This past week, we had the delight of hosting Ellen Schneider, director of Active Voice Lab, for a deep dive into the secret sauce of impact filmmaking: PARTNERSHIPS!
Many — maybe even most — documentary filmmakers today recognize the umpteen benefits that robust, enthusiastic community partners can bring to a project: reach, turnout at screenings, expertise on the issues, and of course, added impact in the field. But of course, full-fledged partnerships come with a lot of responsibility — and even if you are the most communicative, most productive impact filmmaker in the world, it takes two to tango. Many films and many nonprofit organizations have been burned by a lack of communication about what success for a film campaign looks like, and how to get there.
Enter Active Voice Lab. They pioneered “The Prenups: What Funders and Filmmakers Should Talk about Before Tying the Knot,” a program that lays out expectations between funders and filmmakers — you can walk through that process on their website here. And now, Active Voice Lab is applying a similar framework and set of tools to partnerships between filmmakers and activists, advocates, and organizations. Last Monday, we got together with a talented and experienced group of directors, producers, and impact producers in Chicago to share our greatest successes... and most abject failures... when it comes to partnerships, tackling questions like: How do you balance artistry and activism? How do we ensure that these relationships are mutually beneficial, and make the change we hope to see in the world? When things go wrong, how do we assess and adjust? How do we ensure that we’re not working forever, and often unpaid, on our impact campaigns?
Active Voice Lab is gleaning best practices from filmmakers all over the country as they create a process for setting expectations, in writing, for film partnerships upfront. We learned a lot in this week’s conversation, and can’t wait to put the final product to use in our own work.
Do you have a partnership success story — or horror story — to share? Tweet your ideas and stories at us and we’ll pass them on to Ellen and Active Voice Lab.