What a wild summer! There seems to be so much going on in the world and so little time to process it all. One thing I know for sure is that WE ALL need to stand up to hate and stand up for love, but we all need to have EMPATHY for one another.
Creatively, this is a big year for finishing films that illustrate what we all must understand about oppression and how to circumvent any socially constructed falsehoods which creates power dynamics where people are made to feel superior and inferior.
I’m currently, in the home final stretch on two films that forces us to think about the other side and where we are situated in their oppression. Colour Coded, is a short documentary about the racialization of poverty in Toronto (co-directed by visual artist Liss Platt); and, Education for all of us, about the educational system in Saskatchewan through the eyes of the First Nation and Metis educators.
Both of these film are research-based. In order for them to work I engage in a process of brand messaging. Instead of telling you what to buy (and why you should buy it), these films, unpack themes like racism, poverty and systemic oppression to guide audiences through how to think about the injustices that exists in this world that we live in and create positive change.
I’ve learned over the years that keeping the audience engaged in branded social justice documentaries is a bit of a different road to travel than making a traditional character-based film. It requires thinking through story using the logic behind understanding concepts that can be quite abstract, rather than just following the actions of the main character.
With branded social issues content you have to balance messaging with on-the-ground realities so the work inspires learning across the board. And by across the board I mean, it has to be able to spark conversations that will start to change the attitudes and behaviours of people with varying experiences regarding that particular issue.
Your audience may not know anything about the issue or they might know a lot about the issue. They may even be a leading researcher on the topic but may not have experienced it personally or know exactly how others have experienced it.
Knowing that these types of films are often used as educational resources in the humanities and arts and that they may be available to the public either online or through community-based screenings, also informs my creative process.
Serving so many masters can get tricky but getting to the heart of it – making it clear and fresh – for a wide range of people is a challenge I embrace with every film. The grind of documentary storytelling doesn’t change, but the stakes in social issues documentaries might be even higher. Finding the right balance is key to this type of messaging. You have to listen to the research, the clients, the participants and the universe. Being curious about how people think and finding ways to challenge their perception has actually become a creative niche for me. I now end all of my emails with the tagline, “In Creative Solidarity!”
After these films are released, I will be diving into films about people trying to do the right thing. I can’t wait to tell you all about it – In Creative Solidarity !!!