Heard of 'impact advisors' who help publicise films?
If you’re hearing the term ‘impact advisor’ for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a pretty new concept in India launched by Priya Samant in 2019 when she worked on her first film Jhalki. However, this came into the limelight when Samant worked on two highest-grossing movies The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story as an impact advisor in the past two years.
“Impact Advising is the bridge that connects the director’s vision of a film with the global audiences and makes them the ambassadors for the film,” Samant explains. “The idea is to raise awareness about relevant societal and global issues that the global society faces and bring about a sense of awareness and accountability, ultimately leading to a social change through the lens of cinema,” she adds.
Not to confuse Public Relations or marketing, impact advising is done for movies that have a social cause or deal with complex issues. They might be something that has happened in the past like The Kashmir Files that gave voice to the community of 32 years and brought their plight to light or a current story like The Kerala Story, she said. These kinds of narratives need global participation.
“Impact Advising is an approach which is tailored and strategised according to cause-based and/or culture-based narratives. Hence for every film, documentary etc it is a different ball game altogether and approached with a different strategy,” she said.
As an impact advisor, Samant does a lot of speaking on international forums on how to position entertainment as a key verticle of trade, and she has had imminent film personalities such as Sidharth Roy Kapur, AR Rahman, Nitesh Tiwari, Majid Majidi, Boman Irani Subhash Ghai and Rajshri Deshpande as panellists.
Journey as an impact advisor for TKF and TKS
Recalling working on The Kashmir Files, she said, “I hosted a reception for Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus at the US Congress and people told their stories while the Congressmen heard the community.
“Then, I also spoke at a United Nations event about the importance of films like The Kashmir Files.” Working on a tight schedule for The Kerala Story, Samant said, “The journey of Impact Advising of my most recent film, The Kerala Story began post-production and I had minimal time to organise and strategise. Yet, I took it upon myself to a challenge and we did about 7 to 8 events, including a media event, all of them were online due to the travel plans of the cast and crew. All of them were huge successes as a huge number of people, media, scholars, and professionals joined to support the message of the film and raise awareness on the same.”
She also gave a shoutout to the team of the film who made time to attend all the impact advising events. “We had limited time — the issue was global and the film focuses on cases from Kerala alone. Even the entire team were busy with their post-production and publicity, they would always available. Whether it was 5 am or 11 pm, they would happily be present.”
To date, all the movies Samant has worked on have been post-production i.e. she was approached after the film was ready for release, however, there is a project she is working on right now, that is pre-production, she said, without revealing the name of the movie. “So, I have a say in how I see the story from the lens of impact and that’s a very female-centric movie. For me, that is a very interesting project that is in the pipeline right now because there I get to give my inputs from the lens of impact since the very beginning.”
Samant has been approached for many movies after The Kashmir Files but she chooses films after a lot of thought depending on how she feels about the concept.
Asked which movies she thinks could have hired an impact advisor and made a larger impact, if the concept was new, she said, “Movies like Padman, Toilet ek prem katha, and Ayushmaan Khurrana’s films that focused on societal themes, in my opinion, ought to have been seen by a wider audience. They were thought-provoking, deserving of being heard by everyone, and advancing social change.”
Samant is also a technology entrepreneur. As a strategic advisor on US-India relations, she was invited as the special guest with Ms Mary Millben, an African American singer and cultural ambassador for the US by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Government of India to be part of the 75 years of India’s Independence day celebrations. She was a member of the Innovation Policy Committee for Joe Biden for President campaign and also a member of South Asians for Biden and Hindu Americans for Biden.