Film with Impact: Stoking the Transformative Power of Story

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Film with Impact: Stoking the Transformative Power of Story

One of the featured families from the film Salam Neighbor, a Comcast NBCUniversal Impact Grant Winner, highlighting the Syrian refugee crisis.

Film director Zach Ingrasci drinking tea with Roauf, an 11-year-old Syrian boy featured in Salam Neighbor.

A scene from Salam Neighbor where Syrian men gather to share afternoon tea in a Jordanian refugee camp.

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Friday, July 7, 2017 - 11:45am

A well-crafted documentary that shines light on an overlooked or misunderstood issue can be a powerful catalyst for change. But only if people see it — and understand how to act.

In partnership with the American Film Institute’s annual AFI DOCS film festival, we’re helping documentary filmmakers gain new skills and resources to maximize the social impact of their projects. This support is part of our broader efforts to promote innovation through media, which we believe is one of the most powerful avenues for driving positive change on a global scale.

NBCUniversal co-sponsors the AFI DOCS Impact Lab, a two-day series of workshops on digital media, social marketing, community organizing, and media relations. In addition, participants learn how to engage with government leaders and other policymakers who work on solving critical social issues. Among other messages, these sessions drive home the value of measuring and reporting a film’s tangible results — such as media impressions, viewers’ donations to associated nonprofit causes, or signatures on a related petition — to keep its impact growing.

We also award AFI DOCS/NBCUniversal Impact Grants totaling $75,000 to selected filmmakers who have participated in the AFI DOCS Impact Lab. These grants are intended to help fund outreach and social action campaigns around the themes of these films, which last year included topics as diverse as poverty in the rural American South and conditions in juvenile detention centers.

Salam Neighbor, directed by Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, is a documentary about the lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Their production company, Living on One, and 1001 MEDIA received a $35,000 Impact Grant in connection with Salam Neighbor. Moreover, they say, attending the Impact Lab was a transformative experience.

“If you’re going to make a social-impact film, it takes a ton of work to follow that thread all the way through and create tangible change,” Zach says. “The resources from our Impact Lab experience, combined with the NBCUniversal grant, allowed us to create and execute the kind of serious impact campaign that we wanted.”

Our support helped the Salam Neighbor team organize 360 theatrical and community screenings, achieve 1.5 billion media impressions, and raise more than $200,000 in donations for refugee aid organizations after the film’s broad release in early 2016.

Living on One and 1001 MEDIA also helped the nonprofit Global Citizen, a Comcast NBCUniversal partner, collect more than 250,000 signatures on a petition seeking greater education funding for refugee camps and other crisis areas. Raouf — an 11-year-old Syrian boy featured in Salam Neighbor— delivered the petition in May 2016 at the World Humanitarian Summit, where government leaders pledged a total of $90 million to the Education Cannot Wait Fund.

“Film has tremendous power to create change,” says Chris. “NBCUniversal understands that, and getting their support to show more people this hidden side of the refugee crisis was absolutely pivotal.”

Keywords: Media & Communications | AFI DOCS film festival | American Film Institute | CSR Reports | Corporate Social Responsibility | Partnerships | Salam Neighbor | Skills Development | comcast | nbcuniversal