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Audience Mobilization: New Approaches to Documentary Film Engagement

Audience Mobilization: New Approaches to Documentary Film Engagement


Published on October 17, 2019

October 2019

Abstract of paper presented at Literary and Cultural Discourses on Mobility, a workshop hosted by University of Göttingen, Germany, by Mark Terry.


The documentary film has long served as an effective and influential communications tool for speaking truth to power. Activists have used this medium of storytelling for years to mobilize audiences of the general public to take action and demand progressive social change. While this process has been in wide use for quite some time, evidence of its effectiveness is rare. In those few cases where a documentary film is credited with directly influencing change, it is usually when the audience of the film is not the general public, but those with the power to enact the change.

This paper will explore two new approaches to documentary film engagement designed to facilitate and accelerate the activist intentions of the social change documentarian. The first examines a new process of collaboration that involves the changemaker prior to and during production, not only after as is currently the common practice. The second is a form and structure of the documentary film designed with community representation, global perspectives, and the international policymaker in mind.

This new form is called the Geo-Doc, a multilinear, interactive, database documentary film project presented on a platform of a Geographic Information System map of the world. This digital configuration mobilizes the changemaker at all stages of production to ensure the data and visible evidence required for progressive new policy is made available.

The result is a collaborative documentary form that makes a direct connection between filmmaker and changemaker in the social change process through new approaches to audience mobilization.


Planetary Health



Related Work

Documentary Film World | Project, Research

Youth Climate Report | Project, Research

Planetary Health Film Lab | Education, Project, Research




Mark Terry, Research Fellow, Documentary Film & Global Health

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