New Film Release Bypasses Theaters and Goes Straight to College Campuses 

by Audra Jennings Monday, August 16, 2010
Oklahoma City—When your target audience is 18 to 25-year-olds, you must think long and hard about how you aim to grab their attention. This is the challenge set before EthnoGraphic Media Group (EGM), an educational, non-profit organization based out of Oklahoma City. To get it right and in keeping with their name, they did their ethnographic homework.

Essentially, this is a research method used in anthropology and sociology to describe the nature of a people. “It places the focus not on what we think, feel, and do but on others’ attitudes, beliefs, and actions,” explains Bill Oechsler, EGM’s president.

EGM hired Chay McQueen, LLC to conduct the study. It found that a few basic core values predict life satisfaction for EGM’s primary audience: autonomy, connectedness, and purposefulness. Basically, this means that 18 to 25-year-olds truly value three things: making up their own minds about what to believe; being part of a community that shares their values; and living lives that matter.

But there are some challenges. This age group is notoriously distracted and on an hourly basis is flooded with more information than their parents faced in a month. They are exposed to a bewildering barrage of opportunities and choices. Though they are anxious to engage in important causes, they are media-savvy and can smell propaganda a mile off.

Oechsler continues, “The research showed that millennials are connected to an experience. It convinced us that our goal should not be to create communities and movements but to create films that are welcomed into existing communities and movements. That’s why we decided to bring the film experience into the community to which they are connected.” After that, the choice of the college campus as the primary venue to screen EGM’s films was obvious. “By doing so we allow every student group to become a theater.”

The college is the perfect environment to screen the type of movies EGM produces—films that address the hardest topics creatively and objectively. “On university campuses there is a commitment (even an expectation) to asking hard questions,” explains Cary McQueen Morrow, director for EGM’s grassroots efforts. “It is the community where our target audience is making crucial choices and wrestling with complex issues. And, they are in a context that recognizes the power of ideas and desire for action.”

Morrow is heading up US screening efforts for EGM’s most recent film, Little Town of Bethlehem, on college campuses. This documentary addresses the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a fresh perspective—that of the nonviolence movement. “We are simply bringing our films into a context where dialogue already exists,” Morrow adds. “We want to open doors for constructive conversation and create openness to other points of view. And while our films don’t tell the audience what to do, we want to encourage them to live out their beliefs.”

“The biggest challenge is to create an experience that is big enough and compelling enough to attract and connect with the students.” That is where extensive communication and promotion is key. From committed faculty and students, to extensive online and offline screening materials, as well as nearby campuses collaborating with the screenings, the strategy is to create a buzz that cannot be ignored.

Nine select campuses (“from Boston to Berkeley”) will be hosting launch screenings of Little Town of Bethlehem. Faculty experts will join the film’s three protagonists (a Palestinian Muslim, an Israeli Jew, and a Palestinian Christian) as well as its director Jim Hanon and producer Mart Green in discussions around the nonviolence movement. Beyond that, more than 100 colleges and universities in the US as well as the EU have committed to campus screenings beginning in late September.

After the screening, dialogue and engagement will be encouraged and facilitated at every venue. Oechsler states, “It is the work of the film to bring people together and reward their search for meaning and insight, but after that the audience becomes part of the story. On the Little Town of Bethlehem website (www://littletownofbethlehem.org), there will be links to organizations that are making a difference. Students will be able to blog their questions, ideas, and responses to the issues raised by the story they have just witnessed. And they can experience for themselves the difference they can make when they live what they believe,” he concludes.

The launch window is set for September 21, World Peace Day, and ends on October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, the International Day of Non-Violence.

For more information regarding screenings contact EGM Grassroots at screenings@egmfilms.org.
For a review copy or to set up an interview contact Diane Morrow at dmorrow@tbbmedia.com or 800-927-1517.

Audra Jennings is Senior Media Specialist at The B & B Media Group. Since 1987, The B & B Media Group, Inc. has used its broadcasting, marketing and advertising experience to provide the specialized and strategic publicity necessary to achieve the public relations goals of each client. The Barnabas Agency, a division of The B & B Media Group, Inc., is a proven provider of exceptional public relations and personal management services for authors, speakers, ministries and organizations.

0    submitted by Audra Jennings
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