How films are financed, produced, distributed and marketed looks very different than it did just a few years ago. Filmmakers have become marketers, brands have become distributors, and the audience has become financier. Nowhere has this shift been more pronounced than in the world of documentary films.

At the Future of Film panel at the 2012 Advertising Week, four fascinating panelists discussed how documentary film can make a difference in the lives of both viewers and filmmakers.


PANELIST: Whoopi Goldberg

Though Whoopi Goldberg is among the rare echelon of entertainers who has received an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony (aka, she’s an EGOT), she is currently tackling a new challenge: directing a feature documentary. In July, Goldberg successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign for her passion project: a movie about the life of legendary comedian Moms Mabley.

In addition, three weeks ago Whoopi Goldberg made headlines when she announced she was trying to quit smoking after watching a short film about 2 children with cystic fibrosis. On September 12, she tweeted, “Thinking I am gonna try & stop smoking soon, saw video about 2 kids with Cystic fibrosis and ALL they want is to be able 2 breathe normally / & here I am able to breathe and abusing it.” Since then, she has been chronicling her successful stoppage on Twitter.


PANELIST: Doug Scott, President, Ogilvy Entertainment

As the entertainment marketing arm of Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy Entertainment develops story-driven branded content and original entertainment to connect brands with audiences on a variety of media platforms.

This Friday, a film produced by Ogilvy Entertainment will be released by Roadside Attractions in theaters, on demand, and on iTunes.

Directed by Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare examines the current state of the American healthcare system with a critical eye: How can Americans, together, repair the crumbling infrastructure and save the health of a nation?


PANELIST: Connor Schell, VP & Executive Producer, ESPN Films / Classic

With its Emmy-nominated 30 For 30 series, ESPN Films has broken new ground in the arena of sports documentary. Initially launched to commemorate ESPN’s 30th anniversary, the series has included some of the best sports films—from today’s most celebrated filmmakers—and has been showcased at film festivals around the country.

This fall, the brand expands with a 30-part digital short film series; 30 for 30 Shorts is presented as a collaboration with Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. Watch the first short in the series, Arnold’s Blueprint, directed by the Zimbalist Brothers (The Two Escobars) online here.

The new season of 30 For 30 kicks off October 2 at 8:00 pm with the television premiere of Broke, Billy Corben’s fascinating look at the financial trials and tribulations of today’s premiere athletes.

 


Panelist: Judy Hu, Global Executive Director, Advertising & Brand, GE

Last year, global market leader GE partnered with Cinelan, a documentary program led by Morgan Spurlock and Karol Martesko, to launch Focus Forward Films, a series of three-minute documentaries from leading filmmakers that showcase innovation, ideas, and invention.

The films focus on visionaries such as scientists, engineers, economists, mathematicians, physicists, financiers, and others who have facilitated human progress or reshaped our world by their efforts and invention, and Focus Forward Films have been featured at prestigious film festivals around the world, followed by online (free) distribution to millions of viewers.

 

Focus Forward is currently hosting a Filmmaker Competition, with prizes totalling $200K. They invite professional filmmakers to create a 3-minute film on the theme of innovation and human invention; submissions close on October 7.