The Digital Naturalist is an inspired forum for video, film, and multimedia with a cause. It brings together an elite panel of experts to analyze what makes digital storytelling successful, establish helpful guidelines for advocacy groups, and shine a light on the most effective and inspiring work being produced today. Through analysis, forums, interviews, and personal accounts, we hope to help nonprofit organizations and the creatives working with them better communicate the most pressing, complex issues of our time.

Try This!

If your video is comprised of interviews, try to get your b-roll after you’ve recorded all or most of the interviews. The reason is that inevitably the people interviewed will say certain things that may inspire the kind of b-roll you’ll want to shoot. Read more bladeronner.com.


Entries in advocacy film (6)


3 Stumbles

Rick Gershon and Tim McLaughlin/MediaStorm

1. MediaStorm's latest advocacy film, commissioned by the American Institutes for Research.
2. A complete guide to Google+. Why some are calling it "as special as the Macintosh." TDN is in the process of making a Google+ page. More info coming soon!
3. "Fuck the Fear: Be Awesome." A list of books and resources on creativity, storytelling, and stealing.

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Why Your Nonprofit Should Care About Film Fests

ILCP's Jenny Nichols at Mountainfilm

Ask your standard nonprofit organization to list its most common outreach tools, and it might go something like this: 

  • direct mail
  • membership publication
  • e-newsletter 
  • online action alerts
  • bucket hats, plush toys, and tote bags 
  • tabling events
  • social media accounts
  • a sparsley populated YouTube page 

Rarely do you see "film festivals" in that lineup. My guess is many traditional nonprofits still view the film industry as an entirely separate world. But they're wrong. An increasing number of festivals today are doing much more than simply inspiring audiences with independent films-- they're highlighting films with a cause, and then providing actual tools that help their audiences take action for those causes.

I recently asked a friend of mine-- Jennifer Brody, director of the fledgling Crested Butte Film Festival in Colorado-- what she'd say to an organization that might not see the value in having a presence at her event. "Film festivals reach a whole different group of people," she said. "They are a phenomenal tool for outreach, and engage captive audiences across the United States."

Consider these advocacy efforts by several film fests within my own state:

Boulder International Film Fest's "Call 2 Action"

From their website: Film has the unique and creative ability to educate, integrate and involve the entire community to teach us about our world. Visiting filmmakers at BIFF discuss not only the art of filmmaking, but also the often explosive social and international issues their films present, and offer audiences a way to be entertained, to learn and to be inspired into action. BIFF Call 2 Action is a program that offers concrete ways for filmgoers to translate the energy and passion that film evokes into action. (Learn more here.)

Mountainfilm's "Commitment Grant"

From their website: Mountainfilm has committed to help creative individuals tell stories that represent the spirit of the festival. Grants go to filmmakers, photographers, artists and adventurers whose projects are intended to move audiences to action on issues that matter. We are particularly looking for projects that will have a positive and tangible effect on specific and vital issues. Five grant winners will each receive $5,000 and a MacBook Pro! (Learn more here.)

5Point's Proceeds

From their website: The 5Point Film Festival is on a mission to inspire adventure of all kinds, to connect generations through shared experience and respect, to engage passion with a conscience, and to educate through film. We are all ambassadors of the environment. The 5Point Film Festival inspires us to explore wild places and to return with a renewed vigor to protect our natural world. Proceeds from the 5Point Film Festival, a 501(c)3 non-profit, benefit 1% for the Planet and other non-profits throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond." (Learn more here.)

Crested Butte's ACT Now Films:

An inspiring example from Brody: "ACT Now stands for Action and Change Together, Now. It is a call-to-action program that emphasizes the importance of taking immediate action after seeing a film. My husband and I have been to many film festivals, and the films often inspired us to make changes in our lives. But over time, we realized we weren't following through with every commitment we would have liked to.

"ACT Now came about by wanting to provide our viewers with a direct and immediate opportunity to take action. Typically, this involves seeing a film, participating in a Q&A, and then having an event in the lobby where people can find out more information about the organization or cause, sign up to volunteer, sign a petition, and/or donate money.

"We were lucky this year to show With My Own Two Wheels, a film about how five bicycles changed people's lives around the world. Girls in a remote village in India are now attending school, and a health worker in Zambia is seeing twice the number of patients, because they were given bicycles. We partnered with filmmaker Jacob Siegel-Boettner and World Bicycle Relief to showcase one of the bicycles at our film festival. Festival-goers were so inspired that they helped purchase a number of the bikes for people in need." (Learn more here.)

This is just a tiny representation of what I'm guessing is hundreds of advocacy based film festivals all over the world. Have a favorite that you'd encourage nonprofits to get involved in? Leave a comment below!


Possible Futures: A Film Contest

"Ecologize Growth" by Katie Teague

I'm torn about today's post.

Late last week, I got an email from Tucker pointing me to this film contest, Possible Futures. And after a long holiday weekend in Crested Butte, I admit I only scratched the surface last night with about 10 of 317 total entries. Among those, only one held my attention long enough to watch it all the way through.

Don't get me wrong-- I LOVE the idea of this contest. It delivers exactly what it promises: Filmmakers' dreams for the future of our planet and humankind. It's well organized (entries fall into four different categories: Peace & Freedom, Fair Societies, Sustainability & Beyond, and Human Fulfillment). It's beautifully branded, and the website is gorgeous. It's engaging-- the public can vote on the films that inspire them most (deadline: 7/19). And clearly there are some talented folks in the lineup; the professional camera work and gorgeous animations weren't lost on me.

But in many cases, the storytelling fell short. Visuals didn't match content, storylines had no arc, pacing was slow, and filmmakers failed to answer the ever-important questions, "So what? Who cares?" If I were a judge, I'd be extremely disappointed on this front. I wouldn't go easy on the contestants, either. There's a tremendous opportunity for learning here-- and if there's any group of filmmakers we need to bring up to speed, it's this group, with their devotion to advocacy and connections to such critical stories.

So here's hoping that as this contest gains more traction, it both gains and creates stronger competitors. Think you could be one of them? Then mark your calendar for the deadline next June.

If I've missed a masterpiece-- quite possible-- please post a link in the comments section below!


Cause and Effect

Jeb Berrier in Bag It

It wasn't long ago that I wrote about measuring results. Shortly afterwards at the Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, I saw one of the best examples of success that an advocacy filmmaker could ever hope for: Bag It, a film about the consequences of our casual relationship with plastics, apparently struck a chord with the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which felt the need to come back with its own video rebuttal. When I watched it, I couldn't help but laugh. The music, the narrator's creepy-intense stare, the bagged apples and a ridiculous argument for milk caps... too funny, right? By the end, though, I felt sad. I don't know at what point our society stopped valuing truth, honesty, and our undeniable connection to other living things. But we owe it to ourselves-- and to everyone who comes after us-- to restore our better judgment. Thankfully, films like Bag It are a powerful start.

Check out the Bag It trailer:

Bag It Intro on Vimeo - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

And here's the ACC's response:

ACC rebuttal - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

3 Stumbles