A national broadcast is a difficult prize for the independent film maker. And yet it is only the first step to realizing a program’s full potential.
Americans young and old, unschooled or educated remain widely ill-informed about Muslims and Islam. In a recent poll by the Pugh Charitable Trust, half the respondents acknowledged being frightened by Islam. Yet two-thirds of the same respondents admitted they knew almost nothing about the subject. A film is a powerful educational tool in such a climate. It may be put to use in a wide variety of educational and community settings. But how to go about that? How to make it happen?
Even before the initial PBS broadcast of Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, its producers began pursuing three related efforts. All of these efforts remain in effect. Each one takes a different path to the same goal: to extend the social impact of our film.
THE ISLAM PROJECT
To double the impact of our educational and community outreach effort, the producers of Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet joined forces with the Independent Production Fund, producers of a second two-hour PBS film, called Muslims. This film, which first aired on PBS’s Frontline series, examines contemporary expressions of Islam around the world. Our alliance with IPF allowed us to pool resources, to expand our client base, and to collaborate with a topic related PBS program, rather than compete with it.
The two production teams in turn joined forces with a third organization, Active Voice, a San-Francisco based group of communications professionals with over a decade of experience in using media, technology, and provocative storytelling as tools to empower and connect communities.
Together, the three groups mutually designed an outreach effort called The Islam Project, using Frontline’s Muslims and PBS’s Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet to create a community and school educational program that in the fall of 2002 began providing tools and materials meant to increase mainstream understanding of Islam and Muslims.
These materials for classroom and round-table use include a Discussion Guide, four ten-minute video ‘modules’ based on themes drawn from the two documentaries, and guides to these products.
The materials were developed for community stakes holders, including interfaith groups, public school and university educators, civil rights leaders, policymakers, media professionals, and Muslim organizations. Active Voice administered the project.
In its first year, the Islam Project brought tailored community engagement campaigns to seven cities around the United States, including San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Detroit.
The Islam Project’s goal is to raise awareness about Islam and Muslims by bringing together organizations involved in issues of faith, interfaith, and civil rights issues. We do this by providing safe spaces where dialogue may take place, and by building alliances between faith groups, interfaith organizations, and groups focused on Islam and civil rights. Efforts like these help increase awareness of related local issues, including hate crimes and discrimination. They also create materials that can be extremely help in sensitizing the work place and professional environments.
THE SHARE THE LEGACY CAMPAIGN
The Home Video (VHS) version of Muhammad Legacy of a Prophet was first made available online through the PBS Store and PBS Catalogue, where it remained a top seller for several months. A DVD version with Arabic subtitles followed. Both items are available on this website (See Shop)
The film has received over 500 broadcasts by PBS affiliates in various major metropolitan markets around the country.
To reach audiences outside the USA, the National Geographic International Channel has begun broadcasting the film worldwide in numerous languages.
Various foreign national-broadcasts have also been arranged around the world.
• A copy of the film was sent to every U.S. Senator and every member of the U.S House of Representatives.
• We identified 3,000 North American journalists who ought to have the film as a resource. Contributions by people attracted to this effort have made it possible to mail the film with a cover letter to the first 1000 journalists.
• Over 10,000 libraries around the country were sent the film.
• The film has been offered at steeply discounted prices to people and institutions willing to buy five copies or more and distribute them in their local communities. Copies typically go to teachers, lawmakers, police, public school and prison libraries, among others.
• Over 15,000 copies of the film have been placed, by request, with classroom teachers in public schools around the country. Related teaching materials accompanied each film.
• In February 2004, we began offering segments of the film on our website in streaming-video format.
UNITY PRODUCTION SCREENINGS
In December 2002, Muhammad, Legacy of a Prophet was pre-screened three times: to an audience of 300 at India House in New York City, to an audience of 350 at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and to an audience of 1200 in Detroit.
In the 18 months since the film’s first broadcast, the film has shown over 500 times on PBS affiliated stations around the country. In addition, the film has air to many millions of viewers around the world in various languages, over the National Geographic International channel.
Thousands of institutions have screened the film, including universities (Harvard, Yale,University of California), museums (Smithsonian), religious organizations (National Council of Churches of Christ, Islamic Society of North America) and others (Reuters, Congress).