We think Chicago Media Project is one of the coolest networks of film funders (“film-anthropists”) around. First of all, they’re profoundly curious about and respectful of the creative process. Secondly, every staff and community member we met seemed to have strategy and empathy in their DNA. From Chicago to Park City to a student-filled ballroom in the Bay Area, Active Voice Lab and CMP are finding common purpose and the right questions to ask. Here’s their summary of their October 2015 Big Table Dinner, at which AV Lab presented approaches to impact measurement when investing in or donating to documentary film:
After an overview of CMP’s equity-investing and grant-making approaches to film from chairman Steve Cohen, our invited speaker for the evening, Ellen Schneider, led a thoughtful, interactive presentation on the idea of impact and measurement in documentary film. Schneider is a leader in social justice media strategies, currently as the director of Active Voice Lab, which builds tools — such as ThePrenups and HowDoWeKnow.net — that help people use stories, art, and culture to advance social change. Schneider asked our guests to think about their own approaches to impact measurability when they consider investing in or donating to a documentary film, and then walked us through the different “garden tools” metaphors her team uses when analyzing a project to assess its impact strategy and impact metrics. CMP members came away with a sense of how both filmmakers and film funders can work together to define and track the impact of a project on its own terms, rather than comparing it to a one-size-fits-all model of measurement that cannot fully capture the range of social impact a project can have. This fascinating look into yet another side of the doc film world brings further depth to CMP’s ongoing conversations with members and industry leaders about just what it means to create media that makes a difference.