Can my filmmaking/songwriting skills be used more effectively in EA?

by spanrucker1 min read8th Apr 201920 comments

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Hi everyone! It's my first time posting here and I'm a little nervous because you all seem super smart, but here goes...

My name is Simon Panrucker. I work as a filmmaker sometimes, but mostly as a composer/songwriter for cartoons - mainly on Cartoon Network. So far I've been contributing towards EA goals by earning to give - the royalties afforded to me by my music being played on television worldwide have meant I've been able to donate thousands of pounds each year to Give Well recommended charities.

But I'm wondering if I can have a more direct impact with these skills as well?

Recently I wrote a song and directed a short film for economist Kate Raworth to help get discussion going around ideas from a chapter in her book Doughnut Economics.

See here: https://youtu.be/Sx13E8-zUtA

This video was aimed at economics students so it's pretty dense with information. NB I am a musician/filmmaker, not an economist, so if you have any arguments with the content I suggest taking it up with Kate Raworth as I will only be able to shrug ;)

So far the video has had around 75k views over Twitter and Youtube.

More recently I bashed out a no-budget song and video for a local campaign to save a community hub in Bristol. It's very rough and ready but it did the job at getting the word out:

https://www.facebook.com/SaveHamHouse/videos/2175108676078661/

This vid got shared 2000 times and amassed 123k views (although I don't trust Facebook's viewcount so take that with a pinch of salt).

I know these are quite modest numbers compared to a lot of online videos, but these are first forays into this type of filmmaking and there's plenty of room to improve with practise.

SO I'M CURIOUS...

This seems like a potent way of disseminating information in an entertaining and shareable way, and I'm wondering if there may be opportunities to work directly with EA related organisations or individuals to share complicated ideas in a way that's easier to ingest, or to promote certain charities highlighted by Give Well etc.

I was encouraged recently while listening to the 8000 Hours Podcast with Glen Weyl when he talked about the need for artists to get on board with Radical Xchange to help convey information and ideas. I've not heard that angle talked about before in the EA community and I found it quite heartening - hence this post! I'll likely get in touch with Glen/Radical Xchange when I've finished reading Radical Markets and understand the ideas a bit better.

However, I know people from EA have been reluctant to share ideas via reductive means like newspaper articles as it doesn't convey the nuances and things get skewed. So I'm asking: do you think it's worth me pursuing this avenue further? If it is, where do you think these skills could be applied most effectively?

Thanks for reading!

Simon

p.s. I wrote this out twice as a Question but I couldn't find the drafts again so I'm posting it as a regular post. Hope that's ok!

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Thank you very much for writing this! It's really inspiring to see people with a wide range of talents who want to help.

I'll respond with my reactions and thoughts as I read:

1. We aren't really all that smart, and most of us are quite friendly; I realize that just telling you this is of limited use, but I hope you feel less nervous over time :-)

2. Thanks for donating so much already; that's more than most people ever get around to, and giving is at the heart of effective altruism. You've done a lot of good so far.

3. The work you're doing is clearly high-quality enough that it matches or exceeds production values for most EA-related video content (there's very little musical content to which I could compare your work).

4. Some EA organizations are very interested in sharing information about EA with the greater public in a very accessible way. Others still want new people to find EA, but are wary of doing anything that might look like "mass marketing", for a few reasons:

  • The more accessible an idea becomes, the more "fidelity" tends to be lost. (This is the point you mentioned; things get skewed through a lack of nuance.)
  • Even media that accurately reflect the core principles of EA may not go over well if they reach the wrong audience. Some magazines have written articles about EA that got a lot of the basics right, but put a very negative spin on them; we'd probably have preferred if the authors of those articles never heard about EA.
  • Similarly, even people who understand EA very well may come into the community with other goals. If a popular left-wing politician were to endorse EA to all their supporters, we might see a flood of new Forum users (great!), but also a flood of posts advocating that money be given to left-wing causes (not great) and possibly a flood of people sharing Facebook posts (or quotes with journalists) about the ways in which socialism is obviously the real effective altruism. They may understand EA quite well, but care less about digging into it than about using it to buffer their favorite positions. (I already see a lot of this on Twitter, from all over the political spectrum.)

5. Given this, what can you do? I don't immediately have any snappy video ideas, but other organizations might (The Life You Can Save and GiveDirectly come to mind as orgs that have done a lot of creative marketing). If you reach out to different EA charities with a link to this post, there's a reasonable chance one of them will want to work with you on something.

The key thing is not to work alone. Checking your scripts and such with people who know the subject well should help you avoid mistakes. If you ever feel inspired to make something on your own, you can post about it on the Forum or in the EA Editing and Review Facebook group, and it will be quite likely that at least one person will check for possible improvements.

I was really excited to read this, and I hope you find a way to contribute through your art!

THANK YOU so much for this thoughtful reply Aaron, I really appreciate it! Some responses to your thoughts:

1. You ever heard the screenwriting rule "show, don't tell"? YA JUST DID IT with this friendly response! :)

2. That's actually really encouraging to read! I don't usually tell people about my giving practise because it feels a bit ego driven - like, "ooh aren't I a good person!" etc. It can feel quite solitary at times as I mostly work alone. So it's a helpful boost to read your encouragement, thank you!

3. Cheers! I've been focussing more on music production over the last few years but I'm itching to make higher quality video work, especially if it can have a positive impact. I don't even think the work has to be musical every time: overall I'm interested in conveying information in a playful manner - whatever that may be.

4. Yep that was my concern, so perhaps this method is not suitable for sharing ideas about EA itself.

5. Yes! I will do that! Already, looking through the list on The Life You Can Save, I can see plenty of charities where this kind of communication could be beneficial. Very exciting! I will start contacting them this week.

And yep totally get you on the need to work with others and check things through for maximum facts(imum). I'll definitely post in here for input (probs not Facebook, I think I'm gonna leave soon). I think ultimately it would be great to find an EA aligned producer to team up with with. If that describes anyone who reads this, please get in touch. Maybe in the long term this could grow into a production company that makes playful videos to help improve the world.

Thanks again Aaron, great food for thought!

I'll just note that Animal Charity Evaluators have also produced video content.

Better Eating International is an animal charity who's primary outreach medium is video, as well.

Thank you Kevin, I'll check em out!

A lil update here, I've been in talks with two EA related organisations so far and have one project in the works already, so that's very exciting! I'll update more as things develop. Thanks for your help and suggestions, everybody!

That's fantastic to hear! Also, while the "Musicians in Effective Altruism" Facebook group seems to be inactive at the moment, it's more likely to become active if more people join and share their music-related Forum posts :-)

Had no idea this existed... joining!

Your videos are great.

I am sure there is space for content creators to be having a powerful impact on the world. Not entirely sure how but I did want to flag that the Long Term Future EA Fund has just given a $39,000 grant to a video producer: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/CJJDwgyqT4gXktq6g/long-term-future-fund-april-2019-grant-decisions .

Maybe get in touch or have a look into what was successful there (I get the impression that they found an important areas where there was otherwise a lack of good video content).

hmm, very interesting! Thanks for the pointer, I'll investigate. And thanks about the vids!

The RadicalxChange movement is very explicit about engaging artists. To learn about the movement, I recommend this 80,000 Hours episode.

Other than that, a lot of startups have short explainer videos above the fold on their homepage. See for example https://frontapp.com/. Such companies optimize vigorously, so it's safe to assume that they are effective. I can imagine that a lot of EA-related organizations would benefit greatly from such videos.

I've considered RadicalxChange, part of what encouraged me to post on this forum was that podcast actually. I'm going to get in touch with them once I've read Radical Markets and can understand it a bit better.

Thanks for your thoughts! I'd not thought of it from a startup point of view, but yeah it makes sense to compare as, like you say, they optimise vigorously.

I think EA rap would be pretty cool.

I tried writing it but I'm no good at actually rapping.

Heheh it can go two ways, eh? Sometimes it's fun but sometimes it's cringy... a fine line to tread! But it could work depending on the project :)

Hello Simon,

I am speculating here, but I can imagine orgs such as Founders Pledge/Effective Giving/Orgs dealing with HNW, UHNW individuals having use for content that succinctly conveys key information. Could be something to explore.

All the best!

Yeah great stuff! I'll investigate, thanks Mappy!

Hi! I work for Founders Pledge and was thinking the same thing - great thought Mappy!

I'm gonna PM you Simon.

I have thought about this too. I am a parody rapper and wondered whether I could write raps about important topics (EA, AI, antibiotic resistance, etc) to both educate and entertain. I've often wondered about setting up a philosophical, non-zero sum rap battle night (ie not to "beat" the other party but to discuss the issues through rap).

If you'd like to get in touch, I'd love to chat.

My content is 5/10 at the moment, but I'm hoping to film some new stuff soon.

Prepared songs: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM8pXTlhvfq0FnAxQwoSVNQ?view_as=subscriber

Improvised Livestreams: https://www.facebook.com/emmceedeltatee/

Maybe videos in this style, where it's more a poem than a song, can fit more situations. if you can make songs i bet you can make such poems. youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlkY7JhD4qyOYlvZgJ560xsHVgIV5Rn99

Hello Fellow lightbringers my name is Casper Faus

I'm (albeit not exclusively) a rapping philosophical clairsentient poet and my lyrical universe is overwhelmingly centered on empathy, self-love, inclusion and all colours of that palette. I'm spreading my crudely honest messages with intention of relieving as many if not all our burdened daily life shoulders, heavy hearts and tensed up necks through perspective altering help-to-selfhelp poetry.

A couple of examples: (A preemptive text layout/formatting apology)

' Don't hate your parents enough with them allready doing it

They remind themselves daily they gave birth to something beautiful and then somewhat ruined it

Who act with ill intention towards their kid Surely no one in their right mind did

Forget not harsh life highway stretches all the way along Eternally threading emotional waves in currents anxiously strong capability is blueprint for our tries so give a good try forgiving mom and dad for times they went wrong ' ' fast cars, calling women whores And chasin intercourse If you claim to be sophisticated pause pause Time to find clothing in some different drawers It's a step towards rewriting street laws we gotta stop all of that and neglect less of this when you smell your own stupidity ignorance starts ceasing being bliss Doing plenty loads of this! and not near enough of that! Looking back at the fire burning With opportunities you could've had Brother clench hard in your jaw, get back up take a round more better off not keeping score You shouldn't mind falling down when you're accustomed to the floor life is in theory ups and downs but in praxis so much more

So it's been tried, tried and tried But at some level hustler behaviour tends to get denied '

I believe in cosmic energy and alignment making it no coincident that I elegantly stumbled upon this thread.

I try to live by a "less me more us" mentality and my trusted seasoned inner compass counselor adviced me to reach out to you guys!

I'm a natural born performer aswell as intermediary with a rather inconvenient distaste for spotlight on a ME level fortunately the common case and poetry is written in the name of US and I'm therefore devoted.

Time will tell us what manifested and what remained an idea.

Feel free to ask me anything should you so wish to.

Love to all Dictation to none Empathy shall rule Under the sun

Best of winds in your directions!

Faus

thanks for the suggestion! I'll check it out :)