How much do documentary films impact audiences? How do you know in advance a film can make a difference? The Messenger team set out with some ambitious goals early on. We wanted to tell the important environmental story about our beloved songbirds, but we also wanted to make a beautifully artistic film that would be captivating for audiences and stimulate discussion for many years to come. We knew that to capture people’s hearts and minds the film had to be original and spellbinding in its approach, one that was worth going out to experience in theatres. Because most documentaries take years of dedication and hard work to produce there has to be a compelling drive from within the production team to bring the ‘idea’ to fruition and then once the film is made there needs to be a desire and person-power to do the additional outreach and impact work.
Since THE MESSENGER made its World Premiere at the Hot Docs International Film Festival and was released theatrically in the USA, (Dec. 2015) then started touring across Canada in 2016, there have been lots of good reviews and positive feedback so we know we have met some of our goals.
Now we are asking ourselves – has the film had the impact we want it to? We are not sure yet.
We love it when we hear how other people have been inspired by our film to create other new artworks!
Bridget Polei, a BFA Ballet student at The University of Oklahoma (which has one of the top university ballet programs in the USA) wrote to tell us she was inspired after watching The Messenger on US Netflix to create and choreograph an original ballet set for 3 dancers. She says it combines the gracefulness of ballet and the beauty of birds to personify the struggles songbirds face as they migrate. Her original dance set debuted in January as part of the Young Choreographers Showcase at the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre in Norman, Oklahoma. Bridget says “I loved all the beauty and inspiration the documentary brought to my artistic process.”
Some testimonials from screening hosts indicate the film is doing its job in awareness building of environmental issues. Recently Hugh Powell, Science Editor for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Communications Dept. had this to say about a screening in Pittsfield, MA where he moderated for the Mass. Audubon Society.
“Just wanted to let you know that The Messenger had a very good reception last night in a nearly full auditorium with about 110 people in attendance. Listening to people’s reactions during the film, I heard a couple of gasps at the sight of all those birds in the 9/11 lights, a giggle at the first shot of the German DJ with his laptop in the stream, warm recognition of the White-throated Sparrow song and the Scarlet Tanager shot, a few wriggles of discomfort when the woman eats the Ortolan Bunting, and a chorus of appreciative laughs at the motmot’s tail ticking. At the end there was silence and then applause.” .
Hugh goes on to say the Q&A was lively and lasted for about 30 minutes. ” People asked lots of questions about how the different sources of decline compare to each other in magnitude, what they could do to help stem the declines themselves, and a few perceptive questions about details that the film brought up (like why don’t Purple Martins just change their schedule at the same rate that climate is changing)”.
We have heard from people who knew nothing about birds that they feel differently about songbirds after they see it, and many have a greater appreciation for their role in the bio-diversity of the planet. Conservation Groups have told us the film makes explaining their field work easier too.
At the time of writing this blog post, THE MESSENGER has played in over 210 theatres in North America, including many screenings at regular cinemas. It has been selected for numerous international film festivals and the film continues to be in demand for TUGG theatrical-on- demand and community event screenings. People are also watching it at home via Netflix and iTunes in the USA and documentary channel and iTunes in Canada.
We expect UK and Australian Audiences will have access to see the film soon.
The Messenger will be having its Central American premiere at Cinema Planet in Mexico in May.
If you have an impact story about our film to share, or The Messenger has inspired you to do something special, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you!
Joanne Jackson, Producer of The Messenger. firstname.lastname@example.org