Putting positive films about the family dinner of immigrants and refugees in front of a conservative audience using targeted Facebook advertising.
THE LOWDOWN: We at The Perennial Plate have decided to pause our normal content this summer in order to create and distribute positive, genuine Immigrant and Refugee stories and get them in front of a new audience. We will create five short films that center around the family meals of five different immigrant families. Then we will focus on targeted outreach to get these films out there. So, instead of preaching to the choir, we will use sponsored posts on Facebook to target moderate voters in swing states. These stories will not be fake news, they will not advertisements... Just short documentaries about real people.
WHO WE ARE: My name is Daniel Klein. I’m a filmmaker and the creator of The Perennial Plate. Since 2009, we've been putting out short films about sustainable food from around the world. During that time, we've made over 160 films that have garnered tens of millions of views and two James Beard awards. We've also received an Emmy nomination for our PBS show. The Perennial Plate team consists of myself, my wife Mirra Fine, and our friend Hunter Johnson. Our work speaks to what we care about in the world: people, good food and sustainability.
THE PROBLEM: Since the election, we've seen long held prejudices emerge from the shadows and an aggressive shift in policy towards immigrants (undocumented and otherwise) and refugees. Like many of you, after the election, I began to think about how I could have a REAL impact on the direction our country seems to be headed in.
I immediately thought of the Wall Street Journal article about Blue and Red Facebook feeds --
The two sides of the political landscape are reading very different news and coming into contact with very different people. My perspective on immigrants and refugees is entirely positive. But some of my family members and friends, who see very different posts in their news feeds, are nervous and worried about those same groups of people. This is not to say any of us are "bad" -- it is just that our perspectives diverge due to our sphere of influence.
I think it's time to get more positive stories of immigrants and refugees in front of audiences that don't normally see that narrative. It's easy to sow fear and violence when we don't know any actual immigrants, or are disconnected from the fact that -- for almost all Americans -- at one point our families were immigrants themselves. If we are constantly bombarded with a certain negative story line, it creeps into our psyche -- I know I'm certainly not immune to this. But I've never met an immigrant or refugee who didn't come to this country just looking for a better life for their family.
One of MANY solutions: Calling your representatives, protesting, going out of your way to be kind, phone banking, these are all important jobs that we need to continue to do -- but we also think its important to channel what you are passionate about toward positive change. So we at The Perennial Plate have decided to pause our normal content this summer in order to focus on creating and distributing positive, genuine Immigrant and Refugee stories and getting them in front of a new audience.
Here's how we're going to do it:
- We are going to create five short films that focus on the family dinners of five different families. Food and Family are the great connectors, and by sharing inspiring stories of European, Latino, African, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants, there is an opportunity to see all of our commonalities. (We will also create a film/pilot that ties all these stories together.)
- Each film will center around one family meal: grandparents, sons and daughters cooking and then sitting around a table together -- something almost all of us have in common. From the dinner table, we will be introduced to each family member -- and from there, we will take a step back and share each of their stories of coming to this country (or growing up in this country), along with their current hopes and dreams. The films will treat with equal value the experiences of 4th generation immigrants from Sweden; refugees from Somalia and first generations Mexican Americans. We want to build connections and understanding simply by sharing stories that show us how much we have in common and how little we have to fear from each other. These will be positive stories centered around values that most Americans hold true: hard work, loyalty, family, and of course good food.
- We will make at least 2 versions of each film. One will be a longer in depth piece that will live on Vimeo, have a life at film festivals, etc. The other will be a short 1-3 minute story that will be tailor made for Facebook. These will be quick, impactful films of our shared humanity.
- The two versions will help us to both reach a large audience as well as satisfy our love for in-depth storytelling.
- After the series is complete, we will focus on targeted outreach. Instead of preaching to the choir, we will use sponsored posts on Facebook to target moderate voters in swing states. As I mentioned earlier, the problems we are facing as a nation is that we are only getting one side of the story from the news and our friends on Facebook. We want to introduce positive immigrant stories into feeds that might be more prone to negative stories, to help balance the scales.
- If you aren't familiar with the way Facebook advertisements work, a little background: you can pinpoint location (Wisconsin for instance) and interest (John McCain and The Packers) of sponsored content. We will work directly with Facebook advertising professionals (when you spend over $500 a month, Facebook provides dedicated staff), as well as friends in the political campaigning field to target the folks who might not normally get this kind of content in their feed.
- Along with promoting the films online, we will also create a pilot out of the series and pitch it to the likes of Amazon, PBS and Netflix, in an effort to reach an even larger audience.
To make this happen, we need your help.
- Half of every dollar raised will go toward Facebook marketing efforts. $25,000 will add up to between 5 and 10 million views for these short films. That's certainly a good start in creating positive messaging.
- The other half will go toward researching, filming, editing and distributing these films over the summer and fall. We estimate this project will take at least 4 months of work That means stopping our normal business efforts to focus on this. While $25,000 doesn't cover our operating costs, it will cover that of our employee, any additional camera work needed and travel expenses. This is really the bare minimum we would need to make this happen.
- The reward for this project is impact -- creating positive change by connecting people who wouldn't have otherwise 'met' an immigrant or refugee. This project aims to reach as many people as possible. And the more money we can put towards that, the more people we will reach. We love swag as much as anyone, but I hope you understand that this is why we aren't offering T-shirts and pins.
This is Resistance through the power of storytelling.
It is widely documented that when you know someone of a different background, ethnicity, etc., your perspective on that "group" changes. Through these films, we are creating an introduction to those people. It is easy to forget that those trying to get into the US only want a better life for their family -- and that they are, first and foremost, people. These are the stories of 4th generation blond haired and blue Eyed Swedish Americans next to first generation brown haired and brown eyed Mexican Americans. This is the America we love, let's celebrate it.
Risks and challenges
We have 10 years of documentary experience and are accustomed to creating a large amount of content, so we are confident that we can make this series happen. But here are some other issues that may arise:
- Due to the increasingly negative attitudes (e.g. threatening deportation) towards immigrants (especially undocumented), I could see some people preferring to remain “in the shadows” and being very reluctant to share their story with us, and thus to the nation. It may be more difficult than we think to find subjects for the series.
- This could come across as Elitist liberals looking trying to "educate" others. That is not our intent. This project is merely increasing positive messaging for groups of people that get an unbalanced amount of negative press.
- "This Is Fake News! And exactly what the Russians did!" Again, no. This won't be fake news. This is just documentary shorts that happen to show positive stories -- nothing will be fake or untrue. We will, however, be targeting impressionable voters in a similar way: Others put fake news stories in the feeds of voters, and we will be putting positive, true stories in their feeds.
- (30 days)