Friday, November 9, 2018

An interview with film-maker Tobias Deml in New York on why he created a Wikipedia page for the "Entertainment Education" field

Miguel Sabido and Tobias Deml

Tobias, Robert, Sergio and Miguel at Miguel's home in Mexico City

Robert, Albert Bandura and Tobias

[Tobias Deml is a filmmaker and producer who co-founded the magazine "Cinema of Change" in 2013, which is dedicated to bringing social impact insights to mainstream filmmakers. Deml co-founded and runs the Los Angeles-based social impact production company Prodigium Pictures.]

Climate activist and blogger Dan Bloom notes: Recently, an online correspondent I was chatting with about the rise of the ''cli-fi'' literary and cinema genre told me about an academic field of study dubbed "Entertainment Education." EE for short.

I had never heard of the EE term before last week, so of course, I Googled EE and then found an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the term. I also found Tobias Deml, a film-maker from Austria now living in the United States and I asked him a few questions about how the term came to be, originally, who coined it and when, and how he came to create the Wikipedia page for it.

Here's our informal interview conducted by email:
1. Education Entertainment has a dedicated Wikipedia page now. Can you explain what motivated, inspired you to create that page? Did you create it?

TOBIAS DEML (in a series of email replies from New York): In late 2017, I reached out to Albert Bandura for an interview about the social impact of mainstream entertainment; we had a wonderful discussion at his home at Stanford University in California. He then connected me to Miguel Sabido, his long-time collaborator and a famed TV producer in Mexico who is widely seen as the "Grandfather of Entertainment-Education"; he's basically the guy that invented this whole field in the 1970s. I went down to Mexico City with my co-founder at Cinema of Change, Robert Rippberger, and we interviewed Miguel for 10 hours straight at his home.

You can imagine that I was immensely passionate about the topic and Miguel's groundbreaking contributions to it over so many decades. He then told me I needed to go to an upcoming conference in Bali, Indonesia. I had never been to Asia, but with the top-of-the-world level knowledge that Albert and Miguel confronted me with it was pretty clear I had to go and invest a bunch of my money in this trip. The conference was the SBCC  (Social Behavioral Change Communications) Summit in mid-2018, where I reunited with Miguel and met many of the leading thinkers in Entertainment-Education.

Surrounded by so many communication experts and leaders, I wanted to find something useful I could contribute -- and then I realized that, ironically, a large group of 1,200 communication professionals were meeting on a topic that didn't have its own dedicated page on Wikipedia.
There was also an ongoing problem in the naming and categorizing of the work they did - EE, SBCC, C4D, SIE etc. etc. - so I made it my personal mission to untie that knot by creating a Venn Diagram that would interrelate the different terms and abbreviations.
I checked with the various thought leaders at the conference about creating that Wikipedia page as well as showed them drafts of the Venn diagram until they all signed off on it. I then connected that Wikipedia page to Social Impact Entertainment and also created Miguel's page; you can see my digital footprint on a bunch of them.
To make a long story short --- I was introduced to EE by the guy that created it 50 years ago and saw the creation of a Wikipedia page as a long overdue duty I gladly took on.

2. For the general public who has never heard of this field before, can you explain briefly what it is, who coined term and when and why? And it is a ''genre'' or an ''academic field'' or both?

TOBIAS: Entertainment-Education is basically the use of Serial Dramas - narrative TV shows - for the primary purpose of entertainment that inspires and educates people through role modeling. We all learn various life lessons from the movies and shows that we watch, and Entertainment-Education (or EE, for short) is very aware of this effect, and has a set of methods to utilize the media for maximum effectiveness. The primary method of EE is the Sabido Method, named after Miguel Sabido who created the field. He initially called it "Entertainment for a Proven Social Benefit", which Patrick Coleman (a long-time friend and fellow producer) later renamed as Entertainment-Education.

It's primarily an academic and professional field, a way to look at entertainment. It can be applied to many genres. Think of it as "the school of being aware of the impact you're creating with your shows and movies".

3. Is the term now used also in non-English-language websites or academic papers, and if so what is EE called in German, French, Italian, or Spanish?
TOBY: Yes, the term is still widely used; the SBCC Summit had it as a sub-title. Most of the international community exchanges knowledge about it in English, so I'm not aware of any widely used localized terms for it. However, there are multiple terms and abbreviations that surround EE; the best visualization of this cluster is, to my knowledge, the Venn diagram I created earlier:

4. Have Hollywood movie and tv producers woken up to the ee term and its usefulness in Hollywood?

TOBY: Marginally so. There was a big wave of EE in the 1970s and 1980s that went as far as Sonny Fox, back then president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, teaming up with David Poindexter, Miguel Sabido, and Albert Bandura to basically turn the industry's attention to teaching people about health issues and family planning through mainstream TV. They got involved with Everett Rogers and the three biggest TV networks in the US to do this together with the Center for Disease Control; their effort is still survived today by the organization Hollywood Health & Society which has a powerful advisory position to the Writer's Guild of America.

But to be honest - today in 2018, Entertainment-Education is basically a forgotten treasure in Hollywood; only very few people know of it, and nobody properly capitalizes on its immense power - both commercially and impact-wise.

5. Does the term have a nickname or abbreviation or initialize, like "ent-edu" or "enter-ed" or EE in capital letters?

TOBY; Yeah, they had all sorts of abbreviations; I'd call it "EE" or "Entertainment-Education". Definitively not to be confused with Edutainment, which is basically educational programs with a slightly entertaining spin. EE is "Entertainment first", and that's a wholly different approach.

6. Has the term appeared yet in newspapers or magazines like The New York Times or the L.A. Times or BBC or The Guardian UK or Atlantic magazine or The Chronicle of Higher Education? Any links ?

TOBY: Yeah, all works of Albert Bandura use that term, so that's all peer-reviewed scientific journals in the psychology sector. There are a few dozen books on the sector, too. See the links below:

But  if you ask me, Entertainment-Education is the biggest forgotten treasure chest of modern media. It's a shame that not more people know about it; I've traveled to the other end of the globe to understand it better. Miguel is still alive and well in Mexico City, and a lot more journalists should fly down there to take a deep dive into his under-utilized genius.


For more information or to interview Toby, contact him here:
Tobias Deml
-- Filmmaker

Co-Founder, Prodigium Pictures LLC
Co-Founder, Cinema of Change


Miguel, center, Patrick Coleman, left at SBCC summit

Sonny Fox, Bill Ryerson, left, Albert Bandura, second right

No comments: