The word on This Changes Everything, the latest documentary film from the socially charged husband and wife team Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, is starting to spread. After debuting this past September at the Toronto International Film Festival to resounding applause from its audience, the film is already premiering around the world in a unique and ultra-relevant way.
Katie McKenna, the film’s engagement lead, co-producer and longtime Lewis/Klein collaborator, describes This Changes Everything as a piece of ‘impact production.’ This concept of filmmaking stretches beyond the screen. Rather than being a documentary that exists only in the context of its run time and promotional tour, an ‘impact production’ seeks to enact social change in real-life communities.
“What’s interesting about working with Avi and Naomi is that they have so much respect for, and work within social movements throughout the process of creating their projects,” says McKenna. “When Naomi’s researching or Avi’s filming, they’re talking to people – and these are the people whose stories are featured. So, it’s woven right in the project.”
The filmmakers aren’t solely interested in featuring the subjects in the picture to advance the film’s narrative. Instead, the characters represent tangible examples of environmental struggles taking place. Once completed, the film is then distributed and shown in areas where similar injustices are occurring. Rather than gauging the success of the film primarily on box office numbers, the objective is to reach as many people in as timely a manner as possible.
“We’re working with tons of people from the U.S,” McKenna explains. “Our distributor, FilmBuff, set up a system so that they can basically ship DVDs, BluRays, or digital streaming versions of this film to everywhere in the world that wants to host a screening… people will be able to watch this film in a church basement or community centre.”
While this method of distribution is a huge logistical challenge for even the most seasoned outreach strategists, it is also a major development in the democratization of film viewing across the world. McKenna reinforces that This Changes Everything is not the first ‘impact documentary’ film to exist, but it does seek to address a global issue on a global scale.
“Two weekends ago my colleague Alex Kelly organized what we call ‘the movement premiere’ of the film in Europe, where the film screened in fifteen cities across Europe and Asia on the same day including being projected on the side of a coal-fired power plant in Amsterdam,” says McKenna. “So, a thousand people gathered outside Amsterdam’s only coal-fired power plant and watched our film projected onto the side of it with a smokestack spewing smoke on top of it. The photos, this moment, it was just incredible. This is just the beginning. I think there’s going to be a lot of memories coming out of this.”
Lewis and Klein’s ability to connect with film industry heavyweights has granted their project with the necessary commercial boost it needs in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. The list of producers involved with the project is a who’s who in show business: Alfonso Cuarón, Seth MacFarlane, Pamela Anderson, Shepard Fairey, and Danny Glover, to name a few. Several of them even initially connected to Lewis and Klein through Twitter, where it was evident that they shared a similar passion to spread the film’s message.
Even though the film took four years to finish, the timeliness of its release couldn’t be better. The Canadian Federal election is set to take place just weeks after the film’s first wave of domestic releases. As well, the U.S. political party campaigns are in full swing, and the crucial UN-led Paris Climate Change Conference is only months away.
As McKenna explains, “People can actually use the film to invite people into a conversation to talk about [what’s] happening in their communities.” And, in such tumultuous times, it could be the tool that we need in order to sound the alarm.
This Changes Everything opens in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, October 9th. It starts playing in the U.S. on October 20th.
Check out Luke Sneyd’s TIFF review of This Changes Everything for Biff Bam Pop! here.