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Step-by-Step Guide to Sharing Our Films in Small Group Settings
Sharing a film with others is an activity so common as to almost need no comment. However, sharing a film about matters of justice and ethics, especially one that can challenge some commonly held beliefs, can present unique opportunities as well as some special challenges. The information in this guide is based on the observations and feedback of many different people who have shared Tribe of Heart films in a small group setting. It is intended to facilitate a rich and rewarding experience, for both those showing the film and those viewing it for the first time.
Choose a setting where the film can be viewed free from distractions. As the film progresses, viewers tend to get more and more deeply absorbed in the story, so it's important to do everything you can to ensure that the viewing experience will not be interrupted by other people or sounds. The ideal setting will also have comfortable seating and low ambient light, which will help your guests feel less self-conscious about any feelings that might come up during the screening.
Before sharing the film:
It's helpful to take a relaxed, neutral approach, and to have no agenda beyond sharing a meaningful, thought-provoking experience with others. Serving your guests a beverage and/or light refreshments can help them feel more at home. In general, detailed discussion of the issues explored in the film is best saved for after the viewing, when the emotional power and authenticity of the stories told in the film have created a common bond that is conducive to openness and sincere dialogue.
Some people may have preconceived notions about any film exploring the ethics of the human-animal relationship. They may be both excited and a bit nervous. If anyone expresses a concern that the film might be hard to watch or upsetting, you can reassure them that special care went into making the film a positive experience for a wide range of viewers. Remind them that Tribe of Heart films have won numerous audience awards at film festivals, with viewers expressing gratitude for being informed about hidden injustices in the context of a larger message about the goodness of our human potential.
If your guests ask what the film is about, you can read them the description from the film website (Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home or The Witness). You can also show them the preview, which was created with the intention to give potential viewers a realistic impression of what it might be like to watch the whole film.
Introducing the film:
It's usually best to get right into viewing the film, so keep your comments brief. The filmmakers have provided a short introduction that can be read aloud. They also have a one-minute introductory comment available on the DVD of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home that can be played ahead of the film to give viewers a sense of personal connection to the makers of the documentary.
During the viewing:
People may laugh and cry during different scenes. Generally, the larger the group, and the darker the room, the more people will feel free to express their emotions. In smaller groups or a one-to-one setting, people may tend to hold in their feelings. Regardless of any one person's outward behavior, you can be sure that they are experiencing the film deeply. For some, the viewing experience creates a new awareness that may leave them feeling temporarily overwhelmed. Remember that feeling and expressing strong emotions in response to suffering and injustice is a natural part of the awakening process, and a sign of being a caring, emotionally connected person. There is no right or wrong reaction, and it is important not to make assumptions about anyone's reactions based on outward appearances. One person may tend to be very expressive of their joy or sadness, and another may be going through an even larger reaction inwardly, but show little outwardly.
When the film ends:
Wait until the film credits have finished before stopping the film and turning on the lights. This gives people a few moments of transition. Many people need to sit quietly and process what they have just seen. If there is a dimmer option on the lights, keep them relatively soft so as not to 'bump' people out of their thoughts. Remember that watching a Tribe of Heart film is a powerful experience, one that can take viewers on a deep journey. Many people feel shaken up and a little vulnerable afterwards, as well as feeling inspired. It often takes a few moments before people are ready to speak. It's okay to let the silence be. To make a connection and help get the conversation started, you might want to share a bit about how you felt the first time you saw the film.
Q&A and discussion:
For Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, the filmmakers have included on the DVD a 15-minute Q&A video that is designed to immediately follow a screening of the film. The Q&A simulates as closely as possible the experience of attending a screening event with the filmmakers, and offers answers to many common questions. It also helps serve as a transition between watching the film and having a discussion about it.
When the discussion phase starts in earnest, don't forget to invite your guests to help themselves to the refreshments you've prepared.
The issues explored in Tribe of Heart films are broad, and can lead to a wide range of questions, both practical and philosophical. The films are not intended to offer final answers or to convince people to think or behave in a certain way, but rather, to encourage each viewer to look within, and to begin a journey of discovery. As the person sharing such a film, it is not necessary for you to be an expert on anything, to be prepared to answer every question, or to defend the film or any ideas it expresses. In fact, it's more helpful to focus on connecting people with resources they can use to find their own answers. For example, you can share a printed copy of the Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home Screening Handout or show your guests the Peaceable Journey online guide, using it to give them an overview of the topics they can learn about on the site and the many ways they can get involved if they are interested.
As one person told us, it's best to let the film do the "heavy lifting," and after the credits have rolled, you can just focus on being a supportive presence for others. Focusing too directly on what their conclusions are or being too invested in how the film affected them can be off-putting. Remember that it takes time for new information to be absorbed and integrated, and that everyone goes through this process in their own way. The post-viewing discussion is a great opportunity to ask questions that will help you gain a deeper understanding of what other people are thinking and feeling. Being receptive and accepting will likely be more meaningful to your guests than anything else you can do. Sadly, the art of sincere listening is becoming a rarity. If you offer this gift to your guests, you will be doing them a great service, as well as respecting the intent of the filmmakers and film subjects.
If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be very interesting to have a brief follow-up conversation with your guests, a few days after they've had a chance to let the film settle in. You might ask them what has stuck with them, and what they learned from the film. This is also a great opportunity to thank them again for sharing the experience with you. If you are so inclined, you might consider holding a second get-together with those who are interested, in which you show one of the DVD bonus features from Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Love over Fear, The Artist as Activist, and All the Difference in the World each offer a chance to delve a little deeper into the ideas that inspired the making of Tribe of Heart films and the approach taken to creating them.
Sharing your experience:
We encourage you to share your experiences and creative ideas on the Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home Facebook page. It's a great way to learn more and to help other people achieve positive results with this rewarding form of personal outreach. Please keep in mind that in order to maintain a safe space for audience members, we ask that you respect the individuality and confidentiality of your guest viewers when sharing information about any of their reactions online.
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Helpful hints for sharing
Useful background information:
our films with others
A Breakthrough Vehicle for Social Change
8 Reasons Educators Value Our Films