For more than 20 years, beginning with its international award winning three-part PBS documentary series, No Time to Be a Child, Nomadic Pictures has been committed to community engagement. The guiding purpose is to reach community audiences directly to build their awareness of the social issues in a film, foster dialogue, and motivate them to forge solutions. This has been a high impact endeavor: reaching and engaging diverse audiences through innovative and traditional media tools and resources that could advance sustainability. Through community engagement Legacy in 2000 reached over half a million people and inspired the creation of federal legislation entitled, The Legacy Act. The Principal Story in 2009 reached 9.5 million people and has been distributed to every US Embassy across the world.
What happened during the decade connecting these two campaigns was a boundary-pushing expansion of media-based community engagement strategies designed by Outreach Extensions (OE), a national consulting firm that specializes in comprehensive, high profile campaigns for media projects. Working in collaboration with Nomadic Pictures, OE developed engagement strategies that included national partnership and stakeholder development; community and partner ascertainments; public television grants leveraging their media assets; specially produced outreach videos and video clips; print and online discussion guides and handbooks; screenings/discussions; dissemination of promising practices; and digital, new media, and social media platforms.
The examples of four films, Legacy, Omar & Pete, The Principal Story, and All the Difference demonstrate the scope and significance of the collaboration between Nomadic Pictures and Outreach Extensions as well as project funders.
- Legacy: This landmark three-year, $1.0 million national community engagement campaign successfully used a documentary film as a platform for social action, including efforts to achieve federal housing legislation on behalf of grandparents rearing their grandchildren. The Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill signed into law on November 30, 2005 included $4 million for LEGACY Housing Demonstrations. The production of two outreach videos, Legacy of Community Action and Legacy of Faith, repurposing footage from the documentary, created a springboard for local discussion and action – working in partnership with local initiatives to strengthen youth, families, and communities. The Legacy campaign was funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and HBO.
- Omar & Pete: was the centerpiece for the four-year Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign, designed and implemented by Outreach Extensions through funds provided by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. For Omar & Pete, secular and faith-based community coalitions and organizations joined national reentry efforts to assist formerly incarcerated men and women and their families. OE authored a Discussion Guide and worked with producer/ director Tod Lending to produce a companion video with case study clips repurposed from the film for use by the African-American faith community. In 2006 Nomadic Pictures was awarded the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media for telling a story that brought critical issues to life. The community engagement campaign was part of the award’s decision.
- The Principal Story: This two-year campaign utilizing eight national partner organizations helped to elevate the visibility of leadership as a lever for school improvement. The project raised awareness, educated and motivated key audiences, including opinion leaders in policy and education; provided resources; and spurred collaboration and action. Central to the campaign was a grants program through which 17 public television stations produced broadcast town halls or documentaries that highlighted local education and leadership issues and solutions. The project’s sole funder, The Wallace Foundation, received the first-ever Woodward A. Wickham Award for Excellence in Media Philanthropy from Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media. The award recognized Wallace’s funding of the film as well as its visionary philanthropy in funding a comprehensive outreach and engagement plan to accompany the film.
- All the Difference: Through the five years of filming All the Difference, released nationally on the Emmy winning PBS/POV series, Outreach Extensions advised Nomadic Pictures on topics and scenes that would be useful to a national engagement campaign. As a result, 31 outreach video clips highlight the obstacles that the film’s two young men, Robert and Krishaun, encountered and how they effectively used a range of people and resources to help them achieve the dream of a college degree – and begin their working lives post-college. Two online resources utilizing the 31 clips, a student handbook and a facilitator guide, offer a roadmap for first generation college students, particularly young men who may be deterred by issues of poverty and race. A broader community engagement campaign will be conducted by the broadcaster POV, an acclaimed PBS public affairs series. Funders are the National Black Programming Consortium, American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Wyncote Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
For more information on Community Engagement, please contact Nomadic Pictures.