Impact Futures Part 2 – Impact Deserves Recognition

By Danielle Turkov and Amy Shepherd

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

Documentaries, social impact entertainment and Hollywood-backed issue films increasingly challenge audiences to engage more deeply with the stories we are told. 

Films winning the industry’s most prestigious awards today either reflect the hottest social topics or make a topic hot. Take the films in this years’ Oscar shortlists – they cover political corruption in health policy, LGBT persecution, disability rights, animal welfare, to name just a few of the array of globally important issues represented.

Films have incredible power to shed new light on situations and issues, increase knowledge and understanding of complex topics, challenge dominant opinions and shift perspectives. 

While films create cultural moments, however, strategic impact is what creates a framework for people to seize that moment and introduce new narratives, voices, information, ideas and opportunities into world-changing conversations and decisions. 

Impact is either the reason a film was made and the reason it intrinsically has an audience, or generation of audiences through a meaningful impact campaign is a crucial criteria for a film to catch the attention of awards committees.

Impact indisputably positions, platforms and harnesses the power of films. It makes sure stories reach and resonate with the audiences they deserve, plants a desire or accentuates the change in the hearts of audiences, and then implements the societal change audiences want.

Films that are made, released and distributed with an impact ambition and plan can catapult a compelling story to new levels of memorability and real-world outcome and legacy.

It is for this reason that we believe impact deserves recognition.

For years, films have generated impact. They have inspired mass social mobilisations, stimulated community giving on a new scale to build structures both physical and intangible, kickstarted research and education initiatives, changed the minds of top-tier decision-makers to result in new legislation, regulation or policy, and built up powerful support constituencies to shake political foundations or take on issues as a lasting fight.

It is neither right nor fair that impact should only be recognised in the shadow of a producer’s work. We contend that impact should sit in its own awards category, a reflection of its distinct integrity and value. 

Not only this. As socially conscious industry professionals, should we not be asking film prize committees to review an impact assessment score as well as the scores they give for the other qualitative elements of the film?