Shane Vermooten | Week 18

Recently I have been asking myself the question, “How can I use my skills in media to make a difference for the billions in the world who live under the poverty line or are at constant risk of being exploited”. Whenever I ask this question, I am always reminded by others and myself that the videos that I am doing at Not For Sale are making a real difference in peoples lives around the world. The thing is, when I have been asking myself this question it is has always been bigger than a fundraising video or a group of people here or there (not that there is anything wrong with those and they work extremely well). But how can this tool of media be used to bring about lasting social change on a mass level, and is that even possible? Yes, I am a firm believer in the power of media and you are probably thinking, “Has this guy not seen any Hollywood film in the last 20 years? There are a plethora of films/documentaries that have tackled social issues and moved people to action”. I agree, but the problem I have with that model is that it is so often based on us (the Western world) being made aware of yet another social injustice and then are potentially moved to get involved send some money, wear a tshirt or even sign a petition, and then we move on. Even as I write films like Blood Diamond come to mind, which did have an impact on the way people bought diamonds, so I am not throwing out traditional film as a tool because if done correctly it can make a difference, and yes if I ever had a chance to do a major motion picture I would do it and not turn it down on moral grounds. The question I have been asking is this, is there possibly another model for how we can use media to help those who are “at risk” or “vulnerable” or “insert whatever word” rather than just the Western world being made aware and sending our sympathies, aid, money or even petitions over there (wherever that may be). I had no idea what this model would look like or if this was even possible until recently. I was reading Half The Sky which I really enjoyed but the part which stuck out the most to me was a small section where the authors were talking about introducing cable television to communities, and in one study it was suggested that, “Introducing cable television is equivalent to roughly 5 years of female education.” WHAT, 5 years? Just by watching cable television! I need to stress that these were not “educational” programs they were watching, they were watching Soaps, straight up entertainment. The study was in relation to women’s empowerment, but surely if it worked there it can be used to tackle other issues like human trafficking. Entertainment can really be used to change the world, so its not the medium that’s the problem, it’s the message that we need to work on and how we package and broadcast that message. If you disagree with me please let me know would love to hear your thoughts, but if you are with me lets go use entertainment to change the world.


One response to “Shane Vermooten | Week 18

  1. I ran into this same thing with the IT industry there were a thousand opportunities and voices telling me to use IT for whatever cause, but when you track it down they are mostly just fundraising, networking, awareness etc. I didn’t want to just be used for fundraising I wanted to be a part of solving the problem.

    Another one of the huge points of half the sky is how important education is, and I think at some point in my journey and possibly yours it will become much more important to be teaching others how to use these tools in their native language. Which takes a degree of humility to lay down your desire to directly be the change and allow others to take up the fight for themselves.

    Even though there is cable here in Cambodia that is incredibly affordable even for people in the slums the programming in Khmer is awful like something you’d watch on PBS in the 80’s. And I know of one organization here that was really looking for a good video to be able to show families who were thinking of sending their daughters to work in Thailand to show them the dangers of what was actually happening to them, but there are plenty of videos about it dubbed in English, but not much in Khmer. The people out in the little villages often honestly don’t know any better. The Aunt who gets a bad wrap for selling her nieces into slavery really thinks they are getting good jobs in Thailand and it is helping the whole family.
    Most Americans are over-entertained and over-aware. If you’re going to use entertainment to change the world bring it to poorest of the poor.

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