Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Christie Marchese, Founder of Picture Motion



Storytelling at it's finest transpires when a cause and effect dynamic is put into motion -- when a narrative stays with you and compels you to think and behave differently. This is the mission and lifeline of Picture Motion, a boutique firm that specializes in developing social action campaigns for independent films and documentaries with a humanitarian message. We caught up with Picture Motion Founder Christie Marchese to find out how she and her team work with filmmakers to ensure that their narrative has the most social impact possible, and how her career in campaign development and former job at Participant Media sparked her entrepreneurial journey. 

The Toolbox:  You've been building social action campaigns for films and documentaries for years now. What was the transition like going from Participant Media to starting your own company? 

CM: Participant Media is an incredible company that has paved the road for social impact documentaries. The company is made up of passionate, brilliant individuals that I’m so honored to have worked with. It’s how I met Wendy Cohen, who is my partner at Picture Motion. Much of what we do for independently released films was learned from our time as part of the social impact team at Participant. I started Picture Motion to create grassroots marketing and impact campaigns for films that don’t have the Participant engine behind them, because we believe that any social issue film with a good story can create impact if it has the right campaign. 

The Toolbox: How do you choose your projects? 

CM: We ask ourselves two questions: Who on our team is passionate about the issue presented in the film, and are we the best people to create an impact campaign for this film. While we pride ourselves on our experience and creativity, every campaign is different and requires people willing to fight for that film. We get our motivation from the issues that we are passionate about, and the challenge of creating and executing a successful social impact campaign. 

The Toolbox:  How closely do you work with the filmmakers on the campaigns you create? How does that process work?  

CM: Very closely. A member or members of our team become embedded in the film campaign team. We work from our clients’ offices and require in person time on every campaign we take. We think of it like creating a family that will be working very closely together for 6 months to a year. Building trust early on is important. 

The Toolbox: What are essential ingredients for executing a successful social action campaign? 

CM: Your team needs to believe in hard work, creative thinking and have an ability to adapt. The campaign needs to also understand the importance of creative partnerships, online engagement and grassroots screenings.  

The Toolbox: There's a lot of emphasis in the digital space around storytelling. What makes a good social impact story?  

CM: The subjects of the film and the storytelling done by the filmmaker are what drive a good social impact film. If the filmmakers can make an audience relate to a subject, they can then empathize with their experience and are more likely to care about the issue presented, and thus take action. The power of film, and why we work in this space, is the potential of a great story to inspire that change. 

The Toolbox:  What's the most challenging and rewarding aspect of running your own company? 

CM: The most challenging aspect is all the paperwork! I did not set out to build a company. I set out to create campaigns that would drive audiences to films, and create a successful path to action. The demand for our work grew, so we grew.  I know how to run great campaigns for our clients, but I’ve had to learn how to run a great business.  The most rewarding part is the people. I work with an incredible group of women who continue to innovate and push the boundaries of our campaigns and teach me something every week. I also love hearing from the people who send emails and tweets about their experience with the film and how it changed them. That direct feedback is what keeps me going.  

The Toolbox: Anything you'd like to add? 

CM: Yes. Shameless plug. See one of these films, in theaters now! Inequality for All, God Loves Uganda, A River Changes Course, The Muslims are Coming! And coming soon, American Promise and When I Walk!

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