Event Planning Toolkit!

About this Toolkit & Community Screenings

MHS Stills 21 Hands UpThis very complete toolkit is designed for organizations, advocates, educators, grassroots and student groups working to draw attention to and create dialogue around the issues raised in GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL.  Think of it as a menu of ideas to pick and choose from to create the most effective event for your goals and audience.  If your main interest is a short reminder of what you need to have in place, go to the Event Planning Checklist.

Community screenings require a single-screening licensed DVD. Screenings at universities, colleges, media centers, and other institutions require the institutional DVD license.


Why are you screening the film? How can it benefit and support your group or organization? Here are some ideas
Raise awareness about a very different way to approach teaching/learning
Heighten visibility of schools teaching in holistic/progressive ways
Educate parents giving them insights they can use when observing in their own children’s classrooms.
Create coalitions with other organizations working to swing the national discussion away from standardized tests and curriculums
Engage general audiences about why education issues matters to our democratic society, whether one has school age children or not
Offer a Model for teachers in training who may not find a progressive school to observe in their community
Prompt local decision-makers to take a stand against the narrowing of education.
Fund-raise for your organization     

Are you trying to reach a wide range of your community, or a more specific group? (e.g., parents, educators, policymakers, students… )

Here are a few possibilities:
Panel discussion: Set up a post-screening panel with speakers who can attract the audience(s) you most want to reach. This could be interested individuals, educators, community leaders, policymakers, or a more targeted group. Speakers can share a range of perspectives or all speak in support of a specific goal (e.g. changing current laws, giving more autonomy to teachers and schools, social-emotional learning, play…)

 Town hall meeting: Create a forum for members of the audience to talk with each other after viewing the film, either as a whole group, with the guidance of a facilitator, or breaking into smaller conversations around the topics that have most import to the community.

Cross-sector policy review: An event designed to engage specific sectors, such as local government officials, school and community leaders in a carefully framed dialogue, focusing on ways to make change. To keep the conversation focused, this type of event is better as a small, invitational screening.

Have a Keynote Speaker: Invite a local leader or scholar to speak about some of the themes the film raises, such as: creativity, social-emotional learning, brain development, competition, and authentic assessment. Make sure the speaker has a chance to view the film in advance.

 Invite the Filmmakers: Depending on availability, the filmmakers or staff from Mission Hill School may be able to come speak about the film and to lead discussions. For more information about availability and fees, contact us at amyLvalens@comcast.net

Partner with other organizations: Invite local organizations to co-sponsor the event or speak about their work and local issues.  We strongly encourage including other organizations in your event plans, as it helps you broaden your reach and establish new, potentially long-term coalitions. Allied organizations can get involved in a range of ways including getting the word out about the film through newsletters, flyers, and websites, contributing time or resources to the screening event, and/or participating in a post-screening panel discussion.

There are many groups that would make good co-sponsors, including education associations, teachers unions, PTAs, parenting groups, universities, and film societies.  The key in approaching co-sponsors is to help them understand how your event supports their organizational priorities, and how they will benefit from being associated with your plans. Be sure to allow enough lead-time – building new relationships often takes time.

 Use a Moderator:  If you expect the discussion to be contentious,this can be particularly important.

 Have a Reception: Plan a special meet-and-greet with refreshments to allow opportunities for networking either before or after the screening. Depending on your budget and capacity, this could be open to the public or invite-only.

Include an Exhibit Hall: Provide opportunities for co-sponsors to display information about their organizations and relevant programs/services they provide.

Offer Continuing Education Credit: See if it is possible to arrange for teachers attending the event to receive continuing education credit.  For on-campus screenings consider inviting departments, research centers, and student organizations that have an interest in the topics to be part of your event.

Have Action Steps: Offer motivated audience members ways they can help or become involved—right now, after the screening!  This could be postcards available for people to write to legislators, a petition to sign, a group to join—download our handout  as a starting point, You can find a list of groups here


Take into account how best to reach your target audiences. Not everyone uses e-mail, or reads posters at coffee shops.  A clear understanding of how each segment of your audience gets their information will make your outreach more effective. The best strategy is likely to be a combination of the techniques listed below. And remember, good publicity will do much more than attract an audience: it will bring your message to a wider audience than those that can attend the event itself.

 Be sure to send your event information to amyLvalens@comcast.net so we can publicize it on our website, newsletter, and Facebook pages.

For audiences using the web, this is one of the most effective tools for publicity, but since attention spans are short, it works best when used in conjunction with other strategies.

In all electronic outreach, be sure to include a link to our website so people can view the trailer, or better yet, embed the GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL trailer on your website so people can see a preview!

Newsletter or e-mail announcement:  Use our flyer template  to create an announcement to spread the word about your event. We recommend you send out emails at least twice: two weeks before, and then a reminder a few days before your event.

Blogs: Reach out to bloggers popular with your target audience. Even a brief mention with a link to the event is helpful.  Be sure to send them information to link to or embed the GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL trailer onto their site.

List serves, Yahoo and Google groups: Post announcements with a link to the trailer on e-mail lists that serve your target audience (parents, students, teachers, etc.).

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter: Social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have become hugely important in reaching certain audiences, and can be especially useful when there’s a Facebook group or MySpace page connected to a specific local community such as a university, local organization, etc.

Set up an “event” and invite members of your community to forward and distribute the event information to friends. (Be sure to enable the features that allow people to forward your event information to their friends.)

The idea is to get a message with the event information to your friends and to groups that might be interested, including links to the GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL website and to our Facebook page:  If you are on Facebook yourself, post info and a link in your status.

Putting up posters and flyers around your community can be incredibly effective. Our free downloadable flyer, can be customized to include your event details. 5×7 postcards with a blank space for your information can be ordered from us at cost, and are a convenient alternative to a flyer.

Choose appropriate local businesses.  Ask if you can place a poster in their window. Try video stores, coffee shops, restaurants, community centers, barbershops/salons, churches, synagogues, schools, campuses, libraries, bookstores, and anywhere else that your audience spends time.

Distribute flyers at events with similar themes. Be sure to send (or e-mail) flyers to co-sponsoring organizations to distribute at their events.

Ask local organizations working on related issues to distribute flyers or e-mail the jpg.  to their networks

Think about who is most likely to understand and appreciate your event, and what media your target audience listens to, reads, and logs on to. By targeting your core audience, you might decide that it makes more sense to focus on, say, an alternative weekly paper that already covers innovative community initiatives vs. the headline-driven daily paper that tends to focus on crime and celebrity.

Use our template press release as a guide to create your own. Interesting details to include would be a complete list of the co-sponsoring organizations, information on any local schools teaching in progressive ways, or local educators who have endorsed the film.  Be sure to make a special mention if your event will feature special guests.  Issue the release at least two weeks before the event to a wide range of mainstream, alternative, community, and specialized media (radio, TV, print, web). Send it to reporters covering education issues, arts/entertainment and metro sections. Compare notes with your co-sponsors to make sure you reach all the relevant press only once.

Get the event on calendar listings in your city’s weekly publication(s) and on the web.

Make calls to local television and radio programs. Let them know about your event, and be prepared to give them contact and title information of local experts or advocates that are available for interviews. Pay particular attention to local radio shows and shows that focus on themes in GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL, as they frequently need guests and may be very happy to promote a local event! Some suggested contacts:  local TV news assignment editors, public affairs or magazine programs producers, talk radio or local/community radio producers and hosts

Let press know there are photos and a press kit about the film on the press page of our website where they can download materials directly.

A couple of days prior to your event contact the people you sent press materials to and encourage them to attend the event. Pitch the value of this unique screening; remind them of local angles, and the importance of educating people about the issues addressed in the film.

Post information on websites, in newsletters, on twitter and in blogs at your school and at other schools in the area
Create a Facebook event and encourage students to forward it widely. Link to our Facebook page
Send press release to on-campus newspapers & publications, and on-campus radio & TV
Place flyers around campus, on tables in student mailrooms and dormitories and do chalking
Make a big banner outside a particular building (like Student Union, etc.) advertising the event
Ask professors to offer school credit –– this is a great way to bring students to the event, and they’re never disappointed afterwards!
Invite relevant departments to ask their professors to announce the event in classes

Pass around an e-mail sign up sheet.  This will help you keep in touch with people concerned with the issues addressed in GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL (Please remember to send us a copy, so we can build the nationwide network as well.)

Distribute material, or point out the location where materials are available.  Some people may leave before the end of the post-screening discussion, so don’t wait.  Our double-sided handout can be downloaded and distributed along with info about local issues and actions.


The way the discussion is framed can be helpful in meeting your objectives.

If you’re hoping to build coalitions or create or enhance whole child programs, the discussion should be action-oriented. Focus on what needs to be done, how to facilitate action, and how various community sectors can contribute.

If your goal is to raise awareness, come prepared to offer your audience members ways to get involved, including information about specific actions they can take locally (from supporting their child’s teacher, to bringing their concerns to school board meetings, to organizing opt-outs to testing) or nationally.  Direct them to the GOOD MORNING MISSION HILL website, your own website or to other local organizations for further ideas.

If you’d like to raise your organization’s visibility, plan to showcase your press, potential funders, and other influential decision makers involved with you as part of the discussion.

Guide any comments or concerns to a positive end that applauds the benefits of sharing information in an open forum. Encourage critical audience members to consider ways the film can address the tensions that they are feeling.  Whole group discussions may be best in many situations, but alternatives to consider are: having audience members turn and talk to their neighbor, breaking into small groups, or dividing the group based on discussion topics of interest.  Post-its that can be organized on a wall by categories, or 3×5 cards, are useful in the moment and also to inform those not present.  Send any results of your discussions (photos, newsletters…) that we can post to amyLvalens@comcast.net .

Possible discussion starters:

  • Tell us about what you’ve seen that’s energized you.  What from your own experiences resonates with what you saw and heard in the film?
  • Ask the panelists/audience for their take on the situation in your area. What are the issues?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in creating more opportunities for meaningful learning?
  • What can we do as teachers, parents, members of this community to influence what happens in our children’s classrooms?
  • What can those of us working in schools do to lay the groundwork for bigger change?
  • What policies need to be changed to ensure a rich and appropriate education for all children?
  • What could be added to teacher and school administration training to strengthen a teacher’s ability to teach the whole child?

Explore the “RESOURCES” section of our first film, AUGUST TO JUNE, which contains links to organizations that address the education issues that motivated us, as well as listing more schools that honor the whole child in their approaches to schooling.  You may also want to explore these links to find potential speakers or partner organizations in your area.

Portions of this guide were adapted from the SPEAKING IN TONGUES Event Planning Toolkit, who in turn adapted theirs from the MADE IN L.A. Event Planning Toolkit, created by the filmmakers of MADE IN L.A. and based on materials developed by Active Voice  with funding from P.O.V.  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.