Media Impact Funders hosted a call back in May with about 50 documentary film funders who shared how they are supporting filmmakers when theatrical screenings and face-to-face engagement are off the table. We caught up with Participant and Doc Society to hear more on how they are supporting impact work during this uncertain time.
“Participant’s response to the pandemic has been rooted in our mission as a company that tells stories to drive change,” writes the Participant team in response to our inquiry about what they’ve been up to.
“That frame, combined with the fact that Participant’s founder Jeff Skoll has been focused on pandemics for years and with quick work of our colleagues at Soul Pancake—our digital short-form media production arm—has allowed us to pivot our work as quickly and use our platform to offer assistance to our impact partners during the COVID crisis.
We reconnected with the team behind our film CONTAGION, working with Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the actors from the film, including Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Jennifer Ehle to craft several PSAs about keeping safe during COVID (hand washing, social distancing, etc). Additionally, we worked with Skoll Foundation grantee, Ending Pandemics to create a PSA about a citizen reporting tracking tool for COVID-19. And, in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and the Mexican domestic worker rights organization, CACEH, we produced several videos highlighting the plight of domestic workers, who are at increased risk of getting sick and whose income has evaporated in recent months.
In addition to PSAs, we’ve launched Private Screening Experiences for companies and organizations including the NBA, NAACP, and Citi, to use our democracy-related films as a way to educate and mobilize constituents around the election. The Slay the Dragon campaign shines a light on gerrymandering and nonpartisan redistricting committees, while John Lewis: Good Trouble focuses on disenfranchised communities in Georgia and North Carolina, and includes partnerships with BET, When We All Vote, and Fair Fight. And in the fall, David Byrne’s American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee, will confront issues of immigration, police brutality, and voter engagement in the lead-up to the November election.”
Doc Society has been responding to COVID through various new short-term interventions including:
- Working with Perspective Fund to support Impact Producers through needs-based emergency relief funds that will be accessible to both filmmakers doing impact campaign work and impact producers
- Releasing final funds to filmmakers near completion without requiring final deliverables
- Releasing safety protocols for independent documentary filmmakers considering working during COVID, in partnership with Sundance and Field of Vision and multiple signatories. These are currently being updated and a new iteration will be released soon.
- Pivoting Good Pitch Local to a hybrid digital/studio model whilst continuing to elevate these important films and support their networks.
- Exploring equitable digital screening models for filmmakers and impact producers globally
- We are getting out Impact grants out to teams whose older films are having a significant second life in this political and social moment to support urgent demand for screenings and conversation in communities.
- We have also managed the BFI Doc Society Production SOS Fund, which uses UK National Lottery funds to support documentary features interrupted by COVID-19.