By Elizabeth Radshaw, Hot Docs
At Hot Docs, we believe documentary film impact campaigns are just like the films themselves. They come in all shapes and sizes and for all different audiences. It would be unfair to prescribe a blanket set of measurements to all impact campaigns with documentaries. However, there are key elements that filmmakers can keep in mind when they participate on an impact campaign associated with their film that will help support future funding for future projects.
The most important thing a filmmaker can do to ensure that they will receive funding in the future on their next project is to thoroughly complete the impact project they have at hand. Our best advice is to work with an impact producer. Documentary filmmakers can certainly embark on impact campaigns on their own. However, it may be difficult to sustain the commitment over the course of what may be a long campaign. Filmmakers executing campaigns on their own may find themselves in difficult decisions to continue to run the campaign or to make their next film. There are is a very particular set of skills, networks and measurements that impact producers have honed for this work that may not be in the pocket of a filmmaker. There are many professional impact producing companies that filmmakers can work intimately with to plan and facilitate campaigns. Just has a filmmaker would hire in a distributor, and publicists to take the specialized roles of distribution and publicity, a filmmaker is advised to hire on an impact producer to take on the very specialized role of impact producing.
The golden rule of goal setting has always been SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. The same should be said for impact campaigns. When working with your impact producer, the ambition and passion to bring upon change must fit within this simple guiding principle and of course with in the mission of the story with in the documentary.
Be sure to differentiate the impact goals from outreach and marketing initiatives. These sets of goals are intertwined but different. Clarity in these goals and the actions you take with your team will make reporting easier and understandable for funders.
When communicating to funders the film impact plan, make space for risk and even for failure. Funders are certainly concerned with results and proving the results through measurement, however, reach goals and some cautiously optimistic risk is very healthy for any strategy plan and certainly an impact campaign. There will be failures and it is important to detail in your reports and learn from them.
Accurate data and meticulous reporting attracts money in any industry. The proof and results of an exercised plan create a sense of trust and establish proven track record for you and your team. Detailed outcomes (successful and some failures) illustrates that you and your impact producing team can see a plan through to the end.
These few key elements to keep in mind over the course of creating a bespoke impact strategy with your impact producer will lead to successful results and future funding.
Elizabeth Radshaw is Industry Programs Director for Hot Docs.