Tools for Productive Partnerships




Telling meaningful stories to help people make sense of the world is as old as civilization, and often at the very root of religious practice.

You’ve seen the familiar images: from cave paintings, to stone tablets, to the Gutenberg press, to a flickering hand-cranked projector, people have found their truths by sharing ethical perspectives through history and creativity. Today, as our colleague Ryan Parker says, “People of the book have quickly become people of the screen.” Our spiritual encounters are increasingly interactive. Documentaries and other kinds of media are jumpstarting meaningful discussion in churches, mosques, synagogues, and other faith-rooted settings.

Designed to take these connections and possibilities to new heights, these Prenups are aimed at:

Faith leaders

…particularly those who are focused on social change.
These leaders, who know that powerful stories can lift people up; inspire reflection about ethics, justice, and spirituality; and even offer pathways to action. They may also recognize that using media can help engage new community members and heighten the visibility of the organization.

Independent filmmakers

…who spend years crafting nuanced films, and often see faith- rooted groups as natural, even “captive” audiences. Consider An Inconvenient Truth, which, thanks to the Regeneration Project, was screened in 4,000 faith settings by 2008, or the hundreds of films selected for and discussed at more than 150 Jewish film festivals in the US.

Impact producers

…and other amplifiers who are skilled in integrating stories into social movements are now innovating on and speaking up about these promising partnerships.

Not all faith-rooted partners are interested in using films. Some might prefer to stick to texts and ideas that are closely linked to their religious traditions and beliefs. Others aren’t prepared for the extra work involved in bringing an unpredictable resource into the community. Sometimes a film may be controversial and trigger an unwanted backlash. A few may have worked with a film in the past that didn’t meet their expectations.

Equally crucial are the talent, time, compassion, and vigilance filmmakers put into producing a powerful film. They take risks to tell these stories: often putting themselves into dangerous or complex situations, not knowing how the reality will play out, with no guarantees that they will be able to reimburse themselves for the extensive investment they make. They are both visionary artists and keen observers, uncovering truths that would otherwise remain invisible and tapping into widely shared human values.

“I often think of filmmakers as modern day ‘prophets’ with stories, eye witness accounts and dreams that they are called to tell, share and create.”


We encourage you to be an active part of this promising journey. With support from the Hartley Media Impact Initiative at Auburn, we are eager to hear how these Prenups help you work together in “right relationship.” As one of our colleagues asked: “What are the tools, systems, guides and human resources we need to help media makers, impact producers, change leaders and faith leaders to work together effectively and to amplify the good work we can do?”

We’ve customized this Prenup into three sequential topics to address:


Why are we working together?


How will we design and implement our project?


Who’s paying for what?

Feel free to reframe, omit, and add to these questions; you can use the headers as guides, or customize the sub-questions. Once you have a good outline for your mission conversation, enter into these questions through active listening and an open heart.

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