How do you know a film is making an impact?

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.

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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 Bridget PoleiBallet 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. Herbridget.P.showcase image. 16142777_1407396842612495_318272770793890310_n 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.     IMG_0650

“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.

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We believe THE MESSENGER is making an impact, and we know it has started an important conversation about what humans are doing to wildlife and birds.   Measuring  the real impact of a film is a slow and evolving process, so we are continuing to gather data. We hope you continue to talk about and share the film, in your community, on campus and in the schools. Together we can all make a difference.

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.    joanne@songbirdsos.com

 

The Messenger Spreads Its Wings and goes on a Road Trip!

by Joanne Jackson

It is a very exciting fall season for The Messenger.   We have just come back from a  fall road trip.   We also just got word about two more awards and another nomination.  There are over 40 fall screenings booked, with more pending, and we’ve had some new media coverage.  We are now taking pre-orders on-line and preparing to release DVD’s and Blu rays, so our Canadian office is hopping.  The full impact of The Messenger’s film release is certainly not known yet,  but we know that outreach and awareness of the pressures facing songbird populations and the potential impact of bird declines on the environment is being recognized by more and more people.  Many have said the film is ‘transformative’ for them.  The potential for our film to make a real difference in society’s conservation attitudes is enhanced by every grassroots discussion inspired by the movie.

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Being on the road with the film is exciting, encouraging and sometimes exhausting. There is a lot of prep work involved and we usually end up working 24-7, but it is really rewarding to interact with local audiences.   We can’t attend every screening so we really appreciate organizations like universities, colleges, Bird Studies Canada, the film societies and conservation groups who amplify our work by hosting screening events and participating in Q and A’s.

 

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Su Rynard with audience in Dominican Republic at DREFF

 

 

Director Su Rynard made a quick but wonderful trip to the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF) in mid-September, then went to a special screening at Fleming College in the Kawarthas. (not too far from her cottage).

 

 

 

 

This weekend Su is winging her way to West Virginia, where she is a keynote speaker at the  The American Conservation Film Festival (Shepherdstown, West Virginia).

The Messenger is also being featured at The Antigonish Film Festival in Nova Scotia and The Cinema Verde Environmental Festival in St. Augustine, Florida this weekend. (Cinema  Verde has already acknowledged the film with it’s 2016 Whistle Blower Award.)laurel2016_whistleblower

 

Film participant Michael Mesure took time from FLAP’s busy bird rescue work in Toronto to head north to Pefferlaw, with  Producer Diane Woods to attend a special fundraising screening event for a wildlife refuge called Shades of Hope.

 

Social media and community outreach is critical  for us to let audiences know about screenings.  We could not do the outreach work we do without our subscribers and Facebook Fans support and the dedication of our screening co-ordinator Cayley James.

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Cayley liaises with community groups and looks after a lot of the event details. Thanks Cayley!

At the end of September, I went to some Ontario screening events  in Belleville, North Bay, Sudbury and New Liskeard. More about that under the mini-tour heading below.

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More Awards

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On October 11, at the Pariscience Awards Ceremony in Paris, France, the Messenger was awarded the prestigious Prix Buffon from the  ‘Jury Bioversité’.  The award  was presented to our French co-production partners Films a Cinq and ARTE France.

After the film screened at the North Bay Film Festival, the audience poll voted The Messenger as the Favourite Feature Documentary. 

Earlier this year we received the 2016 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award from Ontario Nature. The film was recognized because it “raised awareness of the mass depletion of songbird populations around the world.”  Diane Woods and Su Rynard were there to pick up the award.

The Messenger is currently  nominated in two categories at the Dutch International Science Film Festival. Categories:  The NTR Audience Award and the Youth Jury Award.

Stay tuned to see if we have more announcements in November. 

 

Mini-Screening Tour

Before I left to head out on a road trip for a Northern Ontario mini-tour,  The Messenger played for one night at the fabulous Empire Theatre in Belleville.  Jerry Archer from KX96 Radio moderated the September 26 event and I was joined by Peter Fuller, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and John Hirsch, Quinte Conservation for a Q and A following the film.

 

Then, on Friday September 30, I started the scenic drive north from the Toronto area.  My first destination was Sudbury, and the drive up hwy 69 with the changing fall colours was spectacular.  The Messenger opened that evening at Sudbury’s newly renovated Imagine Downtown Movie Lounge.  Phil Strong, our composer and sound designer who is a Sudbury native was in the city visiting his family, so it was great he was able to join me for the Q and A.  David Pearson and Chris Blomme from Laurentian University came out to participate in the discussion too.  Thanks to Laurentian Film Studies Prof Hoi Cheu for setting up the sound system and bringing  student volunteers to  help with the event.  A special shout out to the Giles and Strong family members who made it opening night and Lorraine Dupuis who put up movie posters for us.

 

Earlier that same week, I was interviewed by CBC Morning North radio host Markus Schwabe.  You can listen the to that interview here.

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On Saturday October 1, I participated in a panel with other industry producers at the North Bay Film Festival about  ‘getting your film into film festivals’.  The whole thing was streamed live on Facebook, so that was a new experience for me!   It was very encouraging to hear the other producers talk about the great opportunities for filmmaking that are taking place in northern Ontario.  Canadore College’s digital cinematography professor Dave Clement moderated the panel. If you scroll down on our Facebook page to Oct. 1 posts, you can watch it there.

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On October 2nd  we had over 160 people at the festival screening of The Messenger in the impressive theatre at the Capital Centre in North Bay.  Moderator Adam Contant from KISS FM Radio,  introduced me and the film. Afterwards Paul Smylie from Nipissing University and Richard Tafel from the Nipissing Naturalists Club joined us for a Q and A. We had a number of educators who made the trek out on that rainy Sunday morning to see the film, so thanks to them and everyone else for being there to ask such thoughtful questions.

 

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Just before the screening I was interviewed by Linda Holmes of CTV and a clip made it on the Northern Ontario evening news.

When festival co-ordinator Holly Cunningham later informed me  that The Messenger was the top audience documentary choice for the festival, I was a bit stunned. What a lovely surprise and wonderful way to enhance our road trip!

 

 

 

Final Stop on the Tour

 

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Proud to be showing at the Messenger at the Empire Theatre in New Liskeard,  part of the City of Temiskaming Shores

 

Although I have worked in the tv/film industry for over 20 years,  and produced many hours of Television programs,   The Messenger is just the third independent documentary I’ve produced.  It is the first  feature film I’m involved with to have theatrical release, so I was really pleased to wind up the mini-Northern Ontario tour in my hometown of New Liskeard. I still have family in the area, so it was wonderful to share the film with the local community at the Empire Theatre in its full theatrical glory on October 3rd.  Drew Gauley of the Temiskaming Screening Room film society kicked off the event. After the screening we had another interesting Q and A discussion.  The town is located in the ‘Little Clay Belt’ agricultural area of Northern Ontario and there are many farms nearby, so the issue of ‘pesticides’ and ‘free roaming cats’ were hot topics.

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L-R Glenn Scott, Bruce Murphy, Joanne Jackson, Mike Werner, Terry Phillips. Photo by Sue Nielsen, The Temiskaming Speaker

 

The Q and A was moderated by Temiskaming Secondary School science teacher Glenn Scott.

I was joined by Bruce Murphy and Mike Werner from The Hilliardtown Marsh Conservation Centre and Terry Phillips, District Director of the Grain Farmers of Ontario.  Prior to the event,  we had some wonderful local media coverage too, thanks to a Twenty questions article in the  Temiskaming Speaker by reporter Sue Neilsen  and  a Morning chat interview facilitated by CJTT  station manager Gail Moore and  Radio host Jack Morin.

Check out the commercial they made for the film!   Just click on the audio file below.

More Campus screenings are currently taking place, and more are being booked.  Find out where & how here.  Educators and libraries can now order educational copies too.  (with public performance rights) in the new Educators section of the Messenger’s website at www.theMessengerdoc.com

To read additional media coverage about The Messenger check out the  press section of this website. 

Special thanks to Mary Jackson, Darlene Jackson, Jennifer Gravel, Shelley Jackson and Patti Dubois (my sisters and sister-in-law) for helping to promote the screening and assisting me at the screenings.

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Jennifer Gravel in front of the Empire Theatre

Thanks to Telefilm Canada for providing  marketing and promotion assistance for The Messenger.

 

If you would like to contact me about the film, please email joanne@songbirdsos.com

 

Educators: Stimulate discussion with The Messenger!

Embraced by audiences the world over – The Messenger has had critical festival and North American theatrical success.  Rest assured this is hardly good-bye for the award-winning documentary about songbirds.   Many educators have been asking us if the film can be shown on campuses, in schools and in libraries. Yes, we want The Messenger to be seen and discussed by educators everywhere!  In fact we are even organizing a Canadian Campus Tour in partnership with our National Outreach partner Bird Studies Canada. It kicks off in September.

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Ontario Teachers Federation event

 

The Messenger is the most scientifically sound and beautiful film about songbirds I have ever seen. You heart will be opened to their plight and your brain to the action you can take to help save them.

Steven Price, President, Bird Studies Canada

 

 

 

Those who have seen the film will understand its power to enlighten and challenge students of all ages. Teachers and instructors will find the film inspires interesting discussions about our environment.  It can also be used to explore interdisciplinary connections to the avian issues that are depicted in the film.

Check back in to our Educators page, late October as we will have a free study/discussion guide available for teachers.

Here are just a few subject areas where we think the film has relevance.

  • Climate change
  • Loss of Habitat
  • Nature’s influence on Art and Culture
  • Biodiversity
  • Biology
  • Protecting the environment
  • Agriculture and pesticide use
  • Urbanisation and city planning
  • Advancements in tracking Technology for animals
  • Careers in environmental science and biology
  • Women in Science
  • Nature conservation
  • Photography and Filmmaking

Beyond the subject matter of the film is its innovative approach to capture the film’s subjects in  some ground-breaking cinematography.  A vital tool for filmmaking students working in non-fiction and fiction alike!

Educational DVD’s and Blu Rays have bonus material including behind-the-scenes footage, and a deleted scene.

The film is currently available for Educational use in the USA through our distributor Kino Lorber. 

Canadian libraries and schools can now pre-order The Messenger with institutional/educational and/or public performance rights for late fall delivery. Details here.

Another leading Bird conservation organization had this to say:

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The Messenger is riveting, emotionally engaging, and visually extravagant from the first frame to the last. Up-to-the-minute facts on how birds communicate about environmental change are interwoven with gripping stories about the perils faced every year by these amazing world travelers. This is a must-see movie for anybody who values the natural world or wonders about its relationship to humans.    

John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As stunning as The Messenger is in theatres, we expect the film will be appreciated on many small screens in classrooms around the world too.

To participate in the Canadian Campus Tour request a screening here.

For educational purchase, more info here.

If you are interested in a personal use home video, check out this page of our website.

 

 

Choose The Messenger Impact Campaign on Giving Tuesday!

You have the power to make a difference for birds and people on Giving Tuesday  Dec. 1.  By choosing Bird Studies Canada  and The Messenger Impact Campaign you will increase awareness about the serious declines of songbirds, and inspire others to take action for the environment and bird conservation.

Birds are environmental indicators and The Messenger offers the opportunity for dialogue and action on the issues raised by the film.  Screenings of The Messenger are now happening all around the world, and everywhere we go people are moved by the film and inspired to take action – for birds, for our eco-system, and for human kind.

 In Canada we are at a critical stage. We are ready to launch a nation wide screening tour, and need your support to make it happen.  Will you help us raise the funds we need to run a successful impact campaign and spread the important message of The Messenger?  Your contribution today  ensures more Canadians from coast to coast can experience the film. Your support also helps to generate the tools and resources we’ll need to empower people to take action for birds. 

Your actions are a vital component of change, and it’s through collective effort that we’ll make the biggest difference.

You can make a secure charitable donation on Bird Studies Canada’s Giving Tuesday webpage.  Please include ‘The Messenger” in the comment box.

If you live in the US or another country, we appreciate contributions to the International Outreach Campaign via Indiegogo crowdfunding.

We were very lucky to film this Golden-winged warbler in Central America. Golden-winged Warblers have declined sharply and now have one of the smallest populations of any bird not on the endangered species list. The North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates an overall decline of 76 percent.
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A Coffee Primer for Birds & People

People may tell you “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” But when it comes to coffee, it is possible to have it both ways.

Superb coffee can be grown by using sustainable agricultural methods that provides a home for birds, free labour for farmers, and a delicious bird friendly product for coffee drinkers around the globe.

Our documentary team filmed at the CATIE Tropical Agricultural Research Centre where ornithologist Alejandra Martinez-Salinas showed us the benefits of pesticide-free shade grown coffee. The diversity of shade trees provide a natural habitat for migratory songbirds and the birds’ appetite for the destructive coffee berry borer, provides an alternative to agro-chemicals. This is truly a win-win situation for us all.

To learn more about “bird friendly” coffee we have created a short web exclusive video featuring Robert Rice from The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington DC.  Robert travels around the world certifying bird friendly coffee farms.  He explains why we should all consider bird friendly coffee as a wise consumer option.

Help us finish the film and save a songbird at the same time.

Want to try bird friendly coffee?  We have certified bird friendly coffee available as a perk for making a contribution to our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for our feature film THE MESSSENGER.

In Canada you can purchase bird friendly coffee from http://www.birdsandbeans.ca/

In the USA: http://www.birdsandbeans.com/

Here is a handy map to help you located coffee roasters around the world who roast certified bird Friendly coffee. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/coffee/map-of-roasters.cfm

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Special thanks to Ernesto Carmen and the Café Cristina farm in Costa Rica, where in one day we filmed more than a dozen different species of migratory songbirds including Golden-winged warbler, Wood Thrush, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Wilson Warbler and many more.

Learn more about bird friendly coffee here.

 

 

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