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How Picture Motion Amplifies Social Change in Films

Posted May 19, 2017

Picture Motion, a marketing and advocacy firm for issue driven films works with filmmakers and change-makers to amplify awareness, expose injustice, and drive activism, with the goal of advancing social change. With offices in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., the agency  handles all aspects of a social action campaign, from strategy & planning to project management and activation.

Christie Marchese is the founder and CEO of Picture Motion, where she leads a team of impact producers, marketing strategists and public interest communication specialists in developing social action and grassroots marketing campaigns for films. Working with filmmakers, distributors, brands and NGOs with stories that have the potential to inspire action, Picture Motion educates and inspires audiences to think critically, take action and drive lasting change. Recent projects include Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood, Ava DuVernay’s 13TH, Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, Katie Couric’s Fed Up and Under the Gun, Shonda Rhimes and Norman Lear’s America Divided, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Keepers of the Game, Whole Foods Markets’ At the Fork,  Discovery’s Racing Extinction, The Weinstein Co’s BULLY and Fruitvale Station, and renown artist JR’s Ellis.

DIVERGE talked to Marchese to find out more:

How did Picture Motion start?

Picture Motion is the opportunity to create my dream job, happening at just the right moment in the industry. I worked for an incredible company called Participant Media, in which I aided in the development of social action campaigns for all of their films. By working on films including The Cove, Food Inc, and Waiting for Superman, I really saw the transformative power that films can have on society. That’s what inspired me to create Picture Motion, but I feel like we became a real company when a former Participant colleague and impact film veteran Wendy Cohen, came on board as co-founder and President.

We know that diversity is something important to Picture Motion. What makes your company diverse?

What makes Picture Motion diverse is the varied life experiences of people that work there. We work on such a range of issues, and while we work with issue area experts on every campaign, we strongly believe it’s important for our team to be made of people who have a range of perspectives to contribute to our campaign development and management. We can’t risk operating in a bubble.

Diversity doesn’t just mean religion, sexuality and race — it also means geography, age, politics, family, and life experiences. We also ensure we have diversity through various programs and policies. We partner with The Door in NYC to provide paid full time internships to kids in their youth services programs. We opened up our job search to the formerly incarcerated and hired an incredible graduate of the Bard Prison Initiative. We even just took on a short term intern from Union Theological Seminary’s Encore Transition Program, which is aimed at older adults 55+ making a career or life transition. What matters to us is whether they believe in our mission of advancing social justice and equality through film.

There are so few females in the film world — how can we improve that?

For those who can and are deeply invested in this issue, support programs through institutes like Sundance and Tribeca who are investing in women behind the camera and nurturing women storytellers. But there are also things  each of us could do every week. Choose to see a film directed by a female director with strong female leads – like Niki Caro’s The Zookeeper’s Wife which has both – on opening weekend. Donate to a female storyteller’s kickstarter campaign like Yellow or Fight Like a Girl. If you’re filming a video for work or even a personal event like your wedding, hire a female videographer.

How does your work positively impact society?

Our work makes a positive impact on society when we are successful at helping the films we work on make a positive impact. For example, over the past year we partnered with Netflix for the platform’s Oprah-approved documentary 13th and set up screenings across the country with experts and panels to empower communities to use the film as their activism jumping-off point. We also created a fundraising campaign surrounding Lion, benefitting 3 grassroots organizations in India.

This impact report shows even more examples of how we’ve positively impacted society in 2016. https://lemonly.com/work/picture-motion-infographic-2016/

What are some examples of your work? Do you only work with films?

We primarily work with feature length films, but have also worked on short films, a TV series,a web series, and we even work with major brands. Our one requirement is that whoever we work with is aiming to make a positive impact in the world through film.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

This film tells the extraordinary true story of a family who risked their lives to save hundreds of innocent jewish people during the Holocaust. Although the story takes place in 1939, the themes around refugees, community and following your moral compass are still very applicable today. We are currently seeing the worst refugee crisis since World War 2 and shockingly acts of anti-semitism are on the rise.

The Campaign: Picture Motion’s campaign is built around these messages. Specifically, partnered the film with the world’s leading refugee organization the International Rescue Committee to raise awareness for their work helping refugees around the world.

Outcomes: We organized 12 impact screenings, and created a Haggadah for Passover, which was adopted by over 200 individuals and organizations.

Betting On Zero

Betting on Zero takes on multimillion dollar company Herbalife. The film follows hedge-funder and activist investor Bill Ackman in his effort to expose Herbalife’s manipulative business practices with the goal of taking the company down.

The Campaign: Picture Motion was brought on by the film’s distributor to further expose Herbalife’s harmful marketing scheme and shameful targeting of low income communities and working class latinos by screening the film in these communities targeted by Herbalife.

Outcomes: The screening tour continues this month, and the film reached #1 on iTunes. Like most of our impact work, we won’t know for some time if we created an impact until we can show a drop in interest in Herbalife from these communities


Starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, Lion is the true story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of India and ends up thousands of miles from home. Then 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

The Campaign: Picture Motion was hired to assess the impact opportunities for the film. We learned that more than 11 million children live on the streets in India, and more than 80,000 go missing each year. We in response, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to benefit 3 organizations working on the ground with the most vulnerable children in India.

Outcomes:  Lion raised over $350,000 for 3 child aid organizations in India.

What is your advice for those who want to enter the film and social impact space?

Focus on your talents. I absolutely love movies but alas, I am not a great filmmaker. So I focused on what I can do, and that is ensure the films that I believe can make a difference in the world get seen and inspire action after the credits roll.

What are Picture Motion’s plans for the future?

We are expanding our work from independent film to studio projects and series, as well as working with brands in their philanthropic film efforts.