Filmmaking as a tool for social impact: modeling documentary to create change

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Documentary filmmakers increasingly challenge the boundaries of form and access by creatively incorporating diverse distribution options. For films intending to create social impact, emerging guides and resources can steer the production to effectively reach target audiences and measure the film's influence. Using The End of the Line, Girl Rising, and Bully as case studies, I posit that the increased analysis of a film's influence can guide the creative process to craft a more successful and targeted project, when success is defined as an actionable change. Specifically for films exploring polarized issues, new research from the Cultural Cognition Project suggests audiences are more willing to incorporate differing views when perspectives are presented in a way that allows them to grow identity, rather than challenge and demonize firmly held beliefs. I will apply the identified techniques to shape my creative process and measure the impact of my film, Red Wolf Revival, with the goal of depolarizing a contentious wildlife debate, increasing cultural cognition regarding red wolf recovery program in North Carolina, and motivating audiences to communicate their stances to decision-makers.


Red Wolf Revival is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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