Defining Socially Conscious Film Making Essay

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DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS? HOW DO WE DEFINE "SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS" FILMMAKING?

Two accountants recently told me that the IRS is questioning (as they tended to do so years ago) whether filmmakers are hobbyists or professionals. They determine this on the basis of whether or not profits are made on a sustainable basis.

Most obviously, one of the main issues facing our industry is supply and demand—too many people willing to work for low wages in an industry in which there is too little demand in comparison to what is produced.

Certainly, the indie doc economy has been impacted by oversupply, due in part by lower barriers to entry created by myriad of technological changes, and an ever-changing media landscape. But given that we
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Are we exempt from the social responsibilities that our progressive films champion because the ends justify the means? The system is not working. And while it may be seemingly impossible to change, this does not absolve us of our responsibility to critically examine a system that, like many others in our global economy, which can be classist, ageist and exploitative. Let’s look at the elephant in the room constructively, bravely, honestly and in the spirit of discovery.

Before hearing the report on NPR today, I contemplated applying for the Ch4 BritDoc Fund. I read the following in small print:

“We cannot give you the level of funding that TV provides. On average, we invest (please define) between £10,000 and £30,000 and the budgets our filmmakers work to are very pared down. More often than not (though this varies from project to project) this means you will be expected to put your time in for free or a nominal sum until the deficit is raised.”

The text continued: "When the Foundation invests (there's word again—see the text of Dan Cogan's well-intentioned but misguided Toronto Film Festival speech in IndieWire) in a film we fully come on board as Exec Producers."

Another funder, Chicken & Egg, is also requesting Executive Producer credit on many of the films they support, e.g., "Pariah" has "Julie Parker Benello, Judith Helfand, Wendy Ettinger listed as Executive Producers.

How
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