Entertainment for democracy, social justice and reconciliation
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The Transformative Power of Story-Telling: An Edutainment Guide for Social Change - Step 4: The Story Is the Message

Mon, 11/28/2022 - 04:56

"The actions of a character whom the audience has learned to love and trust are far more effective than a hundred speeches."

This chapter covers the design of the entertainment education (EE) strategy as a whole, its structure, and the coherence of each of its components in the process of creating evidence-based EE to address situations of complex social justice and reconciliation. It centres around the creative workshop, which should occur after the writers and creative team have received the message brief and have had time to think about it. The purpose of the creative workshop is to develop broad story lines and characters to carry and integrate the messages.

Guidelines for integrating messages into a drama are outlined here. They revolve around the principles of: coherence and integrity; a mix between entertainment and education; emotional involvement and trust; cultural believability; role modeling; positivity; use of humour and comedy; and high-quality production.

Other stages include scriptwriting, storyboards, and the creation of other communication pieces that you want to include in your strategy (radio, print, schools materials, theatre, music, social media, etc.).

Case studies include:
  1. Colombia: Imaginario's challenge in developing the fiction television series Romper el Silencio ("Breaking the Silence") was to create a story for teenagers that delved into the complex topic of armed conflict in a country tired of seeing violence in the media. As if they were "selling" an idea to a potential buyer, the scriptwriters pitched different stories, including the style, format, universe, and main characters. The thriller format was chosen. Each detail in the story was carefully reviewed to avoid unintended messages and to achieve engagement, relevance, and clarity.
  2. South Africa: Inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who came 7th in the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon, Heartlines' film "Beyond the River" tells the story of Steve, a seasoned white canoeist intent on winning a 10th gold medal, and Duma, a young black man who avoids drifting into a life of crime by taking up paddling. The duo team up with the aim of winning gold but struggle to find their rhythm. Only by understanding their pasts, their traumas, and the realities of each other's lives are they able to connect and perform as a team. This story distilled the idea of national reconciliation at an individual level. A lot of time was spent thinking about a story that would capture the messages authentically while being engaging and compelling.
Lessons learned from Step 4 experiences:
  • Make sure the creative team knows and understands the objectives of the strategy and the results of the formative research.
  • Work with scriptwriters who specialise in specific formats and audiences.
  • Always keep in mind the life stories, feelings, and ways of thinking of your audiences.
  • Integrate messages into the story itself.
  • Try to model the desired behaviour or values through the characters and their narrative arcs.
  • Create loveable characters who are empowering and make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of their community.
  • Have the characters speak and act naturally rather than "recite" messages.
  • Make the characters and the choices they face relatable to the audience(s).
  • Instead of simply talking about people rallying around an issue, show how they do it.
  • Eliminate hidden or unintended messages.
  • Beware of messages that contradict each other across different platforms.
  • Make sure the story is culturally credible, relevant, and authentic, and avoid wardrobe or belief errors.
  • Give your audience a sense of agency, hope, and possibility.
  • Make sure there is a balance between educational and entertaining content.
A Collaboration between Imaginario Foundation, Heartlines and The Communication Initiative, with the support of DW Akademie
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English, Spanish
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Information sent to The Communication Initiative by Juana Marulanda, Fundación Imaginario, November 22 2022.

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