Netroots Nation

Lessons from Hollywood


by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network at Netroots Nation 2011

As an aspiring, starving filmmaker, this afternoon I ventured over to ‘Moving Hearts and Minds, What Hollywood Can Teach Progressive Activists.’ Marta Evry, a film editor from Blue Cow Productions, took us through some guiding principles and very simple film and video ad storytelling techniques. Television and social media ad campaigns are an excellent way to move skeptical audiences to empathize with your position, campaign, or movement. If your goal is to find common ground with a movable middle or even the “opposition,” keep in mind these three basic objectives:

  1. INVITE the viewer to your position; do not hit them over the head with your position. “Show; don’t tell,” is a key guiding principle to follow. Appeal to the viewers’ senses with music, sights, smells, and feelings.
  2. Create EMPATHY with imagery, not endless facts and figures. Sentimental images and music are powerful mediums for creating empathy and shared experiences; camera angles, lighting, and filters can make a big difference in the viewers’ experience as well.
  3. Convey information through EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT and REPETITION.

We reviewed three examples. Workshop participants were invited to give their reactions. Marta wanted to know: How did the ad make us feel? Who in the ad did we identify with? And what was the most memorable moment for us? Although some felt very manipulated, others felt moved, nostalgic, angry, sad and sentimental. Clearly, we all have very subjective experiences of stories that we are told, but the effective ones invited us in while the ineffective ones left us mostly confused over facts and figures, wondering about the overall point. The takeaway seemed to be that ads are opportunities to find common ground through shared emotions and the humanity of our individual experiences.

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