In our previous posts, we examined two seminal reports on the social impact of documentary films. The Fledgling Fund's 2008 "Assessing Creative Media's Social Impact" introduced a framework in which compelling stories create social change by going through stages of expanding awareness, deepening an audience's engagement with an issue and thus building stronger movements. In Fledgling's rubric, each of these stages comes its own goals and metrics for success. In "Social Issue Documentary: The Evolution of Public Engagement," the Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) further developed these concepts with in-depth case studies of audience engagement campaigns tied to films that took advantage of diverse "circuits of circulation" constituting what CMSI calls "Public Media 2.0." This is a valuable approach for thinking about how a film's messages, rather than just a film itself, are embedded within a larger media ecosystem and are distributed through both "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches.
Two years after CMSI's report, UK-based BRITDOC Foundation published "Beyond the Box Office: New Documentary Valuations," a report that picks up on this dialogue around the social impact of documentary films by undertaking an extensive evaluation of the Oscar-winning climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. BRITDOC has been a leading organization in the burgeoning impact field, both supporting social issue filmmakers directly and building new funding and distribution models through partnerships with Channel 4, Bertha Foundation, Puma and others. They've also helped launch a successful series of live pitching events called Good Pitch that connect documentary filmmakers with activists, organizations and funders working on the same issue. These events have helped formalize some of the recommendations made by both Fledgling and CMSI, creating a forum where filmmakers and activists can meet and forge new collaborations.