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Idealist founder and executive director Ami Dar, left, and John Raatz, an entrepreneur, musician, and a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, were among the speakers at Scaling Change.

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Seeking success

At ITVfest, filmmakers build new connections

DOVER—On the last day of ITVFest, sitting in a tent of billowy fabric with filmmakers and social entrepreneurs, Bill Forchion recalled when a movie executive rejected his business card.

Forchion remembers the executive saying, “Don’t give me your business card. Be your business card.”

Filmmakers and entrepreneurs sometimes get so swallowed up by “doing their business,” said Forchion, a local filmmaker and performer, that they forget that their authentic selves are the biggest part of their project’s story.

Forchion’s anecdote highlighted some of the goals behind the Scaling Change event that connected social entrepreneurs with filmmakers.

Scaling Change is a new for-profit organization aimed at helping social entrepreneurs have more social impact through building collaborations and getting their messages to a wider audience.

Filmmakers have a skill set that can help social entrepreneurs get their mission to a wider audience, said one of Scaling Change’s three founders, Brattleboro resident Jim Verzino.

“Throw smart and passionate people together and good things happen,” Verzino said.

Citing a study conducted by Babson College, Verzino said 75 percent of successful business ventures didn’t start with an idea; they started because the people involved wanted to collaborate.

Scaling Change, three months old, held its premiere event at the ninth annual Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest) in Dover on Sunday.

Group discussions at the event also hinted at a transforming creative and business landscape where some of the usual vocabulary — “filmmaker,” “entrepreneur,” “nonprofit,” and “for-profit” — no longer fit.

Instead, many in the independent film industry or social entrepreneurs are forging new territory such as alternative film distribution models, or founding benefit corporations, a.k.a. B-corps.

Scaling Change says on its website that it works with entrepreneurs aimed at helping humanity create successful businesses.

Verzino co-founded Scaling Change with Valerie Vandermeer and Erin Kenneally.

“It’s definitely an experience in the making,” said Verzino.

Noting that figures on the number of attendees at Scaling Change are forthcoming, Verzino noted that the response to the program exceeded his expectations.

“I’m stunned at the success in a variety of ways,” he said.

Verzino said he witnessed participants working together to complete projects long after a workshop ended.

“It was a film festival,” he said. “They could have been watching movies.”

Scaling Change wants to spread the messages of social-good entities, he said, adding that he believes film represents a great medium for reaching a wide audience. He said he anticipates focusing on other skill sets and new ways to help people tell stories.

According to Julie Fahnestock, everyone tells a story in his or her unique way.

“Your story is uniquely yours,” she tells entrepreneurs. “It doesn’t change just because you need help.”

Fahnestock founded B Storytelling, which she describes on her website as “a consortium of women creators who are fully committed to telling the story where business meets good.”

B Storytelling offers services such as brand building, video marketing, business plan creation, and investor tool development.

The south Florida resident graduated from Marlboro College Graduate School with an MBA in Managing for Sustainability.

“Your story is in everything you do,” she said. The story isn’t simply an end result or product; it’s in how a business owner treats employees, its marketing materials, and portrays itself in other everyday actions.

Businesses aren’t about products, but rather people, Fahnestock added. Building collaborations is a question of whether two people’s values align.

Two of the prominent speakers at the workshops were Idealist founder and Executive Director Ami Dar, and John Raatz, an entrepreneur, musician, and a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, among his other passions and commitments.

During a group discussion Dar focused on some of the practical aspects of building connections and running a business.

“What matters is people’s actions in the world,” he said.

It’s great that some congresspeople meditate together daily, Dar continued. Ultimately, it matters to him how they vote.

“And don’t waste people’s time,” Dar added, explaining that he’s sat through two-hour-long meetings with entrepreneurs who then walk away without telling him why they’d wanted the meeting. Just ask people for what you want, he said.

Raatz works in a number of projects and companies focused on consciousness building and transformation. He founded The Visioneering Group, a public relations firm promoting products and services aimed at supporting a positive future.

Raatz collaborates with actor Jim Carrey and is the executive director of the David Lynch master’s program in film at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa. He also co-founded the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment (GATE).

“Activists tend to burn out really fast,” said Raatz, himself a long-time activist, “and they can’t see beyond their own passion.”

“The focus is beautiful, but there can be an imbalance,” Raatz said. “Wherever there’s an extreme there’s an imbalance.”

In this global society undergoing many transitions, humanity needs to find a way to play together, he continued.

Raatz cautioned attendees to stop relying on demographic data when considering their marketing or creative niche. People no longer fall into easy or clear-cut categories of age, gender, and social class.

Instead, he said, concentrate on lifestyle and personal values.

“The boundaries are dropping all over the place,” he said.

Raatz said he believes that people want better stories in every medium, including movies, books, music, and television.

He said the entertainment industry as a whole is changing.

“Everybody in Hollywood will tell you they know the answer, and nobody knows the answer,” Raatz said.

He refers to those who seek entertainment and media that value such things as quality stories, transformational films, and mindfulness as “cultural creatives.”

These people want stories that inspire them, make them feel good, and help them learn something, he said.

Raatz told his audience that whether they consider themselves social entrepreneurs or filmmakers, they’re artists. “And today, artists have forgotten who they are in the world,” he said.

“Artists have always been the way-showers,” Raatz continued.

He described a “schism” in Hollywood between artists and businesspeople. Unfortunately, he said, businesspeople are making the artistic decisions.

In the independent film domain, however, creativity and vitality abound, he said, adding, “The rewards are yours for the reaping.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #274 (Wednesday, October 1, 2014). This story appeared on page A1.

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