Beth Karlin

The Art and Science of Film and Behavior Change – An Emerging Agenda

Dozens, if not hundreds, of environmentally-focused films have been released over the past decade. Film is noted for its ability to emotionally engage viewers about important issues more than other mediums, yet moving viewers from affect (e.g. feeling something) to action (e.g. doing something) has proven more difficult. Films that seek action on the part of the viewer face more than the challenge of captivating the audience for the duration of the film; viewers must be motivated to follow through with suggestions present—whether it is to change a light bulb, sign a petition, or march on Capitol Hill. How can this be accomplished? How do environmentally focused films serve to educate, empower, and engage viewers as well as to build capacity for systemic change? This talk will explore these questions, with a focus on both the medium of film itself as well as the multimedia campaigns in which such films are now embedded. Technologies such as streaming video, social media and network applications are leading to new forms of documentary creation, distribution, and outreach. This new breed of issue-based multimedia campaigns clearly has a role in inspiring and educating the public about important environmental issues, but its role, function, and impacts are still largely unknown. Film campaign strategies, impacts, and evaluation will be discussed in terms of both traditional and new media, with an eye towards exposing what we know, exploring what we don’t, and leveraging our connections to maximize impact.

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