Make Media that Matters

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As an actress and filmmaker who is also very interested in social justice, I've been asking myself this question for a long time: How does one make media that matters?

It's one thing to create a movie about a really good story and it's another thing to create a movie that not only has a good story but also catalyzes change within your audience. And as much as one wants to make a change one must also take time to hone their craft. Trying to create change without first advancing that story through a quality vehicle will most assuredly cause the audience to become distracted by bad storytelling.

At this point in our culture, I think most people know what good storytelling and bad storytelling is. I liken it to flying in an airplane. You expect that the pilot can fly the plane and offer you a reasonably smooth ride to your destination. It takes an exceptional pilot to land the plane so smoothly that you're not sure when you actually touched the ground. In the same way, I think that most people have an expectation of a certain quality of storytelling when they watch a film in the movie theater.

As a content creator who is interested in making media that matters, I've really just been an observer while I created. However, I think that I've unintentionally created things that I hope matter because it came from a genuine place. 

For example, the first play I wrote and directed was called A Song for Peace. It was a direct result of hearing the need of some young people in my community after their friend was shot and killed while riding his bicycle. They wanted to do a play in is an honor. Frankly, I was nervous about the entire thing. I had never written a full-length play or directed and produced anything to that level. I was a new graduate, newly married and also pregnant with my second child. I didn't feel adequate. But we did the play and it rocked our community. Our turnout was great, we even attracted the mayor's office and local media to what we were doing. This along with other experiences taught me several lessons about creating media that matters. I hope that these tips help you along the way.

1. Dive in and start

I really wanted to quit out of fear but my mother in law, who ran the center where the children attended after school, told me it was too late and people were counting on the play. I had no choice but to dive in and do whatever it took to write the play. I prayed and wrote and prayed and wrote. God inspired the work so much so that I was writing details of the teenaged boy's life that I would never have known.

I had to carve out time at a coffee shop and just start. It's just that simple and that complicated all at the same time. You can think and think and think all you want but it's not the same as doing. You will be surprised that once you begin typing that first word it gets easier to type the second word and then the third and get the picture. 

You have to just get to the edge of the board and dive in.

2. Do your research

About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend a documentary called Under the Bridge: The Criminalization of Homelessness. This film was based in my home city of Indianapolis. Becuase of this amazing film - legislation was actually changed concerning the government being allowed to kick homeless people off of a piece of property without providing housing. I have absolutely floored that a film had so much power to actually change lives! When I found out about it I had to make time to see it.

I had a chance to hear the filmmakers talk and I saw that they were truly passionate about what they did. They had spent years on this project and even spent time in the homeless tent city that they were covered in the documentary. One thing that I was really amazed by was how in depth they went with all of the information that they presented. 

The filmmakers took the time to circle back on comments they got from those in the mayor's office as well as researching what the journalists were covering. They even discovered news that the news channels had no idea about. They didn't let anyone off the hook and they didn't let any information slip through the cracks.

3. Focus on a Topic that you are passionate about

Did you know that it can take years to make a quality film? From research to writing, to post-production, marketing and distribution it takes a lot of people and a lot of time to get a movie finished. That is why I stopped being so harsh on films because now I know that it takes so much work just to get one finished!

It's even harder to get a film completed if you are an independent filmmaker. Many times independent filmmakers wear more than one hat...and everyone on their team wears multiple hats as well!

We all know that passion can sometimes waiver but passion is something that can be re ignited as well when energy is running low. Make sure that your project is something that you are really really passionate about.

4. Be brave

Our culture is suffering from an overload of content creation that is unoriginal.  Everyone reposts and reshares content because it's easy. It doesn't require the creator do anything more than clicking a button on their mouse.

Hollywood loves to create trilogies and remakes of old hits. Even TV rehashes old formulas to get ratings up. 

But notice when someone does something original! All of a sudden the world is refreshed again. It's like a new energy shoots through the culture. At one time Twilight was a new idea and all of a sudden the entertainment world was obsessed with vampires and werewolves. Remember the first time Michael Jackson did the moonwalk? WOAH!

It takes guts to be unique, to do something different than what you see around you.

If you have a unique idea be brave and share it. The world needs that gift that only you have.

I want you to know that I'm on this journey with you. I'm trying my best to be brave as well. 

Do you have any tips on what it takes to create media that matters?


dija henry