Just prior to launching, our cofounder, Aubrie Canfield, returned to the US after a quarter-life crisis spent traveling throughout Asia. She knew that she didn’t want to return to the film production career she left behind and wanted to lead some kind of venture that would enable continued meaningful travel. A mentor introduced her to the world of social entrepreneurship and the idea that enterprise can solve some of our toughest social and environmental problems. The deeper she researched the power of social entrepreneurship, the more enamored she became with its potential. Aubrie wanted everyone to know the stories of these ‘changemakers.’
Drawing on her life experiences thus far, an idea emerged. What if we facilitated collaborations between emerging filmmakers and global changemakers in order to tell the stories. Very quickly, we developed the concept of a Documentary Outreach program; a month-long intensive workshop where student-storytellers would learn to produce short documentary films that feature the work of changemakers around the world.
The Documentary Outreach study abroad program was the primary focus of Actuality Media for the first decade. The initial purpose was to tell stories about changemakers, but in time and with ample reflection, the true value of the programs was revealed.
The documentary production process happens to be a truly immersive experience, when done ethically and equitably. The work requires deep listening and being present, understanding details and the big picture, noticing patterns and creating connections. Going through this process alongside people who live differently was life changing for the students that traveled with us. Turns out, the documentary was just the exercise, the real learning came from participating in the process.