Jessica Dunlop, Director of 1 Minute to Save the World
At the recent Branchage festival, Matter Productions presented a forum on how charitable organisations can use film as a campaign tool. With the ability to seed films across the web, viral campaigns are becoming increasingly popular as a way of getting vast numbers of people to see/hear your message. This is great for both the charity as well as the filmmaker, as it offers a viable means of earning a living within a creative – and often rewarding – field.
1 Minute to Save the World is one organisation that’s embraced this idea ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December, asking filmmakers to submit short, one minute films in response to climate change. I met with Jessica Dunlop, 1 Minute’s Director, to ask her about the project and ask how we can help.
HJ: How did you first come up with the idea?
JD: A UK campaigning group called WeCAN came up with the idea of a film competition as an effective way of raising awareness of climate change. One of their founding members, Rebecca Frayn, had made a 1 minute film to raise awareness of the Heathrow runway which had a lot of success on Youtube and they realised the 1 minute viral was a good way of getting campaign messages out to a larger audience.
HJ: What’s the brief for the competition?
JD: Make a 1 minute film on climate change. We wanted to keep it open and inclusive and see what came through the door. So far we’ve seen a really rich diversity in themes, perspectives and genres, with unifying issues that everybody can relate to.
HJ: How much of an impact do you think short films can have on changing public opinion on issues such as climate change? Do you think it will drive people to take action?
JD: It’s a given that everybody’s opinions in the West are formed by the media at large. With this in mind there is no doubt that the 1 minute film can change people’s perceptions and influence behaviour – advertisers have been using it successfully for years. I believe film has a huge impact. It is the folklore and storytelling of the 21st Century. In an age where people have become saturated with information, the short film as a medium has never been more important. New media and viral marketing may soon become the leading media. Young minds are being shaped by viral videos and each viewer is a potential political activist. We are encouraging young people to recognise their power as global citizens and use their voices to affect change. We’ve hooked up with campaign NGO’s in the UK, USA and around world who will be using the films to mobilise young people to take direct action, so the answer is yes – we are hoping that the films can help drive people to take action.
HJ: Can you tell me a bit more about the viral campaign you have planned for one of the winning films?
JD: We will be sending them out with our NGO partners asking people to take 1 minute actions. In the USA we will be part of a broader set of campaigns to raise awareness and mobilise young people in swing states to lobby their senators where the jury is still out on climate change. The USA will really be the deciding factor globally at COP15 and over the next 4 years, so we want to help pressure them into meaningful action – they need to take the lead for others to follow. We are also working with a viral marketing company to seed the videos for specific audiences. We will be able to track how many people have watched the films so will be able to see how successful the campaign has been and whose been watching. But ultimately for the viral campaign to be successful, we’re counting on individuals to watch the films and forward them to their friends and networks.
HJ: Who are you partnering with for the project?
JD: The film community has shown us huge support. We’re really grateful to Shooting People, The Times/BFI 53rd London Film Festival and Passion Pictures in the UK, who have all promoted us and given prizes. The panel of judges includes Shekhar Kapur and Bruce Parry, as well as Clare Wise of Focus Features and Debra Hayward from Working Title, who have also brought ideas and contacts to the table, as well as helping to promote the call for entries from overseas. The British Council has also supported our call for entries internationally with great success, and their Head of Film, Satwant Gill, has championed the project and recently joined the judging panel. Our media partner is The Guardian, and UK NGO partners include Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Greenpeace, World Development Movement and New Economics Foundation. Our main international partner has been Unite for Climate who helped launch the competition by sending out Flip cameras to facilitate entries from under 25′s without access to cameras. We have huge support across the board – people like the ideas.
HJ: Will the films be screening in Copenhagen as part of the Climate Conference?
JD: It was always our destination from the beginning. We’ve been lucky to partner with Millennium Art who have organised the official UNEP public art commission. Its a giant LCD cube 8m x 8m x 8m that will be placed on the lake in the centre of Copenhagen with a wooden walkway out to it and around it. The size is a visual representation of the size of a tonne of CO2. They are also projecting the films on the exterior walls of Bella Center where the conference is taking place and there will be screenings at the Planetarium Cinema for some VIP events where we’re hoping to get an audience of World Leaders – we’ll see what happens. We are really looking forward to seeing the films up on a big screen in December.
HJ: Do you have plans to continue working in this area of campaign films beyond Copenhagen?
JD: We will carry on until CO2 targets have been met – that’s a 25% reduction by 2012. And will be running more competitions in 2010 so please look out for them. We want to encourage young and talented film makers to contribute to this field. It is time we all became activists. We are creating an uninhabitable world. Our lifestyles are no longer sustainable. It’s time to think and act creatively to bring something new to the table. Climate change is the singular most important issue of our time. Most people don’t realise the scale and urgency of it. The pressure from public opinion is our best hope against destructive and unsustainable industries. We all have an individual responsibility as global citizens and its time to ask ourselves what that is. What can I do? My great grandmother was the Chairperson of the Women’s Suffrage Alliance in the early 1900′s and I’ve been really inspired by her work – I guess campaigning runs in the family.
HJ: How can the rest of us get involved and help spread the word?
JD: The deadline is Friday October 30 2009, so this is a final call for filmmakers to submit their work. Even if you’re not a filmmaker, you can still really help out by visiting the site and voting for your favourite films. The top 5 films in terms of public votes go through to the shortlist of 20 to go before our panel of judges. We will be announcing the winning films and starting the viral campaign on November. Shooting People will be screening the winner on the homepage from the beginning of December. Finally, please join the campaign on the homepage and we’ll send you the films to share with your networks.
* Also, check out Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation’s The Good Pitch for an example of how documentaries can lead the way with similar ideas discussed in this interview.