Once upon a time, before Facebook and Twitter and everything else we consider new media, a film documentary had a limited ability to make an impact (as good as some of the older documentaries were.) An audience would file into a movie theater (distribution always being the first major barrier a thoughtful documentary would have to overcome) but then the audience would file back out into the night at movie's end, touched, moved perhaps, angered but with little means of turning those emotions enter action.
Mercifully, one of the largest advantages I see of the explosion of new media is that the film documentary is no longer the start and end of the activation process but a piece of a new media puzzle that can turn emotion into action.
Consider my friend Lawrence Bender's shocking new documentary "Countdown To Zero" about nuclear weapons. It's shocking, sobering and as Lawrence said in his intro, a documentary that is trying to not just draw attention to an issue but to drive action on this issue. The screenings and soon to be broader distribution of the film is just part of the leadership that Lawrence, Participant and other partners are involved in.
What's amazing is consider that when Lawrence worked on "An Inconvenient Truth" just a few years ago many of the tools that can be used to drive action on the nuclear weapon issue were either non-existent (Twitter) or platforms with a fraction of the power they have today (Facebook.)
This topic and many others were part of the inaugural Gleitsman Social Change Film Forum where "Countdown To Zero" was shown as was the touching "A Small Act" -- the Film Forum asks the simple question "Can film change the world?" I think the answer is clearly yes.
For any aspiring documentarian, I think the take away from the weekend was use your film as the leading piece of your movement but you can create a multi-media movement that is far more powerful than the film itself.
Oh, and one more thing about Countdown To Zero. You should definitely see it -- and I won't spoil the story too much to say except to note that when you hear the story about Boris Yeltsin, well, that drove me to sign up to take action.
Because if our future depends on leaders like Boris Yeltsin making good split-second decisions, we definitely need to get rid of all nuclear weapons as soon as possible.