Dialog Box


Planning Outreach & Marketing Campaigns


Outreach and education is the area where filmmakers will initially have the greatest success in receiving private grants because the film is complete - foundations can see it and will be able to judge its potential impact.

The area of outreach and marketing is tailor-made for foundations and filmmakers to come together. Outreach and education is under-funded by government film agencies and is an area where results can be achieved by addressing this need.

A well-conceived outreach campaign starts with film pre-production and can potentially extend for years after its completion. The more a filmmaker can identify and interact with their community of potential users while they are researching the film, the more effective it will be once it's out in the world.

A study guide or teachers notes developed in consultation with users in the education sector will enhance the life of a project particularly if it fits within a school or tertiary curriculum. If teachers - who are likely to use the work - are consulted during the production phase, their ideas can be incorporated into the study materials ensuring their ongoing use with complementary materials in the classroom.

Accompanying the study guide, outreach includes special community screenings and talks with allied groups to targeted audiences. Aim to build momentum and create long-term impact. Include screenings with targeted foundations for fundraising and awareness.

The most effective campaigns last over a number of years. It will often take a year or two to gauge the effects of a marketing plan. A three-year process will provide more chance for evolution and results. Funding a well-planned marketing and outreach strategy that aims to reach across a range of platforms is a worthwhile investment for foundations interested in social change, cultural development, history and education.

Every stage of giving leads to the point of outreach. A foundation will be interested in how you intend to present your message to your audience. Think about this carefully and early in the project as it will impact on your ability to receive funding at every stage of the process. Be creative and resourceful when considering distribution possibilities. The Internet is an obvious platform, but you will need a strategy on how you will be noticed in a sea of competing sites.

Consider the examples that follow from the USA where philanthropic support for documentaries is already well established. Foundations looking to raise awareness, educate and inspire will be interested in projects that contribute to healthy communities.In order to successfully raise funds from philanthropic grantmakers, filmmakers need to pay as much attention to outreach as to the creation and distribution of the film.

Foundations in Australia will look for outcomes similar to those shown in the outreach and education campaigns of the examples from the USA, including the impact that can be made through the educational market.

Documentary filmmakers in Australia are already proactive about getting their films seen by an audience, so joining forces with organisations that share an interest in getting the message of the film out should be very appealing.

USA Examples of Outreach & Marketing Plans

Born In To Brothels

Category: Youth

Synopsis: Born into Brothels is a colourful and moving 85-minute documentary by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. Briski is a photographer from New York who visits the red light district of Calcutta. She meets the children of Calcutta prostitutes and becomes deeply involved in trying to achieve a better life for them. Briski teaches the children to use cameras and encourages them to photograph, and hopefully transform, their lives.

Born into Brothels was commercially successful and won countless awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2005.

Funding: The film was funded by the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Swartz Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Sundance Institute.

Outreach and Impact: One of the most tangible results ofBorn into Brothels was the establishment of a not-for-profit organisation, Kids with Cameras. Kids with Cameras works with marginalised children around the world. The organisation teaches photography to children, provides scholarships and forms local partnerships to assist them in their general education. Kids with Cameras has a comprehensive website with information about its mission and program and ways to purchase the DVD of the film or its companion soundtrack and book. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to support the children's education. The website also has information about how people can donate, volunteer and join the emailing list of the organisation.


Category: Disadvantage/Poverty


Synopsis: Legacy is an inspirational 90-minute documentary by Tod Lending. It follows one family over a five year period as they struggle living in one of America's most dangerous public housing projects. The family has amazing strength and manages to significantly transform their social and economic situation. Over the five years that Lending films, family members manage to end welfare dependence, end substance abuse and move away from the violence that is so prevalent in their community. Family members also manage to complete education and job-training, find work and buy a house in a safer neighbourhood.

Legacy was screened on PBS and also nominated for an Academy Award in 2000.

Funding: The film was funded by the Annie E Casey Foundation, the Richard H Driehaus Foundation, the J R Houlsby Foundation, the John D and Catherine T Macarthur Foundation and the W K Kellogg Foundation.

Outreach and Impact: Several of these foundations were heavily involved in supporting the film's outreach campaign. In particular, the Annie E Casey Foundation funded the campaign as part of its Making Connections Media Outreach Initiative. The Foundation provided multiple year funding that totaled approximately US$300 000. The Legacy outreach campaign was divided into three phases:

Phase one centred around distributing materials such as a Community Action Toolbox and working with community partners to find and engage audiences. Screenings and discussions were held and a letter-writing campaign was initiated. One of the most significant outcomes of phase one was the introduction of legislation to provide safe and affordable housing for grandparents and other relatives raising children across the US. A not-for-profit group called Generations United, whose focus is on intergenerational strategies to improve the lives of children, youth and older people, was inspired to use the film as a lobby tool. They worked with members of Congress to develop the legislation. In March 2002, a LEGACY (Living Equitably - Grandparents Aiding Children and Youth) bill was introduced in Congress, followed by the Senate in June 2002. Key provisions from the bill were eventually passed by both houses in 2003 as part of the American Dream Downpayment bill.

Phase two of the outreach campaign focused on addressing problems in neighbourhoods. Initiatives included grants to public TV stations who screened the film, production of faith-based complementary material and a workforce initiative.

Phase three continued the focus on reaching communities with public TV broadcasts and screenings featuring discussions with the family who were the subject of the film. A partnership was also entered into with the Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America.

Legacy also has a comprehensive website which is part of the PBS website. The website has extensive educational material. As part of their outreach funding, the Annie E Casey Foundation assisted the transfer of the film's website to PBS.


Category: Social Justice


Synopsis: Farmingville is an 87 minute documentary by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini about the complex issue of illegal Mexican workers in a New York suburb. The film was inspired by the hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican men. FARMINGVILLE shows the concerns of local residents who are angry about the number of illegal workers waiting for work on their street corners. The film also presents the struggles of the Mexican immigrants, who are being targeted with violence while they desperately try to make a living to support their families.

The documentary was screened on PBS in 2004 and won many awards including the Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004.

Funding: Many foundations and individuals funded Farmingville - the John D & Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund of the Long Island Community Foundation, the NY State Council for the Arts, the Bishop McGann of Caring Fund of Catholic Health Service of Long Island, the Soros Documentary Fund, the Long Island Community Foundation, Michael Hampton, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Bruce Herzfelder, Laurie Kahn and Molly Friedrich.

Outreach and Impact:The film has a website that contains resources for educators and discussion boards where audience members register feedback. On the PBS website there is a page where the filmmakers respond directly to audience questions.
Active Voice, a team of strategic communication specialists who utilise documentary films to bring about personal and institutional change in communities, workplaces, and campuses across the US, is conducting the outreach for the film. Active Voice sprung out the PBS documentary series POV. It was set up with support from the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.
Active Voice designed the Farmingville Campaign, which aims to help communities begin or deepen discussions about immigration, racism, national identity and the democratic process. They have supported screenings across America, particularly in areas with large day labourer populations. They have also formed national partnerships with organisations including the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Trembling Before G-D

Category: Religion/Human Rights

Synopsis: Trembling Before G-D is an 84 minute documentary by Sandi Simcha DuBowski and Marc Smolowitz that explores the dilemma faced by Orthodox Jews who are homosexual. The subjects of the film include a closeted gay Orthodox rabbi, married Hasidic gays and lesbians, and those abandoned by religious families. The film explores the struggle to maintain faith and a true sense of self in our complex modern world. Trembling Before G-D was filmed in Brooklyn, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, London, Miami and San Francisco.

Funding: The film was funded by a very large number of foundations - the Rockefeller Foundation, the H van Ameringen Foundation, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, the Burstein Family Foundation, the Creative Capital Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Dorot Foundation, the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, the Gelman Foundation, the Tom Healy and Fred Hochberg Foundation, the David Hochberg Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Peter T Joseph Foundation, the Rita J and Stanley H Kaplan Family Foundation, the Karma Foundation, the Mathilde & Arthur B Krim Foundation, the Michael Palm Foundation, the Richard Nathan Anti-Homophobia Trusts, the Paul Rapoport Fund, the Rapoport Family Foundation, the Recanati Foundation, the Donna and David Reis Family Foundation, the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, the Rosenthal Foundation, the Shefa Fund, the Ted Snowden Foundation, the Threshold Foundation, the Ruth/Allen Ziegler Foundation and Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation.

Outreach and Impact: The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. At the festival, the director and a rabbi hosted Shabbat and a Mormon-Jewish gay dialogue. They then travelled to over sixty cities conducting discussions with the public and other organisations concerned with faith, sexuality, age, racial and Jewish issues.

An Orthodox community education project, which uses the film as a central resource, has been launched in the US, Israel and the UK. The project had seen funding from Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation. Other outreach strategies include the formation of an Orthodox Mental Health Network to work with rabbis, families, schools, teachers and synagogues. Outreach work is also being conducted in other faith communities.

The film has a website with links to resources and ways to help the filmmakers with their outreach. Some suggestions are putting announcements in newsletters about the film, requesting your video shop to stock the DVD and linking your own website to the film's site. There is also a sample fundraising letter to raise money for further outreach.

The New Heroes

Category: Education


Synopsis: The New Heroes is a documentary series produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting in association with Malone-Grove Productions, Inc. The series tells the stories of various 'social entrepreneurs' who aim to address social problems in all corners of the world. These inspiring and diverse men and women use their business skills as highly effective tools for social change. The subjects include: an eye surgeon who partners with an American businessman in Southern India; a Zambian man who starts a home and school for AIDS orphans; an Indian man who creates 'child-friendly' villages in an attempt to end child slavery in his society; and two Americans who invent and manufacture a low-cost water pump to help Kenyan subsistence farmers make a living.

The series was screened on PBS and hosted by Robert Redford.

Funding: The New Heroes was funded by the Skoll Foundation, which gave during the production and outreach stages, the Flora Family Foundation and Calvert, an entity that manages socially responsible mutual funds.

Outreach and Impact: The New Heroes has a website which is part of the PBS site as well as a website that outlines a significant aspect of its outreach program, the 'House Party' (Visit the site). The Skoll Foundation supported this initiative and the website provides tools for individuals and organisations to hold house parties that screen the film, generate discussion and encourage collective donations to social entrepreneurial projects. Donations are made possible due to a partnership between the Skoll Foundation and GlobalGiving, a non-profit, Internet-based service that connects donors directly to projects throughout the world

There were 1,618 requests for House Party Tool kits between June 2005 and April 2006. Requests came from 46 states, 60 countries and 6 continents. The series was watched by 4.4million viewers when it aired and is expected to reach 10 - 12 million viewers during the lifetime of the series. The series resulted in donations over $251,431 to organisations run by the social entrepreneurs profiled in the series. One of the stories in New Heroes with an update on its specific impact:

  • Inderjit Khurana - Teachers Teach Poor Children at Train Stations
    India is home to nearly half a billion children, many of whom live in extreme poverty. The Indian government has not been able to find a way to educate children who spend their days begging, stealing and selling their bodies to survive. Inderjit Khurana, a teacher in a town 300 miles south of Calcutta, noticed that the children of the slums spend their days begging on the train platforms, rather than going to school. So she decided that if the children couldn't come to school, she'd bring the school to them. With teachers to guide and care for them, the children develop hope for their future. Because the government refuses to help her, Khurana has to rely on charitable donations to raise the $12,000 a year that funds all 12 schools she now operates.

New Heroes Update: Donors contributions and pledges to this project totaled $120,625! The original project funding goal was $120,000, and as a result this project is now in implementation.



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