Impact Futures Part 1 – Impact Means Business

By Danielle Turkov and Amy Shepherd

This post is part of our series on the industry of impact.

With the right impact support in place, films can both change the world and increase their revenue potential. This being so, we ask: what is the true value of impact for films, and why isn’t impact production a standard budget line?

IMPACT MAKES MONEY

We believe that impact is neither charity, nor a ‘bonus extra’ in film distribution to raise issue awareness; it’s a profit-making enterprise. 

Impact production brings substantive content and insight/expertise to films, drives marketing and PR and adds new scope to distribution, including democratising access through taking films to the communities whose story is being told. It builds audiences and market awareness and anticipation, shows the sales potential and ultimately generates viewing figures and ticket sales. 

Across pre-production, production, distribution and marketing, impact:

  • directly contributes to general sales with narratives, messaging and real-world change outcomes generating interest and giving audiences purchase motivation;

  • opens up novel sale and distribution avenues that traditional distributors cannot or do not routinely access, in particular creating and leveraging corporate and educational opportunities;

  • provides access to and mobilises relevant influencers and high-level networks, saving PR costs;

  • contributes to securing film prizes and awards, driving visibility, recognition, press and media promotion, diminishing the need for other marketing spend.

Despite this significant fiscal value – worth calculated in our experience and estimation at up to 60% of a total film budget, current impact spend is usually between 5% and 7.5% – where it is funded at all. Impact is currently dramatically under-appreciated, and funded at a fraction of its true value.

A primary example of what impact production can achieve is ‘The Cave’ (National Geographic). Every action we took to elevate protagonist Dr. Amani’s political profile intensified press interest and magnified the film’s importance as an artwork reflecting a global concern – which in turn both drove audiences to cinemas and platformed the film to awards committees, pivotally supporting the lead Oscar and Emmy campaigns and nominations. 

When impact can achieve all this, why isn’t it routinely included as a core budget line?

IMPACT MAKES FILM INVESTMENT WORTHWHILE

Committing to impact gives valuable return on investment. Public broadcasters and national film funds have a social responsibility mandate which impact support can help fulfil. For social enterprise investors, impact has both a financial and reputational gain opportunity attached. 

Political leaders frequently turn to the film industry to gain support for and raise awareness about issues that matter to them. Their ability to make and influence decisions that save and change lives and situations encourages foundations and philanthropists to provide financial support. As the call for action grows in public exposure and possibility, celebrities and influencers become willing to attach their name and reputation. 

Each fiscal party in this film impact value chain can have confidence they will receive measurable return and be seen to be involved in social change. 

At large scale, this creates a spiral effect; with everyone’s public profile on an upward trajectory, social impact content will be driven to the forefront of the market – a win for all concerned, including impact’s final beneficiaries; the at risk or affected individuals and communities portrayed on screen.

IMPACT IS THE FUTURE

While political hamster wheels turn, society continues to advance. Film gives us a tool to help policy catch up. By integrating impact production with entertainment content, we can use film to help politicians understand what citizens want, push decision-makers to work faster, and cut through bureaucratic processes to achieve end goals more effectively. 

The earlier impact is embedded into films, the more successful they can be, and the more revenues can be increased over a longer period of time. 

For film to achieve real change and added value through impact, directors and producers need to build impact into their production budgets, prioritising this early on alongside creative development. Distributors, film institutes, national funding bodies and philanthropic entities need to routinely offer impact financing as part of their giving and investment options. 

Covid-19 is changing all sorts of established structures. This is a moment for the film industry to reassess what matters, what adds value and what is worthwhile. For the good of society, we call on all industry professionals to see that the “what” is impact.