What is social action and community media production? (Essay)

Change, culture, heritage, tradition, nature, truth, justice, life, love; these are some of the reasons as to why social action films/events happen. They are often done ‘by the people, for the people’ All of these reasons are what drives someone forward in their quest for change, and social action provides them with that chance to make a difference for the ‘greater good’. At this point you are probably wandering ‘What social action is’? Well let’s dig in shall we? Social action is kind of what it sounds like, ‘action that affects society’ and by this I don’t mean violent or aggressive action, but simply an event, film, website or some form of media that someone has made and spread throughout society and the internet, in attempt at making a change. This could be for many reasons; it could be to raise awareness, to stop something that is going to happen in the near future; for example, the demolishing of buildings, to offer support to people in need; for example to raise money to build a homeless shelter. The reasons why people make social action films go as far as the eye can see. ‘Social action is when a group or individual takes steps to improve or reform an imperfect situation. For example, it could be gathering a group of volunteers to clean up a local park or help out at a community centre, food bank, or other place that assists people. Or spreading awareness and increasing education on issues such as domestic violence and healthy eating.’ – Pamela Ellis. These events take place and the films that are made are shared throughout society in the hope that people will see the film/hear/read about what happened, comprehend what it’s message, share it with others and act alongside the producers(s) to make a change to the subject matter. Social action films will have been made by either a non profit (NPO) or profit organisation (PO). So if for instance, the social action film was being made to raise money to build a homeless shelter, then the organisation would need to raise money from the film in order to accomplish it’s goals. This is where you would need to find a ‘partner’ company for your film. ‘The hugely successful King Corn, a documentary about the industrialization of corn production, raised $500,000 for their outreach campaign due in large part to their partnership with the Kellogg Foundation’ – Patrick Shen. So in order for a social action film and its producer(s) be successful, the film needs to put across a key message for the viewers to understand http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/clean-up-or-cover-up-the-aftermath-of-the-worst-mining-disaster-in-canadian-history/ While it is not so much mentioned throughout the beginning and middle of the video, it ends with it’s key message that is clear for everyone to see ‘support indigenous resistance against imperial metals. ‘Save our wildlife’, ‘Preserve our nature’, or ‘protect our heritage’, it needs to reiterate it’s key point throughout the film. But most importantly as a social action film it needs to clearly tell the viewers how they can help and get involved http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/it-takes-more-than-one-person-to-change-the-world/ This video clearly tells the viewers how they can get involved with something that matters to them. It takes them through step by step to tell them specifics of how to make an impact to the subject matter of their choice. When watching some social action films, they have neither reiterated a clear message or a way of clearly telling the viewers how to get involved http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the-trail-of-a-tale/ This social action video doesn’t offer the viewers a clear message, nor does it tell people how they can get involved and help out. The video ends with the narrator saying ‘Because you must act now, in order to transform my new future’. But it doesn’t tell the viewers what they must act upon and how they must act to help.

So, now that you know what social action films are, I am sure that you are desperate to know why they are made. While ‘change’ remains the main theme that consistently reoccurs throughout all of these videos, the change that the producer(s) are trying to make might might not be something practical, but perhaps something ideological. The social action films that are produced might be to educate, change perceptions or to raise awareness about something http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/can-we-autocorrect-humanity/ This video has been made in attempt at changing people’s perceptions and affecting their views and ideas about technology as oppose to affecting something more practical. No doubt, people will have views, that they want to spread out to society. And social action provides these people with an answer to ‘how’. Social action films are made because they (are supposed to, but not always) tell people ‘how’ they can get involved with something and how they can make a change ‘Don’t let them leave that theater without clear, immediate, and effective options to get involved. Let them know how they can help spread the message of the film by telling their friends or organizing their own screenings and fundraisers. Give them instructions and tools so that they can do so easily, and ideally, have some fun doing it’ – Patrick Shen. ‘Change’ would be hard to come by if social action films were not made, because people would want to make a difference and help contribute to society and help the world become a better place, but struggle to do so because they would not know how to do so, or have as much support or following. Social action films are mostly made by professional film-makers who have been commissioned by a company to make social action films ‘Nowadays, more than ever before, our wrap parties are tinged with a hint of anxiety about how in the world we’re going to get people to see our film and how we’re going to make our money back. In order to thrive, we’ve got to get our hands dirty at least until we find a partner like Participant Media’s TakePart who has the manpower and experience to do the work for us and do it effectively’ – Patrick Shen. So that when it comes to releasing the final product, the video will find it’s way to viewers more easily because as a company, they will be viewed professionally and they will have many different contacts. People will be more inclined to watch the video because if it is made by a company, then you would expect that a lot of effort and resources have gone into making the final product. Whereas you would struggle to share and spread the final product of a video that had been made by someone who didn’t have film-making experience, for several reasons. People may be less inclined to watch an ‘unprofessional video’. It would be hard to share the final product about because as someone who is new to the film-making process, people do not know you, and you don’t have a professional reputation. So social films gives companies and film-makers a wider audience. As a company, you can expect that people will have an ever increasing professional view towards you. And that as you are making a social action film, which are considered to be made for ‘the greater good’; people will respect you as you are voicing the opinion of the public and not of a business that works only towards itself. As a film-maker, social action films can give you a larger audience and perhaps ‘put you on the map’ depending on how ‘large’ you already were. So you can be viewed more professionally, as well as getting potential future jobs offers on the back of the final product. After reading all of this, you must surely be thinking ‘why don’t they not make a video and just use other media for their social action piece instead?’ One of the reasons for this is because you can get a look for yourself at the situation that the video is showing. It makes you feel like as if you are their. It is a lot more powerful to see something than to hear or read about something. http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/morgan-freeman-narrates-the-greatest-story-of-our-generation/ In this video many shocking clips are used to give a sense of realism and bring the situation down to earth. They are powerful images. This is one reason why video is the better option over other forms of media. The power of image. 

We have now discussed what social action films are and why we have them. So it’s time to discuss the impact of social action films. Let’s first ask ourselves, are they successful? Well that depends on a multitude of circumstances. Let’s say for instance that the video is well shot, well structured, well narrated, well edited, etc. Much of the impact of the video would be down to the marketing. Who made the film? Is/are the company/producer(s) responsible a non profit organisation? Did the company/producers(s) raise enough money to make a noticeable impact on their goals? The video would have to be shared well for many people to see it. If you were to give a short, brief answer, then it would be yes. Social action films are often made from the heart, and are made to make the world a better place. They make differences both noticeable and subtle. On the other hand, some social action films may not have been made from the heart (due to the love and pride that goes into something, like historical areas, or sites of nature) but because the producer(s) are trying to do the ‘right’ thing and, are making films on behalf of ‘the people’. Some of these films may have been made perhaps out of anger and are made because the producer(s) may feel like they have suffered an injustice. http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/dont-believe-women-are-endlessly-harassed-watch-this/ This video was not made because it was appealing to people for help in trying to save something like a naturalistic woodland area, but because the producer(s) had felt that they had suffered an injustice and that they were trying to shine a reality on the situation and give it some truth. So not all social action films are made in attempt at protecting the good in the world, as many are made in attempt at getting rid of the bad in the world, as well as many that are made to bring out the truth. In some cases, you would struggle to see the impact unless you spoke to people affected by it. That is because the video may have been made in the hope of changing attitudes and educating people on matters that they do not understand. But to give a proper answer to the question ‘are social action films successful?’ I am going to be examining social action films that have been made in the past to see if a difference has been made to the subject matter, since it’s release  So equally, I cannot say yes or no at this moment in time, because it depends on whether the social action films produced today, will be addressing issues that no longer exist in the future. ‘So many films have social impact, but I am interested in those that are actually changing public policy. Kirby Dick’s Invisible War is a film I greatly admire, as the director specifically made the film to change policy about the way rape is handled by the military, and it effected change immediately. We can look at films like Super Size Me, which caused McDonald’s to change its menu, but it is a great deal harder to move governmental policy than corporate practices. Many films aim to change policy, but few succeed.  Many raise awareness, however, which over time may lead to change’ – Sue Wilson. Six key regulations were introduced on the subject matter within 14 months of each other. The first being introduced a short three months after the premier of the film. For social action films, they achieve more than just change. Because if say for instance, that the video was not successful on the internet and did not get much recognition or comprehension, that does not necessarily mean that no change was achieved. Because it may inspire the producer(s) to follow that trend and do more work towards the subject matter. So the people who make the social action films may become better people. Equally, even if the video reaches a small amount of people, it may still wow some of it’s audience and inspire several of those people to do something similar  I joined a club for future teachers at my university. One activity we did was to tutor inner city youths one afternoon a week. I signed up to get some teaching experience but found that I loved helping students who needed extra support in learning. This inspired me to help run an anti-bullying campaign at that same school to teach more practical life lessons and reach a wider audience. I felt I was actually making a difference and promoting a useful message’ – Pamela Ellis. Although this doesn’t link directly to someone seeing another’s social action video. It gives you an idea of how people can get inspired by seeing what other people are doing. It is quite convenient that the next question that I was going to ask was ‘who does it have the greatest impact on?’ The greatest impact is made upon the goals that the producer(s) set out to achieve, for example, it may have made a large impact on improving the lives of uneducated children. But at the same time, it inspires the people who see the video/read the article/ hear the news, to do good and work towards achieving similar goals of their own in work that effects and benefits society.

In conclusion, social action has developed over the years because we, the producers/organisers of social action can see how situations have gotten worse and understand that we need to take action in order to achieve our goals. Along with this, it is has become easier to make social action films, as the technology available to us has increased over the years, as well as the the internet. We are now able to share what we have done with others more easily and put our social action out their for the world to see. But one reason is because we know that without taking part in social action now, the goal in which we are aiming to achieve, may be almost impossible to achieve if we don’t act now. We know that the issues in which we are addressing, may no longer exist if we act now. And by doing good and taking part in social action, it inspires others to do the same  ‘The extensive report by the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation measuring the social, corporate, and political impact of The End of the Line in the U.K. calculated that for every one person who saw the film another 510 people had heard about it. That translated to about 4.7 million people in the UK alone that became aware of the film and its message’ – Patrick Shen. But another important factor in the reason of the development of social action movement is the worldwide financial crisis that started a few years ago (the worst since the 1930’s I believe). Because of this, people are finding ever more reason to take part in social action, often against something, or to reveal the truth about something.

http://filmcourage.com/content/making-your-film-matter-introduction-social-action-campaigns – Patrick Shen

https://www.plotr.co.uk/advice/articles/what-on-earth-is-social-action/ – Pamela Ellis

http://www.moviemaker.com/archives/interviews/social-action-documentaries/ – Various

http://britdoc.org/uploads/media_items/invisiblewar-web.original.pdf – 










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