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ethical/financial question

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Philip Fassethical/financial question
by on Feb 4, 2011 at 2:09:23 pm

I’m planning the content of a documentary while I identify potential funding sources.

The doc is about a specific group of disadvantaged people living in a town. One potential sponsor, a financial institution, specializes in serving the kind of consumer the video is about. For example, if someone doesn’t qualify for a loan, they’ll offer classes in what it takes to qualify and how to understand the terms.

I consider the loan class a great scene to include in the video, but also a very effective marketing tool for the financial institution.

Trying to decide if the exposure they’d gain by appearing in the video --- in addition to a logo credit -- could be offered as a quid pro quo for being a major sponsor. Or if I should avoid putting that kind of thing on paper, and only mention casually that they’ll be getting great publicity if they're actually shown doing their good deed.

Both a statewide nonprofit and its national parent organization are planning to distribute the video, so there should be fairly large and sympathetic audience.


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Nick GriffinRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 4, 2011 at 3:34:38 pm

Philip -

Based on the fact that you mention ethics in the subject line, it appears that you have serious reservations about having the financial institution use your work as a vehicle for their own self-promotion. Does this summarize the basic question?

You have to decide if you want to make a pure documentary or a sponsored piece that serves commercial interests -- theirs as well as yours. There is absolutely nothing wrong with one choice or other other. The problem comes when you set-out to do the first, present it to the public as being the first and in reality have created the second. The problem becomes worse if, OK when, the sponsor exerts production and editorial control. At that point you're best to abandon any pretense of your final product being a pure documentary.

My two cents. Let's see what others have to say.


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Philip FassRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 4, 2011 at 4:09:23 pm

I did have some ethical concerns, but they're easing up as I think about it more. For example, in the PBS show New Yankee Workshop, when Norm uses a certain brand of power tool --- and that brand happens to be a major sponsor -- do we assume that he's using the tools even though he'd prefer to use another brand, or that he'd say negative things about them if the sponsor didn't have control? I assume it's a good fit of sponsor with Norm's woodworking needs.

In my case, the money management classes already exist, and I"d probably want to include some footage of them regardless of sponsorship money. But if I don't tie them together somehow, and present this as a unique way to help build good will about their business, it seems like a wasted opportunity on my part.



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Bob ColeRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 5, 2011 at 3:16:52 am

On the ethical side, Nick has raised the questions you have to ask yourself. If PBS broadcast is a potential goal, you may want to consult with them, or research their funding guidelines, before accepting this funding. Your example of This Old House is interesting but it is not an absolute "go ahead."

It would be cleaner if you found a venue to videotape which is compatible with the public interest of the sponsor, while not being quite so tightly identified with the sponsor.

Bob C


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Mark RaudonisRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 5, 2011 at 6:16:25 am

Oh PUHLEEEZZE! Enough with this "ethical talk". Somebody is going to pay for it. Frankly, you have a better chance of getting this program sold with a "sponsor" behind it.

Sponsorship of programming has been a fact of life since, well, forever!

Weren't the Medici's of 14th century Florence an import sponsor of the arts? Didn't the ancient Chinese
emperors employ legions of artisans to fill their palaces with artwork? Weren't the Pharoh's tombs an excellent example of "state sponsored" artwork? Did these sponsors influence their work? Of course. Did it make their art any less spectacular? No.

My point is, your notion of "pure" documentary is naive. Better you decide on a point of view, find like minded sponsors willing to fund it, and go for it. If you want to stay "pure", shoot it for yourself and
share it with your friends on Youtube. If you want to make some money, and yes, get a message out there that may change some minds, you're gonna need sponsorship. Will their involvement influence your production? Absolutely. That's why it's called "Show Business". Welcome to the "business".

mark



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Bob ColeRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 5, 2011 at 12:34:01 pm

I enjoyed your post, but PBS disagrees. As do viewers who are looking for objectivity, and are smart enough to say "Well, who's paying for this?" I suspect even Michelangelo would have had something to say about the problem of balancing Medicis and Popes, but that's out of my league.

It isn't just whether the filmmaker is ethical, but whether his audience will give his work the credence, if the sponsors are also the subject matter.


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Philip FassRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 5, 2011 at 6:08:05 pm

Keep in mind that I'm talking about a potential sponsor...they haven't been approached yet. And they're a credit union (non-profit) that already give the classes I'm thinking of shooting. It's not like we'd be staging a fake class just to show the c.u. in a positive light.

To get back to my main question: is there a way to "monetize" the exposure they'll get by being in the video, as opposed to just having a credit at the beginning/end. Maybe the best way is just an informal mention of the value of their inclusion in the footage, rather than something in writing?



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Mark RaudonisRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 5, 2011 at 8:02:41 pm

[Philip Fass] "is there a way to "monetize" the exposure they'll get by being in the video, as opposed to just having a credit at the beginning/end."

See! I knew you were looking for a sponsor.

Don't beat around the bush on this. Straight up approach the credit union and see if they'll bite. Coming to them after the fact will NOT be productive. Chances are they will be skeptical, resent the lack of input from the start, and turn you down flat. You may even get denied the right to use what you already shot.

There's no mystery to this. You want somebody to pay for your production, you gotta let 'em know
what you're planning on doing. Showing up after the fact and saying, "Here. Look what I did. Would you like to pay for it?" is not an effective sales technique.

mark



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Mark SuszkoRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 7, 2011 at 3:23:05 pm

Is there only one source of these classes available to show? Or can you find a couple? A lot of the perception of how much of your show is "product placement" can depend on the manner in which you shoot and edit that stuff. I'd want to see what you edited before forming an opinion on how "commercial" the placement would be.


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Philip FassRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 7, 2011 at 3:32:09 pm

Only one financial entity currently gives the class, and they'll keep giving it whether or not we include it in the video. Offering the same kind of scene to a different entity, especially if they weren't going to keep offering it, would be strictly a "service placement."



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Gav BottRe: ethical/financial question
by on Feb 8, 2011 at 2:40:59 am

"Weren't the Pharoh's tombs an excellent example of "state sponsored" artwork? Did these sponsors influence their work? Of course. Did it make their art any less spectacular? No."

Were the artists all buried alive in their creation at the end of the project?

Is this an easy "in" to a gag about modern commissioning?

Gav

The Brit in Brisbane
The Pomme in Production - Brisbane Australia.


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