Why trust is at the heart of what we see on screen

Why trust is at the heart of what we see on screen

At Zing, we’ve worked with many of our clients for years now and over the last couple of days, I’ve been reflecting on why that is. Sure, we produce quality programmes and I like to think we’re a nice bunch of people. But what else?

This got me thinking about trust.

We’ve been trusted over the years to handle some really sensitive topics. From mental health in prisons and LGBTQ+ awareness raising for health professionals to sexual harassment in the workplace. We’ve encouraged senior executives to open up about who they are and what they’re about. We’ve asked working people to talk about empathy and relationships – to tell stories about family breakups and anxiety.

The fact is that when a client commissions a film they’re trusting you with so much more than the end product.

They’re also trusting you with all the invisible ethical issues inherent in the process of filmmaking.

So when making a documentary, for example, which questions should you ask of your contributors and which should be avoided? How can you protect the well-being and safety of the person taking part whilst also producing compelling content? What should be filmed and what shouldn’t be filmed? How should the film be edited so it’s honest and what should be left out for the sake of the person being featured? How can we represent people and the issue being explored with respect, dignity and sensitivity whilst also achieving the objectives of the film?

What we see on screen is ultimately about the relationship of trust that has been created between the participant and the filmmaker. And, of course, as in any relationship, filmmakers are in a position to abuse that power.

This is one of the many reasons I believe that producing films for organisations and government departments is about so much more than pointing a camera and ending up with something that looks professional. There is a responsibility that comes with producing a film – whatever the context, whoever its audience.

Trust can’t be presented in a PowerPoint presentation or promised in a pitch document.

It can’t be seen on a website or liked and shared on Twitter. Trust is ultimately about the relationships filmmakers build with their clients, in their research process, in the advice they give and the recommendations they make, between the crew and with participants and, ultimately, in the creative decisions and stories which end up on the screen.

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