What is Outreach in Filmmaking?
Outreach and distribution are often confused, but they are distinctly diﬀerent things.
I still remember trying to get my head around how outreach was different from distribution when I was producing our first impact film Life Before Death some ten years ago! It’s so clear to me now that I’ve had a decade to trial and error numerous strategies, but it’s not straight forward when you first try to wrap your head around it.
You may be thinking, “It’s that important, I’ll figure it out as I go!” And that’s ok, you can. But if you want to make a social impact, you’re going to get much better results if you can figure out your outreach strategy before you roll camera rather than play catch up once it’s in the can. And to do that, you need to know what outreach in filmmaking is.
What is film distribution?
Let’s start by defining what distribution is. In a nutshell, distribution is how you’ll get your ﬁlm in front of an audience. What is the mode of delivery? For example, will you release your ﬁlm in cinemas (theatrical release), by Video On Demand (VOD), on DVDs or via YouTube? Will you self distribute or use a distributor or a combination? We’ve created an episode all about distribution which you can check out if you want to learn more detail on how to distribute your ﬁlm.
So what is outreach in filmmaking?
Outreach is about what happens next. Once your audience has seen your ﬁlm, what will they do?
What is your call-to-action?
How will you engage them to take that action?
Let me walk you through an example.
You watch a powerful ﬁlm on TV and afterwards, you might tell someone about it or discuss the issue raised with your housemate. But essentially that’s it, you watched, you learned, now back to life.
But…if you watched the ﬁlm at your local library or in a cinema and afterwards there was a panel discussion about the topic in the ﬁlm and your invited to ask questions or take an action- that’s outreach.
Outreach in filmmaking is how you get your audience involved, it’s the steps you take to get some action that benefits your cause. You engage the audience to do more than just watch.
Even if they are watching the ﬁlm on TV, outreach means you follow up with them in some way and ask them to contribute something. This is hard with broadcast TV as you have no way to know who has watched. You could try putting a call to action at the end of the ﬁlm. You could ask the audience to go to a website and sign up for more information or to make a donation. Whatever it is, for it to be outreach you need to take your audience from passive consumption to active participation.
If you’ve done your job as a ﬁlmmaker, at the end of your ﬁlm they’ll be reeved up and looking for some way to contribute or get involved. You must give them a way to do this right away or the opportunity is lost and they’ll get back to their lives and forget about your ﬁlm.
In this weeks episode, we go into much more detail on how to make outreach work as part of your ﬁlms strategy so that you can maximise on the impact it can have and get the most out of your work.
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