If, like me, you’re a new arrival to the engagement field, insights from Firelight Media’s The Color of Impact panelists during the Tribeca Film Festival are the orientation you need.

Sonya Childress, Director of Partnerships and Engagement at Firelight, jumpstarted the panel with recalling Jennifer MacArthur’s POV editorial, Whats in a Name: Impact Producer, which defined a term and directed the conversation within the industry.

We’ve attempted to summarize what felt like both a status update on the impact field and a renewed call-to-action on diversity behind the camera from a panel of candid industry powerhouses. Enjoy some choice quotes below:

Lina Srivastava (Who is Dayani Cristal?):

  • “We are putting way too much pressure on filmmakers to be impact producers.”
  • “We are all students. Research is key, but this critical strategy time is not paid.”
  • “We should be thinking about the at-risk community. We should not tell their story and run off to get awards.”

Bernardo Ruiz (Kingdom of Shadows – POV 2016):

  • “I enter into a relationship with a participant knowing it will be lifelong. Even if I don’t embrace their actions.”
  • “Access to your subject doesn’t necessarily equal insight.”
  • “We should be interrogating filmmakers about their intentions and their responsibility to the community.”

Monifa Bandele (Hazing: How Badly Do You Want In?):

  • “We need to create the infrastructure to support impact producers of color. It needs to be purposeful.”
  • “I carve out time beyond my day job at Moms Rising to work with docs because they inspire what a stack of signatures cannot.”

Sonya Childress (Director of Partnerships and Engagement at Firelight):

  • “Bring more people of color behind the camera. Your story will be more nuanced and complex.”
  • “Who is your client? Who do you serve? The filmmaker or the community around the issue?”
  • “Films are not solutions to social issues but they are incredibly effective when put in the right hands.”
  • “Our audience engagement work serves our mission by getting stories seen by the underrepresented communities they depict.”

Jennifer MacArthur (Borderline Media):

  • “My client is the media community. I’m trying to revolutionize the way we depict communities and engage with them.”
  • “The impact producer is a role that needs to be funded – this is not an intern’s job.”

Tracy Nguyen-Chung (After Bruce):

  • “We focus on finding the reviewers who will bring knowledge of the issue to their writing.”
  • “There’s such a great opportunity to center the voices of the subjects. How do we leverage press opportunities to serve the issue?”

Deb Esquenazi (Southwest of Salem: The Case of the San Antonio Four):

  • “I would have loved to talk to my impact producer before leaking the witness recant I filmed during production – but I didn’t have those funds.”
  • “These women [San Antonio Four] are agents of their own stories. Talk to them.”

If you are trying to get your bearings in the impact and engagement field, read the full Storify recap of the conversation and follow the panelists on Twitter: @firelightmedia, @sonyachildress, @borderlinemedia, @lksriv, @monifabandele, @afterbruce, @deb_esquenazi and @bernardoruizcom. Keep up with Firelight Media via their newsletter and check out POV’s engagement strategist directory.

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Alice Quinlan
Alice Quinlan is the Community Engagement and Education Coordinator at POV. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she spent three years working as a journalist and media educator in Texas before joining the POV team.