note brought up by GRACE Communications which I also encourage is that no matter what your issue is, media policy should be second on your list as our access to the Internet is being jeopardized. Read more about this issue here.
As you can imagine, a group of filmmakers and field experts who worked through these questions and honed these ideas into their own audience engagement plans made quite an impression on the advocates, funders, and NGOs present at Conference Center in Oakland. A representative from Green for All said it best when she thanked the residency for “bringing together people who wouldn’t usually talk to one another." She went on to say, that she really appreciated that such different projects were presented together because together they made her feel like her “whole person was activated.” It is exactly with this kind of collaborative spirit that we hold these group events and continue to work together with the food professionals who attend.-- All in hope of leveraging a better impact for the movement.
The residency was attended by filmmakers from: Betting the Farm, Cooked, The Lunch Love Community, Pipe Fire, Planeat, Finding North, and What's On Your Plate. For more information on these projects and their filmmakers, click here.
With great thanks to Working Films and The Fledgling Fund. Join us on Facebook for up-to-the minute tips and tidbits from other Chicken & Egg community events and workshops.