The Social Impact of Filmmaking

I want to discuss a Ted Talk, titled “Jeff Skoll: My journey into movies that matter”, and some of the thoughts I had on the subject. I want to start by stating that it is obvious that media, especially the movie industry, has a huge impact on the way the populous views things. Movies can even influence what we buy, and what we see as acceptable or not. It really begs the question; do we give Hollywood too much power? The depth of Hollywood’s influence is best shown in Morgan Spurlock’s Documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”; every major corporation has money and staff allocated to getting their product featured in the television and film industry. Is that it though? Can the influence of film only be used to make people buy stuff? According to Jeff Skoll, founder of Ebay, no; and I am inclined to agree. Skoll believes that movies can be used to close the opportunity gaps; if these powerful, expression filled pieces of media can be used to inform, educate, and influence us; why not use them for good? I myself am a movie fanatic and for a long time I didn’t understand why I liked some of the movies that I do. I realized, however, that I am drawn towards any film that incites emotion; whether its an awkward scene that makes my stomach turn, or a heart filled confession of love; I’m a sucker. It’s not just regular movies, but documentaries like “Blackfish” or “Super-size Me” that get me. I spent a solid month researching ways to help Orca’s in captivity, and after “Super-size Me” I stopped eating McDonald’s. If these films effect me there must be others, and if they can bring on such emotion that they can cause actual change, why not make more?

There are problems, however, with using films as a starting point for social change. The Indiewire article “The Downside of Measuring the Social Impact of Documentary Films” discusses some of these problems. In a survey done at the True/ False Film Festival it was found that 56% of filmmakers surveyed had no intention of conducting outreach programs to further the social impact of their films, this was largely due to the fact that those filmmakers didn’t have the time nor the budget. I believe that we should put more money towards these films so that outreach programs can be established to go along with the films. If people really want documentaries and other social commentary films to really make a difference, finishing the film can’t be the last step in the process. If a filmmaker wants to create an emotionally riveting film, something that will make the viewer call out in support, it should not be difficult for those viewers to find ways to make differences. Even though I strongly believe in everything I’ve said in this paragraph, I’m not trying to take away from films that might not be as emotionally impactful. Sometimes just informing an audience of an issue can be enough; just getting the word out, so that someone else can take the reigns. My main point is that the film industry reaches millions of people worldwide each year, why can’t we use this industry as an instrument for social justic


One thought on “The Social Impact of Filmmaking

  1. I so agree with you that the documentary is a powerful medium that reaches millions of people. They can be a vehicle to create change. I constantly am reminded by the fact that after films such as Sicko, Supersize Me, Food, Inc etc…came out, we started to see public opinion change, and this in turn put pressure on politicians to change public policy (putting calories and ingredients on food boards), and the awareness of the harms of factory farming on animals, humans, and the environment. I feel as if the entire no-GMO movement came out of documentary films and investigative journalism (and social media). Blackfish is a great example of a film creating real change. I really value what Skoll says in his TED Talk, and I wish more film makers felt the same way. I think most are passionate about their subject matter, but I do think funding is a huge issue, and time. I think the best they can hope for is to create a compelling film that engages the audience enough that they go out and create change in their own lives/communities/politics.



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