“Story telling is an important part of our education; it strengthens us and helps us build resilience.”

-Dr. Joy DeGruy

In Asheville, 35% of black students are reading at grade level, compared to 71% of their white counterparts. While statistics of this nature reveal disparities within the educational system, the lives and experiences of the students behind those statistics offer insight on how those disparities shape our communities.

What is an Impact Strategy?

An impact strategy is a plan for using a documentary film to spur intentional action on the part of the viewers. While the film gets viewers to feel something, it is the impact strategy that assists viewers with turning what they feel into action designed to produce such outcomes as changed minds, changed behaviors, or changed systems. The impact strategy serves as a means for filmmakers to empower people and elevate the work of those who rarely see their experiences on screen.

Many of us can agree that a good documentary film helps audiences feel empathy for the people featured. In these ever-evolving and increasingly volatile times, documentary filmmakers are being challenged by funders, distributors and audiences alike, to move beyond telling stories that simply foster empathy and explore how film can be used to drive measurable results.

Impact strategies can include any combination of such things as planned screening events, development of educational materials, collaboration with various organizations, convening of conferences or networking sessions, and much more. These strategies are best defined in partnership with others locally and nationally who have a connection to the issues presented in the film. Most often, these people or organizations are operating on a grassroots level, under the radar of major media and outside the public discourse. An effective impact strategy can result in contributions of time, talent, money and more to the areas where there is urgent need.

Create a Clear Vision

Beneath The Veneer is a documentary about opportunity, success and inequity in America. Our vision for the impact of this film is to acknowledge systemic inequity and its impact on black, brown and low income communities. Compel viewers to understand the traumatic impact of multi generational inequity. Motivate viewers to take transformational action to dismantle systems of oppression.

We are developing the strategy to realize this vision with the guidance and support of our Advisory Team, a collection of more than two dozen community leaders who share the same vision. This strategy will include measurable outcomes as well as specific steps that others can take to support the intended outcomes.

Use Community Events to Introduce Your Story and Build Support

Currently, part of our strategy involves presenting the short film Upwardly Mobile to various audiences, followed by a discussion on topics from the film and ending with clear calls to action for those in attendance. This model, film + discussion + action, is central to our work and informs our process during the production of Beneath The Veneer. and the development of our impact strategy. So far, we’ve been able to have screenings for audiences in Asheville, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We recently received support from the We Shall Overcome Fund that will allow us to share the experience with audiences in other locations as well.

We look forward to sharing more about our impact strategy, perspectives from Advisory Team members and comments from audience members in future posts. We’ll also share details on how we work with Advisory Team members and a network of community leaders to create, refine and execute the impact strategy.

Systemic inequity plays a major role in limiting opportunities for success in communities of color. We believe that the production of Beneath The Veneer and our impact strategy can lead to solidarity with and support for historically marginalized communities, like those featured in the film.