The 2nd Annual Social Change Film Festival & Institute (SCFFI) 2012 was held in New Orleans, Nov. 28 - Dec 2, 2012.
Supporting filmmakers to be effective social activists and supporting social activists to be engaging storytellers.
Drop by Drop: Water Stories, a video contest for youth created by the Social Change Film Festival & Institute (SCFFI), Channel G and EarthvisionZ, is now accepting submissions.
Article by Rebecca Koppenhaver
Photos by Thomas Walker
It’s a rare and special occasion, when creative people with innovative ideas about how to better the world get a chance to converge, share ideas, and inspire each other in a grand beautiful setting. And that is just what took place a few weeks ago at the Social Change Film Festival & Institute’s Water Symposium, in the Silicon Valley town of Los Altos Hills, when filmmakers, activists, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, students and concerned citizens, gathered on the grounds of the historic Stonebrook Court estate. The event was sponsored by Vestergaard-Frandsen, a leading innovator in complex emergency response and disease control products, whose “profit for a purpose” approach has turned humanitarian responsibility into its core business.
Stonebrook Court Estate venue for the SCFFI Water Symposium
The cold, rainy Northern California day couldn’t drown the enthusiasm and buzz that permeated the atmosphere. The topic of discussion: WATER and the numerous critical issues the people of our planet face and will be forced to deal with in the future— pollution, contamination, over-fishing, lack of drinkable water, and global warming-induced disasters. The main question: How can film and media be used more effectively to raise awareness and enact change around water issues?
Participants registering for the SCFFI Water Symposium
Among the many notable panelists was the award-winning filmmaker Michael Nash, who has for the last decade traveled the globe and documented the effects of climate change for his documentary, Climate Refugees. During the closing ceremony, the Social Change Film Festival & Institute honored Michael Nash and his ceaseless work raising awareness about the human side of climate-induced disasters by naming him SCFFI Activist Filmmakers of the Year.
Tim Kring, creator of the hit television series Heroes and the Conspiracy for Good, an interactive, story-telling game that gets gamers involved in real-life social good, shared his perspective on effective storytelling to create social change. Panelist Meredith Blake, CEO of Cause and Effect, talked about how social action campaigns can link with entertainment media to effectively get the word out to a wider audience. And panelist Emily Verellen of the Fledgling Fund, which supports and invests in projects that ignite social change, had a reassuring message- -yes there is funding out there for solid ideas dedicated to social change.
Jin Ziddel, Founder & Chairman of Blue Planet Network addressing water panel
Throughout the day, promising young filmmaking students from a nearby high school were hard at work outside, interviewing panelists and shooting the events as part of the Social Change Film Festival & Institute’s Youth Filmmaking Workshop. To cap off the event, the youth workshop presented a compelling narrative capturing the energy and passion of the day’s discussions, which they planned, filmed, and edited in less than six hours. The Youth Filmmaking Workshop is part of SCFFI’s Youth Programs, which aim to engage future environmental and social change leaders in transformative filmmaking.
The SCFFI Youth Filmmaking Workshop
And the event drew to a close and people waited for their cars in the pouring rain, spirits were not dampened. Everyone knew that the seeds of change had been planted— and only needed a little watering.
Great article by Neetal Parekh, J.D. of Innov8Social who attended our Global Water Crisis Symposium on November 5, 2011. The rest of Parekh’s blog is pretty rad too.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon in early November 2011, an eclectic group of individuals and institutions committed to supporting and exploring social entrepreneur filmmaking and global water issues gathered on a sprawling estate tucked away in the hills of Los Altos.
I didn’t know what to expect from the Global Water Crisis Symposium but was intrigued by its call to social innovation action. As I learned through the course of the engaging afternoon and evening, the symposium was a precursor to and fundraiser for the Social Change Film Festival & Institute, planned to take place in April 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1. Think beyond your idea of a social innovator. The conference helped show a new face of social innovation. That of social-minded artists looking to find new avenues, audiences, and forms for their art and observations of world issues. Global Symposium panelist Charles Hambleton of the Academy-award winning documentary "The Cove", was representative of the deep impact that social filmmakers can make as social innovators.
2. Social entrepreneurs know that risk means opportunity. If a product-based business is risky, there is equal (if not greater) risk in committing time and resources into creating an issue-based film. But as I am quickly noticing, social entrepreneurs see every risk as an opportunity for learning and growth—-whether the venture is embraced in success or sinks to the ocean floor, risk is the truest catalyst for humble, deliberate learning. Stories of filmmakers and social innovators—-such as Michael Nash (creator/director of “Climate Refugees” and “Fuel)— on panels at the Symposium carried this theme to new heights, and depths.
3. When in doubt, there is probably a consultant who can help. A number of speakers and panelists at the Global Water symposium mentioned their roles as consultants. Consulting firms such as Cause & Affect have worked with clients to reframe issues and find unique ways of achieving success. Sometimes when we hit a wall with our social innovation ideas, we may feel like we can’t afford to invest in outside consulting; and I am noticing that if we are truly serious about our work, these situations might be exactly the time to seek outside assistance. Answers only matter when they respond to questions we actually have.
4. There are groups dedicated to helping social filmmakers.While I have heard of accelerator & incubator programs for social innovators and fellowships for social entrepreneurs, at the Global Water Symposium I learned about groups like the Fledging Fund that are dedicated to assisting budding social filmmakers make their films, and their mark.
5. Social entrepreneurs are only beginning to tap the potential of online video. It is an unprecedented time for film. Overhead costs can be kept low while distribution can be maximized using free online platforms like YouTube. Instead of reaching limited audiences, films can reach millions. And hearing about the revolutionary work of Social Change Films, the organizer of theGlobal Water Symposium, exemplified the efforts to continue to explore the potential and reach of film through online video.
6. Social film is effective when it tells a compelling story. The importance of story-telling was emphasized at the Social Media for Nonprofits SF conference and was reiterated here. One of the creators of the television series “Heroes”, Tim Kringwas on-hand at the Global Water Symposium was to relay how effective storytelling was a central premise for his multimedia endeavor “Conspiracy for Good" involving gamification, film, and a compelling good v. evil narrative.
7. Global water issues tend to disproportionately affect women and girls. The film "Carbon for Water" was screened at the Symposium. The film relayed how lack of clean water impacts livelihoods in rural Kenya, and through its interviews and images it showed how women and girls are particularly affected by the clean water crisis. Since fetching water falls under the traditional duties of women, the burden of travelling long distances to find resources to locate and distill water often falls on women and girls.
8. The externalities of not having clean water include deforestation, lack of education and health issues. In Kenya, as “Carbon for Water” portrayed, many Kenyan women walk far distances to forests, collect wood, and then use the wood to burn fires to boil the water. The process accelerates the rate of deforestation, leaves women potentially vulnerable in secluded wooded areas, and precludes many girls from attending school, simply because fetching wood often takes the much of the day.
9. Seek creative ways to tell a story. Compelling stories can be told in words, images, sounds, film, architecture. They can be told chronologically or through flashbacks, using third person narrative voice or through interviews. Though storytelling is a key tip to relaying a social need and social innovation, the way a story is told may be as telling as the story itself.
10. Scalability is a huge factor in determining economic viability of a water crisis solution. A panelist fromBluePlanetNetwork spoke about the need for thinking of ways to bring ideas to scale in light of the organization’s goal of enabling safe drinking water for 200,000,000 people in the next 20 years. While local efforts may alleviate localized water problems—-making a broader impact requires scaling solutions to meet diverse communities and to serve multiple needs.
11. Youth can do anything. While we attended the Symposium, a parallel youth track with few high school students took interviews throughout the day and then worked with established filmmakers to edit the footage to create a brief documentary. It was an impressive effort, and a reminder that youth—-with their ability to embrace new technology and their genuine curiosity—- are often the ultimate change agents.
Nash has dedicated the last few year of his life to raising awareness about the humanitarian dimensions of climate change, traveling the globe without rest to spread the word and inspire action.