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Spot on Impact Producers: Anna Kaplan

Between having more than 200,000 followers on social media, holding the number one slot on Australian iTunes, and becoming second highest-grossing documentary with a theatrical release Down Under – our January documentary treat THAT SUGAR FILM has certainly hit its sweet spot. A list of successes like the above doesn’t come out of nowhere, it’s the result of a hard-working team empowering and challenging us from behind the scenes. Making us kick our sugar addiction and get hooked on THAT SUGAR FILM instead, Anna Kaplan plays an exciting role that is forming, shaping and increasingly becoming recognized within the world of documentary filmmaking: the Impact Producer. She is helping bring our film of the month to the world and orchestrate change and now we have the chance to bring her to you.

What is it that draws you to documentary film? 

I studied broadcast journalism, but I was drawn to documentary because I always wanted to delve deeper into stories and follow them over a longer period than a news story allowed. I get really excited by bold, cinematic films that play with the form and push the boundaries, but at heart I’m a sucker for a good observational film that follows quirky characters doing inspiring or unconventional things.  I love the way documentaries allow filmmakers to challenge the status quo and open the audience’s minds to ideas or issues by allowing them to connect emotionally with the film’s subjects.

What is your own history? Is there a red thread that has followed you throughout your career as a documentary producer and in other pursuits?

I’ve worked in documentary production for most of my career, starting out in the BBC’s documentary department in London, before moving to Australia where I started producing documentaries and short films independently and working with other producers in various production roles. I supplemented the paltry income I made from my own projects working on feature films, TV drama series, online and educational projects, but I always have a documentary passion project bubbling away. My work spans a broad range of topics, from ageing, family and motherhood to youth justice, crime, refugees, Aboriginal rights and female empowerment.  The red threads would be social justice and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I feel incredibly privileged to do this work and I get to meet and work with the most amazing people.

For That Sugar Film you work as an Impact Producer. Since this is an increasingly important roll among documentary film teams but at the same time is a rather new term for many, could you explain what your job looks like?

It’s a real mix and draws heavily on my existing skills base as a producer and project manager, such as writing, budgeting, scheduling, project management, content development, audience engagement, legals, grant writing, financial and narrative reporting and liaising with various stakeholders. But it has also required me to develop a new skill set across campaign strategy, corporate partnerships, social media marketing, non-traditional distribution and project evaluation. I’ve also had to learn to frame the outputs and success of the project in a way that ensures that our philanthropic donors and outreach partners are getting a return on their social investment.

That Sugar Film is loaded with bittersweet facts, but nevertheless is digestible because of its humorous approach. Why did you decide to go this way with the film and how does it influence the outreach?

I actually came on board once the film was finished, so I can’t take any credit for the accessibility of Damon and Nick’s (the producer) approach to the topic. From an outreach perspective, their stylistic and tonal approach was an absolute gift, as while the film is disseminating confronting information for most audience members, you come away empowered to make better decisions about your eating habits rather than feeling confused, angry and bleak about the future.

You have already been able to develop a huge fan base for the film. What is the next step?

We’re currently working on a range of engagement activities for schools here in Australia.  We’re developing partnerships to allow us to launch our School Action Toolkit and That Sugar App in other countries. Another big focus for us is developing more resources for a range of settings, like kindergartens, workplaces and hospitals. We’ll also be campaigning for clearer food labeling and better regulation of marketing practices (especially with regard to kids).

After watching documentaries, people often feel moved to learn more, take action or get involved in some way. Is there anything that you recommend to those who feel inspired by That Sugar Film?

Absolutely! First and foremost, we want people to share the film, book and our Website/Facebook page with their friends and families. We also encourage all parents to approach their kids school (via the Principal or parents committee) offering to help arrange a screening of the film for the whole school community (doing it as a fundraiser is a great option). If they encounter resistance, then another tip is to approach the teacher who teaches the ‘health’ curriculum (here in Australia, it’s the Health & Physical Education teacher) and ask them to consider using the film in the classroom. We have a free download of our Study Guide which can be accessed by signing up to the schools mailing list.

Community screenings are great too and we have a community screening kit available to help screening hosts plan and promote their event (the Discussion Guide created by Influence Film is a great resource too!).

What are your 6 favorite documentaries of all times? 

Grey Gardens, One Day in September, Dark Days, Searching for Sugar Man, Capturing the Friedmans, The Gleaners and I – and That Sugar Film of course!


THAT SUGAR FILM is Influence Film Club’s featured film for January. Each month Influence Film Club hand-picks one of our favorite docs as our club’s featured film to watch and discuss together.  Throughout the month, starting with our newsletter and continuing on our website and social media we will extend the conversation by exploring the various issues touched on in the film, providing filmmaker interviews, suggesting ways to Influence, and discussing documentaries in general – because after all, We Love Docs.

Interview by: Julia Bier