Building a Stronger Message by Talking with Our Audience

April 24, 2014

By Winnie Biwott

On the weekend of March 20th, our team – Exploring the Intersections of Energy and Peacebuilding through Film – went on a trip to Washington D.C., where we participated in a workshop led by Sean Peoples of the Wilson Center and Rob Shore of the FrameWorks Institute.  This workshop was an opportunity for us to present and get feedback on our work thus far to develop short films on the connections between energy resource management, conflict, and environmental and human well-being. To create this film my group has been cataloging and reviewing footage gathered during the United Nations Environmental Program’s (UNEP) post-conflict environmental assessment in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2011. In addition to familiarizing ourselves with the environmental situation in DRC at the time, we have been extracting short clips that will help us show the connection between people’s livelihoods and the environment, especially in post-conflict settings.

Before the workshop, my teammates and I had created a storyboard for our film, but we were still struggling with drafting a clear and precise script of our story. The workshop with Peoples and Shore was very crucial and instrumental in propelling us forward in our filmmaking process.

Peoples, who has been working with us since the start of the project, gave us more insights and suggestions on how to develop scripts. He introduced us to the ‘two column film script’, a template that has been very helpful in facilitating proper organization of visual clips and their corresponding word narration in the film.

On the other hand, Shore was hearing about our project for the first time and was able to give us a fresh response to the topic. We were able to get feedback from someone who might be a potential audience for our film and who also had no prior knowledge of what we wanted to show. He helped answer our question of whether or not we were succeeding in communicating to our potential audience, who probably are not aware of environmental peacebuilding or the DRC conflict.

As someone who is in the process of learning the art of communicating environmental issues through film, this workshop made me realize how challenging it is to convince, move, or even appeal to an audience through film. During the film making process, we could be convinced that we are conveying the message that we want because of our level of immersion and involvement with the film. However, this might not be the case and hence the criticism of a third-party audience is very important. As we tackle the last step of the project, which is making and editing the film, we are striving to seek feedback from other people who are not involved with our project. This will ensure that our final film manages to serve its intended purpose of educating students and the general public about the interdependence between people’s livelihoods and natural resources. Furthermore, the audience will understand the need to create a sustainable interaction between the people and the environment in post-conflict settings such as the DRC and other conflict countries around the world.