Entertainment in the form of film, theatre, and television has, since time immemorial, influenced the ways in which humans think and society behaves. Often, this happens inadvertently and depends significantly on the creator’s experience, personal story, intention, and ability to tell a good story with an effective message.

So, if you’re an organisation or individual who wants to tell stories with significance, and create impact through entertainment, what’s the best way to do it? How do you convey a message without preaching to the audience? How do you maintain an entertaining tone without diluting the issue?

There are several challenges to doing this, but to help answer the question of ‘how’, we analysed eight films that we thought successfully brought entertainment and impact together. These were Anaarkali of Aarah, Newton, Padman, Pink, Rang de Basanti, Shahid, The Avengers, and The Big Short.

We defined impact at three levels—individual, societal, and institutional:

Individual: Driving individual engagement through an increase in awareness, information, or interest in the issue, leading to a mindset shift or an inclination to take action.

Societal: Collective action which might take the form of conversations, petitions, protests, or other means of mobilising communities by combining resources and energy.

Institutional: The audience is made familiar with, and given an understanding of how public institutions such as the judiciary, legislative, or executive function; they are also told about ways of engaging with these institutions to drive reform.

Using the above definitions of impact, we used ten metrics to develop a guide that lists the seven practices you need, to create high-impact media. The metrics included entertainment value, significance of issue, communication of issue, civic value: individual, societal, and constitutional, communication of civic values, audience empowerment, evidence of real-world impact, and commercial success.

The seven best practices:
  1. Characters as role models
  2. Defining the problem statement
  3. Creating engaging conflict
  4. Resolving the conflict realistically yet entertainingly
  5. Emotional motivation to participate in change
  6. Providing a tool
  7. Audience research

Read the full article about creating entertainment with impact by Anushka Shah and Kavindya Thennakoon at India Development Review.