With digital film production becoming more accessible and affordable on a consumer level, a fresh meander is carving it’s way through our civilisation in the shape of social action and community media. Social action will take place for as long as social inequality exists, and with the mainstream media conglomerates fuelling television sets with disproportionate representation of race, sex, class and religion, it’s up to film makers and all artists alike to spread healthy ideals throughout local, more widespread or even global communities.
The sole purpose of a social action film is to make people challenge their own views on a subject. From here it can change those views, reinforce them, inspire change or simply raise awareness for the presented cause. For a social action film to make an impact it has to be easy to interpret so that the viewer can extract the message from it no matter how analytical they are.
Over the past two years, the price of broadcast standard cameras has dropped drastically. If one can obtain a Lumix GH4 for £1000, it takes little from the imagination to see how much freedom this gives independent film makers. The college recently worked on a project to demonstrate the impact of the 2009 Cockermouth floods which affected many in the community. The screening was a success; reminding people of their collaborative feats, however the project was tainted by certain crew members using the project more for personal acclaim than to raise awareness for the cause. This is a common complication with films like these; people have the right to be credited and use the work for their benefit, but when the initial purpose is forgotten, the film can lose it’s touch.
Whilst social action can be used as a tool to bring the community together, it can also be used to challenge the foundations that society is based on. It’s no secret that American policing is heavily prejudiced and inhumane. In 2011 a song called ‘Film the Police’ was released, encouraging bystanders to record any activity of the law. This would provide information and evidence against unjust prosecution. The campaign quickly blew up. More and more videos are emerging of police brutality, some of which have featured on mainstream news channels, bringing national attention to the issue.
In previous decades, it would be a stretch of the imagination to think that anybody with a mobile phone (which is now everybody) would be able to shoot a film. This revelation put power into the hands of the people; hundreds of videos are released daily challenging the environment around us. From politics to animal rights, prejudice to poverty, anyone with a smart phone and an eye for film can make a statement. The problem is that very few people have an eye for film. A failed piece of social action media will work against the cause by distracting the viewers attention. Bad actors, cuts and audio will humiliate the film and trivialise the cause – making the viewer less inclined to shed light on the subject in future.
It is generally very hard for an independent social action film to infiltrate the mainstream media; the broadcasting standards are extremely precise (white/black levels, sound quality and clipping), which means most films simply will not qualify for broadcasting before the content is even considered. When it comes to content, only recently have programmes which question the current regime been allowed to air. With the BBC working closely with every government over the years, the broadcasts have been heavily biased. However, since the coming of social media and heightened awareness of political strategies they have been offering a more balanced platter of content. A fantastic example is ‘The Super-Rich and Us’, a program presented and written by Jacques Peretti; well known for ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’ and ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ – both offering information into the way corporations manipulated the UK into a consumerist society.
The examples I’ve given previously exist to raise local and national awareness. For a campaign to get attention around the globe it generally has to involve people that have earned celebrity status. In 1984, Bob Geldof and James Ure founded Band Aid, one of the biggest super groups the world had ever seen. Band Aid existed as a charity to raise money for famine-struck Ethiopians, and came together again in 2014 as a reformed ‘Band Aid 30’, this time raising money for Ebola. There are however, so many problems with Band Aid. Over the years it raised over $193 million for the impoverished, (last years release made $1.5 million for Ebola). Bono sings in Band Aid. Bono’s net worth is $600 million. Bono also decided that his band ought to move from Ireland to escape paying taxes.
My point in highlighting this injustice is that whilst social action is a powerful and necessary part of our society, we must respect that it is also an emotional pitfall. A distraction, used to satisfy the individual who responds with selfless acts to keep our starving society afloat. If the annual earnings of the richest hundred people combined can put extreme poverty in the history books four times over, then you can only imagine how hard they’re laughing at the other seven billion of us. Without inequality there is no action, and without action there is no heroism. In the words of Aldous Huxley, “Stability isn’t nearly as spectacular as instability”.