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Roundhouse Radio's Tracey Friesen authors 'Story Money Impact,' a resource for funding media

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Friesen outlines six points that help tell a good story, from narrative arc to access, but by book’s end, it is clear that hitting the right emotional tone is the most important storytelling element. Elise Pearlstein from Participant Media, US, talks about protecting the filmmaker in the initial process from the overwhelm of outreach and distribution considerations, but her voice is later buried in a chorus of others that press the importance of planning for social impact while developing the film and seeking funders. 

In Friesen’s first Producer’s Memo (Memos are included in each section to personalize with a case study based on her NFB experience), she focuses on Carts of Darkness.  The questions she asks will help filmmakers hone their stories in order to present them to executive producers, broadcasters and funders.  This is not a Robert Mckee in-depth story structure lesson, but Friesen has a lot of territory to cover.  Next up, Money.

About Money

Since funding structures vary country to country, this section has to be read with perspective in mind.  Through interviews and contextualizing, Friesen touches on approaches in England, Australia, the US and Canada. Two sample financing scenarios are presented in the appendix:  Hadwin’s Judgment, an NFB international coproduction that cost over a million dollars; and Big Joy: the Adventures of James Broughton (US), a more common independent documentary film budget at just over $500,000 that, sadly, is about half in-kind.

A great tip comes from Geralyn Dreyfous of Impact Partners Film fund, US, who says, filmmakers should have someone comfortable asking for funding on their team. The funding worksheet is also helpful.

About Impact

The Impact Section digs deep and looks at the shifts in how impact is studied. Debika Shome, Harmony Institute, US, (a great interview, by the way) talks about a site they launched in 2015 as a free service where filmmakers can explore the social impact of past documentaries.  As Dreyfous says, filmmakers need no longer think of getting the “scoop” but of becoming part of a pod of films that together address specific social justice concerns. Also found online is BRITDOC’s “Impact Field Guide and Toolkit”, which Friesen raves about.

Photo by Bill Weaver

The book is chock a block with great interviews with some film world powerhouses, such as Beadie Finzi of BRITDOC, Geralyn Dreyfous, Steve Cohen of The Chicago Media Project, Elise Pearlstein and, those closer to home, such as Michelle van Beusekom, NFB, Andrea Seale, David Suzuki Foundation, Katherine Dodds, Hello Cool World and Vancouver Observer’s founder, Linda Solomon.

By book’s end, filmmaker and funder alike will have a good sense of the conversations taking place around funding films for social change, and if they fill out the worksheets, a clearly outlined project plan.

Friesen has inspired many with her passion for film and social change. This book is just one more example.  I’m hoping there will be a second book soon (nudge, nudge) that will guide funders and filmmakers on a new Canadian funding path.

Friesen is leading a workshop at Hollyhock on Story Money Impact at the beginning of June.  

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