The Big Table series brings together a diverse group of people, who really should know each other, to share their perspective over a meal. The conversations dig into the big issues and opportunities of our times, such as the UN Global Goals and food equality, and we usually leave the table full with ideas on how to work together to move the world forward.
The premise of our Sundance Big Table was that the festival is not just a place for films to break through. It’s a compass for where storytelling can take us. So we convened filmmakers, film distributors, film innovators, filmanthropists, brands, and investors around breakfast to paint a picture of how film can shape the world. This is where the conversation took us.
Not just documentaries can inspire action
We started the Big Table with a question about what films have personally moved us to action — and more than half of the responses weren’t cause-related documentaries, but blockbuster narratives. Films like Juno, Princess Mononoke and Winter’s Bone inspired a new life path, showed a girl that girls can be heroines, and taught the industry that diverse stories don’t always have to be about racial tensions. Let’s find a way to focus the audience energy after seeing those indies and blockbusters and point them towards meaningful action: Could Rey from Star Wars boost a global movement towards STEM and girls that code? Could Concussion truly drive reform in the NFL?
Make the audience your protagonist
The audience has traditionally been treated as a passive recipient of information, watching characters act out heroic stories on the big screen. But what happens when we flip the paradigm to treat our audience as our heroes, and characters as their inspiration? What if we saw the climax of a story not within the film itself, but in the moments afterwards when inspired audience members came together to remake their world? When your film ends, what action do you want people to take after? Let’s start by the outcome we desire, both as filmmakers and brands, and then re-engineer a content strategy (and the whole filmmaking process) around that social impact.
“The End” is just the beginning
Being able to pull this off requires a clear path to action so that viewers, after feeling fired up, know what to do — followed by strong community building. Filmmakers can give people that spark and brands can use their reach and scale to power audience-led movements — such as Girl Rising, that inspired micro-leaders to hold their own community screenings, or the Harry Potter Alliance, a grassroots organization that gives Potter fans the opportunity to take fighting the Dark Arts into their own hands through real world activism.
People are the ultimate empathy machine
Much of the buzz at Sundance wasn’t about the films themselves — but about new ways of experiencing film. We discussed the opportunities for activation that open up as that new technology enters the home. With VR being touted “the empathy machine,” how do we give people new channels for action after they’ve felt the goosebumps inside the goggles? How could streaming platforms engage audiences — both during and after the film, just as you’re being moved to action? Let’s give people both an immediate action, like something people can do on their phone right after the VR experience touched them, and design an activation model that moves people from the initial conversation to sustained action.
You don’t have to do it all alone
(there are others, even just around this table)
What’s the responsibility of a filmmaker beyond telling the story? Filmmakers don’t have the skill set, resources and finances to do everything — but luckily, they don’t have to. There is someone on this planet, somewhere, whose dream is to learn about your film and find a way to act. So we need to connect the world of filmmakers with communities who are ready for action, and brands who want to use their scale to multiply the impact. In marketing, the shift has been from brands being heroes to brands enabling heroes. In film, the same shift is happening through inspiring and empowering community action, making people the heroes of re-making the world.
Post Script: #LetGoAndLove
After the conversation, a group of us from enso saw a film that didn’t just ignite an immediate sense of “I have to do something, anything, about this!” — but that also embodies all the above principles. @JoshFoxFilm, the Oscar-nominated director of Gasland, premiered How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. The crew have spent the last three years building a grassroots movement that involves everyone they met during the shoot, around the world. The director will dedicate the next year traveling to a hundred communities in the US, using the film screening as a beacon that brings people to workshops that arm local leaders to create local action and enable people to switch their own lives to renewable energy. Trust us, even if you haven’t seen it, you want to get involved.
Thank you for waking up early, for your thoughtful comments and your passion for filmmaking and change making. You’re invited for breakfast at enso any day:
Elliot Kotek / Beyond Cinema, The Nation of Artists, Founder (moderator)
Catherine Day / Jaunt, EP of Unscripted
Jyoti Sarda / Paramount, VP Marketing
Kendel Shore / Kickstarter, VP Communities
Kristin Whalley / CAA, Marketing Executive
Lauren Mauro / Dell, Influencer Relations & PR
Mark Nickolas / Nefertiti’s Daughter, Director
Nicole David / Starbucks, Brand Consultant
Nonny de la Pena / Emblematic Group, Experiential Filmmaker, Co-founder
Rachel Cohen-Gerrol / Nexus Global Youth Summit, Co-founder
Rajiv Chandrasekaran / Starbucks, SVP Public Affairs
Shivani Rawat / ShivHans Pictures, Founder & CEO
Carla Fernandez / enso, General Manager
Davi Sing / enso, Executive Creative Director
Jimmy Greenway / enso, Executive Video Producer
Katelyn Faith / enso, Marketing & New Business
Sebastian Buck / enso,Co-founder and Strategy Lead
Niklas Lilja / enso, Innovation Lead
enso is a creative impact agency.
We work with innovative companies and organizations to create positive impact at scale through shared missions. Learn more at enso.co.