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Distribution and Impact Tips from Firelight Media’s Latest Retreat By Ciara Lacy

Posted on November 03, 2015

Ciara Lacy (L) participates in a mini-impact-braintrust for her PIC-funded film, Out of State. Moderated by Sonya Childress (Firelight Media), panelists included: Azadeh Zohrabi (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), Michael Isip (KQED), Manuel La Fontaine (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children), Desiree Gutierrez (Impact Media Partners), Lily Kharrazi from Alliance for CA Traditional Arts and Kumu Kau’i.


By Producer Ciara Lacy

After a weekend of filmmaking inspiration at Firelight Media’s San Francisco retreat, I woke to an inbox full of frustrated emails. Friends were struggling to understand why a South Carolina officer would brutally drag a black student from her chair. Michael Brown and Eric Garner came to mind. Our country clearly needs healing, and we desperately need to understand each other. I’m grateful to say that my time at Firelight Media’s distribution and impact weekend was well spent studying how documentary can effectively create change –– whether emotional, political, or beyond –– and hopefully this information can help empower you in the same way. 

I learned that the starting point to creating an effective distribution or impact plan is strategy. Define your goals for your film – your top three perhaps – to help guide how you develop your plan. As you refine your thoughts, know that there is no singular path to getting your work out into the world. Think about what change you’d like to make, and how audiences and stakeholders watching your film can help you achieve it.

A well-developed strategy will likely require many partners to execute, so be genuine in the way you connect with other people or organizations, focusing on what you can offer each other. With any potential business or impact partner, be sure to: 1) conduct background research to ensure a well-matched collaboration, and 2) codify details of your working relationship before taking the leap. These two steps will allow you to more successfully define and manage how your film creates change. 

The history of gatekeepers acquiring and controlling the life of your project can be exactly that: history. The future is direct access to your audience and stakeholders, and the ability to activate them to influence change. Make the best film you can, but also remember that your film has the power to do much more than get ratings or fill seats at a screening. You and your film have the power to make positive impact!

For additional resources, please check out: 


@Storypilot / storypilot.org

@firelightmedia / firelightmedia.tv

@BAVC / bavc.org

@povdocs / www.pbs.org/pov

Categories: Events, Producers' Post, Training