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Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018 brings global talent to Los Angeles for storytelling & film workshop

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A snapshot of the Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018 participants, representing 35 organizations in 15 countries.

Atlas Network’s Lights, Camera, Liberty workshop brought together 57 participants from 35 organizations in 15 countries to rethink their approach to marketing, communications, and storytelling. During this powerhouse 4-day interactive workshop in Los Angeles, participants learned to use best practices in product and idea messaging and film production.

“The value of storytelling needs to be owned and championed by the CEO if it’s to be embedded in an organizational culture,” said Randy Hicks, President and CEO of Georgia Center for Opportunity. “This course has reminded me that our success — our impact on people’s lives — is tied to our storytelling. Just as importantly, it’s given us tools that will make storytelling a habit, not just an idea."


Randy Hicks, President and CEO of Georgia Center for Opportunity (United States), during a group discussion activity.

Atlas Network’s Lights, Camera, Liberty program helped participants overcome many common storytelling challenges. It led think tank team members – from CEOs to VPs of fundraising and research, to directors of marketing and creative services – through a systematic way to nail the messaging of their brand every time. And for the first time in many cases, it transformed team members into truly productive parts of the storytelling process.

“I’m a project manager and I oversee creative. I wasn’t sure if this conference was really for me. But now that I’ve gone through it I realize just how applicable it is,” said Ayelén Scapuzzi Serra, project manager, Fundación Libertad (Argentina). “It has given me a framework to understand and supervise the creative process of storytelling.”


Ayelén Scapuzzi Serra (center), of Fundación Libertad (Argentina), with Atlas Network’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications & Training, Daniel Anthony (left), and Director of Training Dr. Lyall Swim (right).

Participants of the workshop practiced using universal best practices in product and idea messaging and film production. The workshop kicked off with a practical approach to messaging complex policy ideas. Participants were taught to use the “Features, Benefits, Meaning Framework.” This is a product messaging framework that identifies a product’s features, benefits, and meaning. Participants were challenged to move their messaging beyond the features and instead focus on the benefits and the true meaning of their work.

“At FREOPP, a core part of our strategy is to find ideas that are broadly appealing to rising generations—to skate to where the puck is going—by combining traditionally progressive goals like social mobility with traditionally conservative ones like economic liberty," said Avik Roy, president, Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, or FREOPP (United States). "If you want to expand the reach of your ideas to people who don’t already agree with you, storytelling is key. The Lights, Camera, Liberty workshop has given us a framework for bringing policy ideas to life through storytelling, and needed hands-on experience in film production.”


Avik Roy, President, Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, or FREOPP (United States), shares his vision for the future in the backcasting session.

Additionally, everyone got to write a logline for a current project they are working on at their organizations. The logline is a Hollywood process that distills a story down to its essence so that it can help bring the idea and project to life in film or short video.

As a closing activity, participants got to do a little blue-sky thinking with an activity called “Backcasting.” This is an entrepreneurial, visioning, and planning activity where participants looked into the future and plotted the steps backwards to today in order to accomplish various organizational goals. Participants had to imagine what might the headline be to their work if a major media outlet covered it five years into the future. Here are a few of the backcasting headlines developed by various participants during the workshop:

By Sloane Shearman, academic marketing manager, and Lauren Dieckhaus, program manager, of Mercatus Center at George Mason University (United States). Their backcasting headline was:

“How one philosophy, politics, and economics program changed the economic conversation forever: Mercatus F.A. Hayek program produces yet another Nobel winner.”


Sloane Shearman (center), academic marketing manager, and Lauren Dieckhaus (left), program manager, of Mercatus Center at George Mason University during the “Exercise in Empathy” component of the audience research session.

By Madeline Grant, digital officer, of Institute of Economic Affairs (United Kingdom). Her backcasting headline was:

“Record female entrepreneurship shatters the myth of the glass ceiling: Culture shift around the gender pay gap has empowered young women nationwide.”


Madeline Grant, of the Institute of Economic Affairs (United Kingdom), speaking during the backcasting activity.

By Basanta Adhikari, director at Bikalpa – an Alternative (Nepal). His backcasting headline was:

“Finally the motorbike battle comes to an end: Nepali think tank efforts help end the motorcycle license moratorium.”


Basanta Adhikari, director at Bikalpa – an Alternative (Nepal), during the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour.

By various team members of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) / Runnymede Society (Canada): Joanna Baron, Xavier Foccroulle-Ménard, and Russell Phillips. Their backcasting headline was:

“A chance for healthcare choice and reform at Supreme Court of Canada: CCF campaign and polling data shows broad support across Canada.”


Xavier Foccroulle-Ménard (center left) and Russell Phillips (center right) of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) / Runnymede Society (Canada), during the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour.

By Gideon Rozner and Daniel Wild, research fellows at Institute of Public Affairs (Australia). Their backcasting headline was:

“Record number of Australians set to enter workforce: Radical Industrial Relations overhaul passes Senate.”


Gideon Rozner (left) and Daniel Wild (right), with the Institute of Public Affairs (Australia), speaking with Atlas Network’s Institute Relations and Programs Manager Vale Sloane (center) about strategies to connect with target audiences.

In addition to the messaging and storytelling elements during the workshop, participants got hands on experience with things like production gear, specialty rigs, and other cutting edge filmmaking equipment. They also learned best practices for production and distribution, and were able to go through the step-by-step process of how a script comes to life from budget to narrative and everything else in between. The sessions were led by experienced Hollywood practitioners.


Remo Wakeford, video production specialist, Illinois Policy Institute (United States) practices using an action-stabilizing camera hand-grip.

“At CCS, we just finished our annual goal setting work. Lights, Camera, Liberty could not have come at a more perfect time,” said Gopikrishnan Nair, senior associate of digital communications and strategy, Centre for Civil Society, or CCS (India). “The skills I learned, the templates that I’m taking home, and the relationships that I built here will help us bring all of our goals to life with great storytelling.”


Gopikrishnan Nair, with the Centre for Civil Society (India), listening during the Features, Benefits, Meaning lesson.

Some of the featured speakers of the workshop were: Paul Guay, writer, actor, and script consultant whose movies (Liar, Liar; The Little Rascals, Heartbreakers, etc.) have grossed over half a billion dollars; Rob Capili, A.K.A. Rob Hustle, director of Internet marketing for 831 Digital, and David Steinberg, writer, director, and producer for film and television, among his credits he wrote the screenplay for American Pie 2.


Paul Guay (center left) and his wife Susan Knight, Daniel Anthony (center right) Dugan Bridges (right).

Many of the speakers, storytelling consultants, and technical filmmaking components of the workshop were coordinated by the cohost of the workshop, Taliesin Nexus, a nonprofit that serves to connect up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society.


Dugan Bridges, program director, Taliesin Nexus -- the cohost for Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018.

And it wasn’t all-work-no-play…every night participants were treated to some unique LA experiences including, among others, a night tour of Paramount Pictures Studio.


Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018 participants during the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour.

Atlas Network would like to thank its supporters – in particular the John Templeton Foundation, Chris and Melodie Rufer, and the Smith Family Foundation – for helping make Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018 a reality.

We can’t wait for Lights, Camera, Liberty 2019!

Check out all of the photos from the workshop on Atlas Network’s Facebook album of the event here.


Atlas Network’s Lights, Camera, Liberty 2018 team celebrating the successful conclusion of the workshop. Back row (from left to right): Daniel Anthony, Dr. Lyall Swim, Vale Sloane, Eduardo Gil. Front row (left to right): Alex Cordell and Casey Pifer, the LCL 2018 project team lead.

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