This post is a part of a series on how to analyze a project – most likely in the documentary genre, but also applicable elsewhere – to arrive at a better understanding of what possibilities, challenges, required actions and necessary collaborations can be identified and acted upon to help the project to reach its full potential regarding reach, visibility and engagement.
If, along the way, you find that your project has the possibility to engage some of the very capable people or organizations working with impact planning and outreach, I highly suggest you consider it for help with the minutiae of the craft – but analyzing your project on your own or with your team first will give you a firmer understanding of where you need to go and what you need to do. That said, let’s dive into the first area to be looked into:
One core part of any project we’re working on is the larger context in which the story finds itself.
Oftentimes, it can become difficult to “see the forest for all the trees”, especially when you have been invested in a project for a prolonged amount of time. I know from personal experience that it is easy to get lost in the story arch of your protagonist or in those exchanges or scenes that you fall in love with. This happens all the time – while pre-producing, while out filming, in the edit… As the investment in the story increases, it can be challenging to take the necessary steps back and view the full picture. To help along the process, consider continually answer the following questions:
- What is your topic on the surface, and what undercurrents can you identify? You probably – hopefully! – have a fairly good idea of what topic your story is addressing and reflecting. This overarching topic, of which your story is a facet, has other facets, other undercurrents that underpin the topic itself. Take some time to look into these as well, to see how they impact your story, directly or indirectly, and how such connections can help you get your story in front of more people.
- What are the larger questions that are being discussed around the topic your story centers around? I.e. look into what kind of conversations are currently taking place, online or in other media, and how these discussions have evolved as of late. Try to decipher who are the main voices, what is the popular opinion, what new connections or conclusions have been drawn, and what other topics are adjacent to the one your story talks about.
- How can the topic be interpreted differently, for different age groups, territories, genders etc? Again, this is something I’m guilty of myself and quite conscious about – there are many more viewpoints on a topic than those of you, your team and anyone else involved in your project. Focus groups can be a valuable asset here, but simple web searches to find out how communities and individuals with different experiences and different backgrounds view the topic and address the topic can be valuable.
- What are the first questions that come to mind regarding the topic? This is a short and potentially fruitful exercise – get your team, a focus group or some other group of people together, explain the topic as best you can in relation to your project. Give them 2 minutes, paper and pen, and have them write down all the questions they can come up with, no matter how inane or “stupid”. This has the potential of giving insight into new inroads into your topic and broadening the horizons of your story.
Next we’ll talk target groups – stay tuned! And if you have comments, suggestions or reflections, leave a comment!