NYWIFT Panel Recap: The Power of Partnership in Documentary Film


Photo courtesy of Simone Pero.

On May 6, NYWIFT Documentary Committee head Marcia Rock, led a discussion with the movers and shakers behind the Girl Rising documentary on how the film secured strategic partnerships, engaged the community, and gained momentum to launch a global campaign.

Girl Rising is an inspiring documentary that spotlights deeply moving stories about the hopes and dreams of nine girls from across the globe, and demonstrates the power of education to change a girl — and the world. It is the centerpiece of 10×10, a global campaign to educate and empower girls. It is a great case study to highlight the power of documentary film, engagement, and education. 

The panelists included Tom Yellin, Co-Founder/President, the Documentary Group; Holly Gordon, Executive Producer, Girl Rising and Executive Director, 10×10; Holly Bourne, Lead Marketing Strategist, Intel; and Sumathi (Su) Balasubramanian, Program Officer, United Nations Foundation. They openly discussed their process for partnership outreach and engagement. They shared great advice and insights on creating real social impact with a documentary film.

Key Highlights:

  • The key to powerful partnerships is to focus on one to two companies or organizations, and develop meaningful relationships with them.
  • Leverage partnerships to expand your film’s network and to increase demand for screenings and other engagement efforts.
  • Be ready for a lot of “give and take” with partners, with changes along the way.
  • Some objectives for documentary partnerships are to raise awareness, drive funding to partner organizations and create opportunity for your film to change lives, mindset and policy.
  • Intel corporate partnership initiatives focus on technology and education. The Girl Rising story and the impact of education was key to securing Intel’s participation.
  • There is a correlation between world poverty and lack of education for girls. Education transforms lives.
  • Decide the focus of your effort for social change; for Girl Rising, they developed and emphasized the overall campaign as the larger effort, with the film used to illustrate the message rather than starting with the film and then building a campaign afterwards.

The Q&A led to a frank conversation on how difficult outreach can be without having the right connections and access to partners. Panelists agreed its tough, but advised the audience to focus on building relationships with companies that have an interest and synergy with your film.

It was a very informative panel on the potential of strategic partnerships to build a social change movement. — ROZ MURPHY



nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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