Contemporary advocacy filmmaking : campaigns for change

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


In recent years, advocacy documentaries have evolved to incorporate a range of tools and strategies to effect change. Unlike "social issue documentaries," which are often produced to simply increase awareness around an issue, newer forms of advocacy documentaries not only strive to educate the viewer on an issue, but also to engage the viewer in specific actions. New media and digital technology provide novel tools for documentary filmmakers interested in creating these changes. Not all documentarians have the goal of creating change, nor should they. But for those that do fall into this category, there are certain approaches and tools that are invaluable for creating impact, as well as measuring the outcome. Ideally, the advocacy documentarian should consider the framework that is available and how to best utilize the available tools and methods to obtain the most successful outcome, and should do so well before onset of production. I analyze the leading approaches that successful contemporary advocacy documentaries have employed, as well as some of the pitfalls that others have faced. After identifying the defining characteristics of "successful" advocacy films, I analyze several advocacy documentaries to illustrate how these methods and approaches are utilized, as well as some measurable impacts. I specifically address environmental and social justice advocacy films as salient examples. Additionally, I discuss the current methods for measuring the success of advocacy documentaries and how these metrics can be applied.


Lords & ladies: the Harlequin ducks of Glacier National Park is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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