Online Campaigns and Resources for Filmmakers and Social Justice Campaigners:
BRITDOC is a non-profit founded in 2005 committed to supporting the production of documentary films and helping them reach a worldwide audience. They state their intent as being the Art of Impact and the Impact of Art. Originally created by Channel 4 to support documentaries which would not be shown by broadcast commissioners, it now also receives funding from NGOs, brands and foundations ranging from PUMA Creative to the Bertha Foundation, leading to a rise in its social justice themed films since 2010. It is currently based in London and New York with global reach. It has granted 254 films a total of £4,958,934 since 2005. Films funded by BRITDOC have been nominated for five Oscars, and one has even won. It also launched the Good Pitch initiative to bring filmmakers together with potential funders. 134 film projects from 60 countries have been presented at Good Pitch events all over the world, and $17,000,000 has been raised for campaigns. On its site it promises to uphold creative, journalistic and personal integrity.
One of its projects is the ‘Impact Field Guide’ which offers comprehensive information to any aspiring filmmaker, and Section 3.4 of the Guide is entitled ‘Consider your subjects’. It focuses on the ethics of including the subject of a film after filming has completed, and presents a graph with four quadrants reflecting two scales of subject’s desire for leadership and whether they are vulnerable, or if vulnerability is a possibility as the result of appearing in the film and being publicly associated with it. If the subject wants to be a leader and isn’t vulnerable, the filmmaker can be upfront about any concerns they have and discuss the possibilities for conflicts in needs between the film and the subject and negotiate. If the subject is vulnerable and doesn’t want to be a leader, the filmmaker needs to ensure that the film’s effect on the subject’s life is positive and it empowers, not disrupts. If the subject is vulnerable, but aspires to leadership, the filmmaker must ensure that the film contributes to the subject’s wants and needs. If the subject is not vulnerable but does not want to lead, the filmmaker must find other ways for the project to give back to the subject. On a practical note, the guide also references budgetary concerns and the changes in the filmmaker-subject relationship that can result from bringing a subject along for promotional purposes for interviews and talks.
Crowd Voice (crowdvoice.org)
Crowd Voice is an open source service that uses crowdsourcing and crowd-verification to archive and preserve content created by social movements, including film and video, to create a greater awareness of worldwide social justice issues. Eyewitness accounts and news reports are curated and contextualised on pages dedicated to specific causes. This information is also visually communicated via facts, statistic, infographics and timelines organised by tags, topics and citations to make information easier to digest. Users do not have to sign-up or provide any identifying information to contribute to the archives, but all submissions are initially put in a moderation queue to await verification from other users before being added to an issue’s dedicated page.
The site’s reports aim to reflect both hard facts and the human faces of social justice. Social media integration further connects people and creates ongoing dialogues. The Guardian, Al Jazeera and the UN News Centre have all showcased evidence originally collected on CrowdVoice, on issues such as the conflict in Syria and the site has been censored in Yemen and Bahrain after it uncovered evidence of abuses by their governments. Culture Unplugged (http://www.cultureunplugged.com/festival) Culture Unplugged is an online documentary film festival that presents short and feature-length documentaries made by independent filmmakers and grassroots productions to a global audience. It promotes filmmaking as an artistic enterprise and as a means of spreading awareness and making people contemplate challenges that are faced both globally and locally. It has a heavy focus on the concept of global citizenship and concerns regarding the nature of the self and the state of humanity. It has been accessed by millions of users from over 231 different countries. It is funded by a private citizen and welcomes other associations who desire a ‘global shift of consciousness’, with strong focuses on human wellness and growth. On the pages for films, it offers the opportunity to directly contact filmmakers, donate money to causes, and look at related Wikipedia pages based on keywords submitted by other users. It has consciously decided not to promote itself via mass media and PR channels, and instead wishes to be discovered organically, and believes that it is the responsibility of individuals to share the site through word of mouth.
DOC Alliance (http://dafilms.com/)
The DOC Alliance represents a network of seven European film festivals, with the aim of advancing the documentary genre. Its website serves as an online distribution platform for European documentaries and experimental films. The online platform offers a selection of 1329 films which have been tagged for relevant subjects, of which 250 have been specifically tagged with ‘social issues’. For a small fee, users can stream or legally download these films. It invites submissions from people of all skill levels from directors, producers and distributors to students, allowing a range of contributors to make use of the possibilities the platform provides. Moreover, the platform pays 60% of the sum paid for viewing the documentary to the makers of presented films.
Dochouse is the UK’s first dedicated documentary centre which was opened in 2015, after serving for thirteen years as a year-round film festival with screenings, talks and events at cinemas across London. Its online hub serves as a library of the resources it has accumulated since its inception, covering not only documentaries but also serving as an archive of their Q&As and masterclasses, as well as offering regular podcasts. It also provides information on films beyond their release and how the issues that they portray developed. It is a valuable resource for new and aspiring filmmakers as it keeps a listing of learning opportunities and courses on its website from various institutions for users to sign up to.
Films for Action (http://www.filmsforaction.org/)
Films for Action is a non-profit organisation that offers a library of over 3000 films categorised into 40 subjects that relate to changing the world. All films are either free-to-watch or can be rented for a small fee. It holds that the mainstream media, particularly in America, is often entrenched in other interests and so does not serve the public interest, and therefore is incapable of acting as a watchdog for corporate and government abuse. It aims to create an independent media communication channel that will be able to inspire a global audience to launch more ambitious campaigns for democratic and just societies, by putting control of the flow of information in the hands of users. It has many features in common with modern social media, with member profiles, messaging and notifications. The site currently has 28,000 members, who can upload their own videos and articles. It offers guidelines to ensure the quality of content is high and fits the site’s aims. It states that content must be fairly non-partisan and expand universal empathy and compassion instead of reinforcing divisions and generating antagonism. As well as an online forum, the local chapters organised by the website have held many film screenings attracting crowds from 60 to 400 people, and such screenings have been springboards to campaigns from opposing the introduction of a 2nd Wal-Mart in a town to street protests against the Iraq war led by Iraqi war veterans. There are 33 active chapters in the USA and 28 internationally. 600,000 users on Facebook have liked the Films for Action page, meaning that shared links are viewed by millions of users every month.
fiveFilms4freedom is a free, online 10-day LGBT film festival set up by the British Council and the British Film Institute as an extension of the BFI’s Flare LGBT Film Festival. It makes five short films freely available to everyone everywhere during the main festival on the BFI Player (akin to iPlayer), which are promoted through the British Council’s connections in collaboration with the United Nations’ Free and Equal campaign. In 2015, it reached millions of people in 135 different countries, who watched videos and participated in the global social media campaign. The festival was established to connect with people beyond the UK and beyond those living in the 63 countries currently listed as having same-sex marriage, particularly focusing on impacting LGBT individuals living in societies where they aren’t recognised. They chose stories in order to demonstrate love as a human right, in the hopes that film and culture can help to affect change by opening minds all over the world. Whilst they were able to actively campaign in more than 70 countries including China, India, Ukraine, Israel and Poland, that promotion was not able to take place in many of the 77 countries where homosexuality is still illegal such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt and Uganda, and the organisers worked with the Foreign Office and the UN to ensure that they were able to do things the right way whilst still ensuring the widest possible reach.
Influence Film Club (http://influencefilmclub.com/)
The Influence Film Club aims to stimulate the creation of film clubs so that people can get together to discuss documentaries. To further this end, it offers discussion guides to extend the conversation, by exploring the issues raised in the films provided and suggesting ways of generating impact.
Invisible People (https://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/)
Invisible People is a charitable non-profit social change project which is dedicated to making the problem of homelessness more visible, via uploading videos of interviews with homeless people to its YouTube channel in order to demonstrate the breadth of issues facing them and how people fall into homelessness to begin with. As well as these interviews it also features short recordings of advocates as well as longer recordings of talks and debates in order to provide a full range of videos with information on the issue of homelessness. It has over 20,000 subscribers and its videos have had over 5 million views. It encourages people to support local homeless charities and to get involved.
It Gets Better Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/)
It Gets Better is an online non-profit with the goal of preventing suicide among LGBT youth by having adults tell them that their lives will improve via video message, and aims to inspire and create the changes necessary to make the world better for them as well. The project was started in 2010, and currently it includes more than 50,000 video messages which have received over 50 million views, with an international scope which encompasses many political creeds, languages and cultural backgrounds. These international relationships have served as a springboard for programs benefiting LGBT youth on six continents, and the project has been represented at debates and film festivals.
Jubilee Project (http://www.jubileeproject.org/)
The Jubilee Project is a charitable non-profit that makes short films, PSAs and documentaries in collaboration with other non-profits to raise awareness and inspire action, whilst also aiming to entertain. They believe that videos are a strong resource to cause change, and rely on social media campaigns to watch and share their content to spread information and stimulate people to get involved. It offers the Jubilee Project Fellowship scheme which offers the opportunity for a group of twelve filmmakers to develop their skills.
Shareable is an online hub aiming to transform the world by sharing, and featuring news, action and connection content. It defines its sharing transformation as being ‘a movement of movements emerging from the grassroots up to solve today’s biggest challenges, which old, top-down institutions are failing to address’. It believes that old institutions are built on outdated beliefs about the balance of world power. The power of collaboration can address challenges like poverty and global warming, as people come together in an online community to contribute to the common good.
StoryPilot is designed to assist filmmakers in exploring the statistics surrounding more than 500 documentaries in 16 categories of social issue, including human rights. It wishes to help media makers understand the social impact of documentary films, providing free and intuitive analysis of films and the social issues they cover. It compiles impact measures such as social media conversations, box office success, Wikipedia search volume, and policy discussions. Each film may be unique, but nevertheless films with similar types of impact share certain characteristics, and StoryPilot allows users to identify these commonalities and explore them in more detail to guide their own impact campaigns.
WITNESS is an independent non-profit organisation which offers training and support to people all around the world to use video to fight for human rights change, focusing on encouraging the creation of high quality UGC. It recognises how in the modern world many people have a mobile phone with the capacity to record video and aims to teach them how to utilise this resource to expose human rights abuses. In particular, it desires to teach them to use it ethically, safely and effectively. It is partnered with 360 organisations and has worked in 97 countries to train 6000 people whose videos have reached 260 million viewers. It instigated and influenced the implementation of YouTube’s Face Blur in 2012 to make it safer for human rights activists to upload videos without fear of repercussions, and continues to work directly with technology companies to create safer ways for people to make their voices heard. On its website it supplies ‘8 Resources for Video Storytelling’ to support its primary focus of bringing perpetrators to justice and freeing the wrongly accused. It is concerned with how eyewitnesses and activists can work with investigators and legal professionals and the production of the best quality evidence to ensure that everything is fully documented and campaigners have the best possible chance of helping to create change, offering guidance on recording incidents such as riots and police misconduct in the safest manner.
Resources are offered in a variety of languages from French, Spanish and Italian to Oriya, Shona and Xhosa. Its primary concern from an ethical point of view is guiding those who work with footage to ensure that their use does not endanger the filmmaker and to inform them of their responsibilities to those filmed, the content creators, and the audience. Moreover, it uses examples of material filmed by perpetrators themselves and offers guidance on how to use this to bring them to justice and spread awareness without promoting their agenda. WITNESS believes that modern technology makes everyone responsible for sharing footage safely and ethically as much as it enables everyone to film and broadcast. It has also produced guidance for conducting interviews with victims of sexual and gender-based violence to ensure that journalists and organisations tell their stories respectfully. The WITNESS YouTube channel features videos and excerpts co-produced by the organisation and its local partners, with 8,000 subscribers and four million views.