Believe Us, We’ve Seen it All!

Have you ever looked at a partner in shocked disbelief and asked yourself, “Why in the world didn’t we talk about this beforehand?!”

You are not alone.

About 10 years ago I received a call from a filmmaker who had just completed a powerful documentary. “This is odd,” she said, “But why do you think my funder’s home page features an offer to get my film for free?”

“Oh no. What happens when you clicked the link?” I inquired hesitantly.

“It goes to my personal email address to fulfill the order!”

Ok, we chuckle now, but when it comes to collaborating with new partners, we almost always need to check our expectations. Early, candidly, and often.

And that’s why, shortly after that wake-up phone call 10 years ago, Active Voice Lab created The Prenups: What Funders and Filmmakers Should Talk About Before Tying the Knot. (Required reading for many would-be grantees, new-to-media program officers and film students.)

Fast, fast forward. It’s 2019 and there are so many more stories vital to 21st-century social change. Active Voice Lab has expanded the Prenups to reflect what we’ve learned from all sorts of social changemakers about their most robust and challenging collaborations when creativity is part of the mix.

Joe Brewster, Leslie Fields-Cruz, Tracie Holder and Kirsten Kelly improv Prenups for Partners. UnionDocs, Bkyn.

Welcome to Prenups for Partners, designed to help you proactively address complex issues that should be worked out at the beginning of a potential relationship, such as:

–  Power dynamics
–  Roles and input into the creative process
–  Ownership of and access to the artistic work
–  …and the toughest thing for many of us to talk about: money.

Of course, we could not do this alone. Many of you artists and advocates spoke out about these tricky questions at our Prenups for Partners focus groups in NYC, SF, LA and Chicago. Story-savvy philanthropists and movement strategists privately shared some vivid anecdotes along the way.

Indian filmmaker Shirley Abraham and Amazon rainforest-focused communicator Liliana Chacon-Menay talked about MISSON, METHOD, MONEY and more at Stories of Change Lab……before they formalized their partnership. Image courtesy Sundance Institute.

And for almost three years, we’ve been testing and customizing Prenups for Partners for Sundance/Skoll Foundation’s innovative Stories of Change Lab (thank you Rick Perez!).

What unique considerations and opportunities exist when these passionate storytellers and social entrepreneurs join forces?

We need your feedback. Click on MISSION, METHOD, MONEY, and MOBILITY (ideally in that order) and see if we’ve captured the right questions you want to review with potential partners. Read about one night stands vs. commitments. And please check out a few of the creatives, funders, and advocates in our ever-inspiring HowDoWeKnow Network who have contributed to our ongoing efforts.

What’s happening in 2019? We’re customizing the framework for allies, including Chicago Media Project, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and others. More about them — and what they really want to know about each other — coming soon.


Prenups for Partners is supported byThe Whitman Institute