Given today’s thriving documentary marketplace, competition for audience attention and action is fierce. That’s why we’ve chosen to honor five pioneering film teams for their breakthrough approaches to constructing high-impact social campaigns.

We announced the films selected for our second annual Media Impact Festival at an evening ceremony following our annual Media Impact Forum. Learn about these and other strategies they employed in our in-depth case studies:

Strategy #1: Turn stockholders into stakeholders

MIFestival-side-bar-imageOn July 1, the Church of England announced that it would divest from SOCO International, the British oil and gas company that Virunga revealed was illegally attempting to drill in Africa’s oldest national park. The church’s decision was informed in part by the documentary team’s education campaign, which provides viewers with the tools to find out if their pensions or investments support the company—other shareholders have also been prompted to engage with the company on allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. At our Media Impact Festival, we gave this powerful production the 2015 Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media. Learn more.

Strategy #2: Organize viewers to document obstacles

#4 - Jason DaSilva at the Taj Mahal. From WHEN I WALK, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013
When I Walk documents the journey of filmmaker Jason DaSilva, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in his twenties. In conjunction with directing and starring in the film, designed to raise awareness of disability issues and related accessibility challenges, DaSilva worked to establish the AXSMap. This participatory online platform allows users to find and rate the accessibility of establishments such as cafes, restaurants, spas, clubs and more. Locally organized “mapathons” bring groups together to populate local maps—such as a recent effort in Toronto to map 1000+ locations in time for the summer 2015 Parapan Am Games. Learn more.

Strategy #3: Target a high-profile skeptic

2.12.08 | Iceland/Sv’nafellsjškull Glacier An EIS team member provides scale in a massive landscape of crevasses on the Sv’nafellsjškull Glacier in Iceland.
Chasing Ice details the devastating effects of climate change through stunning time-lapse photography.The Chasing Ice Ohio Tour was created in an attempt to use the film to shift the political conversation around climate change, focusing on Congressional district of Congressman Pat Tiberi (OH-12) who openly denied climate change. The Chasing Ice Ohio Tour shared the story and visual evidence of our changing climate with central Ohio residents through free screening events (sponsored by National Geographic) that provided climate education to the public and facilitated ways to speak directly to the Congressman and help change his mind. The goal was to support Congressman Tiberi through the voices of his constituents, and to provide him with the information he needed to publicly acknowledge the science of climate change. After the targeted effort, Congressman Tiberi publicly shifted his position on the issue.  Learn more.

Strategy #4: Build up partners that hone in on your issue

who is dayani cristal
Who is Dayani Cristal? focuses on the attempt to identify human remains in Arizona, revealing the plight of migrant workers attempting to enter the United States. After a three-year consultative process with the community depicted in the film and NGO partners, the team developed a three-part impact plan. They worked with national rights organizations and with teams in Arizona responsible for identifying and repatriating of bodies found in the desert. They supported local, national and regional organizations to strengthen their capacity to advocate for migrant rights. They also used the film’s reach to facilitate key relationships that led to the founding of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, who are now working to set up a transnational cultural and forensics database.

Strategy #5: Combine grassroots and grasstops outreach

GirlRisingGirl Rising is a linked campaign and documentary designed to raise awareness about the importance of girls’ education to global development, and persuade policy and corporate leaders to prioritize this issue. To bring to scale the effort, the campaign has created partnerships with influential public and private sector organizations and initiatives, including Intel Corporation, the Clinton Global Initiative and #LetGirlsLearn, a partnership led by Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps. Girl Rising has organized or participated in 38 policy-oriented screenings and has engaged more broadly with high-profile institutions such as the World Bank Group, Department of State, US Congress, the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the White House. Since March 2013, the film’s advocates have also organized more than 17,000 screenings (both grassroots and theatrical) in 158 countries around the world.  Learn more.
Over the course of the next year, we’ll be seeking opportunities to showcase these films as exemplars of high-impact media that funders can use to inform their own strategic work with grantees. Interested in learning more or hosting a screening? Contact MIF Research Director Jessica Clark.

About the Author
Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark

Research Consultant

Jessica is a research consultant for Media Impact Funders, and the founder and director of media production/strategy firm Dot Connector Studio. She is also currently a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project. Previously, she served as the media strategist for AIR’s groundbreaking Localore project, the director of the Future of Public Media project at American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact, and a Knight Media Policy Fellow at D.C.-based think tank the New America Foundation. Over the past decade, she has led research and convenings with high-profile universities and national media networks, including NPR, PBS, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, MIT, and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. She is the co-author of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (The New Press, 2010), and a longtime independent journalist.