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Friday, May 14, 2010

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: Participant Media and its social action and outreach campaigns

John Schreiber Executive VP of social action and advocacy, Participant films, described the social action campaigns/ NGO partnerships that Participant has developed around its films. The first film he discussed was The Informant—a departure for Participant given that it was a comedy about whistle-blowing "a decidedly unfunny and an incredible brave and difficult thing to do". Recognizing this, Participant decided to try do something serious around the film. The action it came up with was to partner with The Paley Center to have a whistle blowing panel including some of the country's most famous informants – this had such a positive response that a film/whistleblowing festival has been curated and will begin touring campuses with Informant as a central piece. Next up he described the novel way that The Visitor has been used – Participant worked with an NGO to use the film to train lawyers in how to represent detainees in bail hearings. He went on to describe the NGO partnership used for the Crazies – the Romero remake horror where biotoxins turn people into zombies. Participant worked with Greenpeace on publicity stunts featuring hazmat suited Greenpeace volunteers at cinemas where film was opening to draw attention to the Hazardous Toxin Bill, currently stalled in Congress, and the power of doing this with a male 18-24 audience who wouldn’t normally hear this message. One of the most impressive examples of NGO/film partnerships to effect change was for Kite Runner. Recognizing that Afghanistan has the world’s 3rd worst literacy rates, Participant partnered with an NGO to use the film to raise funds, create libraries and train teachers in the country: to date 87 libraries have been created and 1000 teachers trained.
As a takeaway Schreiber describes how at Participant they have identified 5 types of social action – awareness, education, action, advocacy and solutions.

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