In Sarajevo, experts discuss the financing of social impact films


– Four executives from the UK and US participated in an in-depth panel on this emerging side of the industry at CineLink Industry Days Sarajevo

(lr) Danielle Turkov-Wilson, Brian Newman, Paula Vaccaro, Patricia Finneran, Sarah Mosses

Films aimed at bringing about change have always existed, whether to raise awareness of important issues or to influence policy makers to change laws. But it’s only recently that the designation “social impact films” has existed as an industry-specific category. A panel last week as part of CineLink Industry Days at the Sarajevo Film Festival aimed to introduce and clarify some of the space’s concepts and conventions to its industry delegates; all the speakers on stage were from the UK or the US, but their ideas had great significance for European independent cinema. Funding for these films, which in today’s world could spur awareness and action on the climate crisis or human rights, as well as their publicity and release strategies, have both been well discussed by the panel.

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Chaired by producer, screenwriter and journalist Paula Vaccarothe participants were the United Kingdom Danielle Turkov-Wilson of Think-Film Impact Production and Sarah MossCEO of Together Films, and USA, Patricia Finneranthe executive director of Story Matters, and Brian NewmanCEO of Subgenre Media.

Vaccaro began the conference by emphasizing the precarious nature of this part of the industry: “We in the social impact space think [about] how we can do our campaigns better or more effectively, and how we can make this space more sustainable, as we struggle to get our campaigns funded. The ideas are great but there are few resources, especially in Europe.

Speaking of the organization she leads, Turkov-Wilson described it as “essentially Accenture or Deloitte for the film industry.” Then, she gave some numerical examples: “In 2020, the impact investment market was worth 750 billion dollars worldwide. So if you’re tapping into impact money, you’re tapping into a huge market. 360 billion dollars are spent on Millennials and Generation Z. They demand two essential things: ethical and authentic content and responsible cinema. If someone in the film industry supply chain tells me impact isn’t making money, I can say it really is.

Mosses emphasized how space requires a different approach to funding: “It’s entrepreneurial in the way we approach things. When filmmakers sometimes finance their projects, they pitch to Arte, to the BFI, to all the traditional “cinema” people. There are many more. In the traditional impact landscape, there is the foundation space, individual donors, and brand funders. There’s a whole collection of money available when you get out of the typical cinema funding avenues. And this can be supplemented by the normal channels.

Newman had the most insight into using brands to contribute to a project’s funding pool: “When I first started working with brands, people thought I was crazy. Brands are realizing that their consumers are looking for authentic and real reactions to what’s happening in the world. And brands are showing how much they care about that too, which is why they want to support documentary films. I work for big companies, big brands, like Unilever, PMG, Mars. All of these companies invest in, sponsor, and donate to film campaigns, and sometimes they fund them entirely, though other times it’s not appropriate.

Unlike the other panelists, Finneran offered a more collaborative model for working in space. “The idea of ​​a multi-billion dollar investment is exciting, and I totally get it, but for an individual filmmaker, you can think more locally,” she explained. “Where filmmakers travel across the country to screen film, talk to people, and have conversations that really matter. The previously mentioned funding is a scarcity model – “give me money for my movie”. With impact, it’s a collaborative model, addressing someone who is already working on this problem, who sees the world in the same way, and the tool is as a partner. It is a matter of partnership and collaboration.

She also made some compelling suggestions on measuring a project’s overall success, talking about the limitations of seeing it simply in terms of return on investment, and suggesting thinking instead of “eyeballs, reach, number people, commitment, what they do, influence, participatory. Referencing the progress of American civil rights from 1965 to the present, she argued that “some issues will change slowly over time, and your film is a little boost along the way.”

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