Want your documentary screened? Organize an educational showcase! Find guest speakers, and a free venue. Ask educators to offer extra credit for attending.
A few years ago, I did a convenience survey of UF students eating “Krishna Lunch.” I found that students wanted to learn more about Krishna Conscious recipes. It didn’t take long for me to produce an ethnographic documentary, packaged as a cooking show.
But how to screen it?
1st Step: I found a free venue. In my case, I went through UF’s Office of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs (MCDA.) Since MCDA’s mission includes raising awareness of diversity on campus, I pitched the screening as a cultural showcase. Try doing the same through other community organizations, like churches, schools, or maybe rec centers.
2nd Step: I found some Krishna Conscious guest speakers. They belonged to the temple I documented in the film, so they were happy to come, answer questions, play kirtan, and even serve food samples! That helped lengthen out the event into a “showcase.”
3rd Step: I printed some fliers and handed them out at Krishna Lunch itself. Like some kinda struggling 80’s rock band.
4th Step: I asked a professor of a related field – religious anthropology – to offer extra credit for attending my showcase. And she did! Toward the end of the semester, most educators come under lots of pressure to offer extra credit, but they don’t want to hand it out like candy. An educational showcase gives them an opportunity to be generous, without making it too easy for slackers.
(ABOVE: Our lovely audience.)
(ABOVE: Yours truly, greeting the audience.)
(ABOVE: Our guest speakers, playing kirtan.)
(ABOVE: Handin’ out samples, after all that talk about food!)
5th (Bonus!) Step: Invite media reps. I got lucky, and one of the audience members happened to major in journalism. She wrote an interesting piece about the showcase, and published it in the local news!
Remember, ethnographic filmmakers, your screening options aren’t limited to YouTube and film festivals. Consider taking your own documentary, and organizing an educational showcase around it!