When people are involved in the process of filming, they are more likely to feel a connection to the video, and when they feel a connection, they are more likely to be part of the advocacy efforts around it — from attending a screening to sharing the video with friends and family. In this way, participation in the filmmaking process can help to grow a social movement.
Off-camera, the process can be enriched if they contribute ideas for the video, attend a screening event, or join in a community-wide discussion about future action. On camera, you can invite them to be interview subjects or appear in the video in some other way, depending on the style and tone of the video.
Impacts of Participation During Filming
- Collecting multiple perspectives for the video provides a rich and thorough argument and strengthens the conversation around the video.
- Helping to create videos builds people’s skills and capacity for making videos for change, public speaking, and formulating and expressing ideas. Realising one has the capacity and skills to create videos can be an empowering experience.
- Being part of a filmmaking process helps foster collaboration practices.
- Filming opens up spaces of dialogue, allowing people to share their views and stories, in their own words and in their own ways. Turning on a camera can be a catalyst for people to take the stage, express themselves and listen to each other in new ways.
- Creating together for the camera can be fun for participants. It can also encourage social cohesion and help build empathy.
- Since the filming process draws attention to the people, places, stories or situations portrayed, the process can encourage people to shift perspectives on local knowledge and realise the value of expertise around them.
- Filmed interviews can create a space for participants to reflect and go deeper in their thinking, share their stories and feel heard.
- People can often feel more accountable for what they say when being filmed. Putting their words on record encourages them to put effort into their thinking and to follow through with their promises.
- Taking action by speaking out on camera can help galvanise community members to be part of a movement for change.
Before you invite participation, be aware that there may be negative impacts too. These can include the following:
- People may have had negative experiences in the past with video production processes. In certain scenarios, a film crew may be viewed with suspicion. In these cases, you may need to have specific conversations that help build trust and understanding. See Values and Methods: Participation and Inclusion.
- Highlighting one person’s story over another could potentially cause jealousy. If decisions about who and what to profile in the video can be taken collectively according to criteria that are set by a group of peers, there may be less likelihood of negative feelings and mistrust around the video.
- Rumours may start about why the video is being made and where it will be shown, or what people receive if they share an interview for the video. Be ready to offer clear and transparent explanations to minimise unrealistic or unmet expectations. See Values and Methods: Accountability and transparency.
- You may put people at risk by asking them to speak out in scenarios where they may face backlash either in the short term or long term. Consider the time of day, location and implications of filming them (and of bringing expensive video equipment into certain areas). See Values and Methods: Risk management.
- Politicians or other interest groups may seek to manipulate the filming process by pushing their own agenda.
- Community members who don’t have anything relevant to contribute may request to be on camera, and turning them down for participation may lead to bad feelings in the community. It may be valuable to be creative about including their perspectives, either through inclusion during the editing phase or by creating clips for separate distribution.
- Be careful about flattening out the variety of perspectives in a community. Don’t assume whoever you are working with is truly representative of a community. Sometimes an individual within a community may have a perspective that is very much on the outside (this may come up often when dealing with issues related to discrimination, for example).
- People may become nervous on camera while being filmed and either forget or mess up what they were going to say.
Strategies to encourage collaborative relationships during filming
- Respect people’s time and boundaries.
- Keep promises.
- Be mindful of barriers to participation, and be flexible.
- Make time for conversations and social interaction before and after the filmmaking.
- Be open and responsive to those who are keen to get involved, but be clear on your limits.
- Follow a rigorous but practical informed consent process.
- Encourage people to speak in the language they feel most comfortable.
- Be aware of the many things that inhibit people from sharing their stories on camera, or make the process uncomfortable for them. Listen to their hopes and fears, and their wishes for how they would like to be represented.
- Offer or share editorial control wherever possible (especially if you are practising participatory or co-creative methods) and be transparent where it is not possible. Establish communication channels and accountability of the filmmakers (See Values and Methods: Accountability and transparency).
- Screening raw footage for community members may help both you and them reflect on the viewpoints shared, and deepen overall understanding of the issue. In turn, notes on the footage might help you plan for the next shoot and expose community members to video production processes.