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2 min read

Shining a light on dark money in politics: Update on the Big Deal’s impact campaign

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 1/9/2022

For Leeanne Torpey, Impact Producer of Big Deal – a 2021 satirical documentary on political transparency – the online response to the secret ministries didn’t come as a surprise.

“Political transparency is a serious issue and one that can be difficult to understand,” says Leeanne, “but comedy can be a way for people to make sense of it all.”

Leeanne is speaking from her experience working on Big Deal. Dubbed ‘a wake-up call about the frightening extent to which money has infiltrated politics’, the documentary follows comedian Christiaan van Vuuren’s unlikely journey through the murky corridors of power.

With our Impact Fund community supporting the documentary’s accompanying impact campaign, we recently caught up with Leeanne to hear about its success and why the Impact Fund’s support was so crucial.

Watch: Q&A with Big Deal Impact Producer, Leeanne Torpey

Tell us about the Big Deal documentary. Why take a comedic approach to dark money in politics?

The Big Deal is a documentary that aims to shine a light on the impact that money has on our political system.

The issue of money in politics gets very serious very quickly. When you read about it, it can be hard to understand because it can be very technical, but comedy is a way to break through, so the team chose to look at the issue through a comedic lens.

The film’s team brought together experts in comedy, including Craig Reucassel (War on Waste, The Chaser), Jungle Entertainment (No Activity, A Moody Christmas), the Shark Island Institute and the main talent in the film, comedian Christiaan van Vuuren (Bondi Hipsters, A Sunburnt Christmas).

Impact Funders supported the impact campaign around the documentary. Can you tell us about the campaign?

It really was a social justice documentary right from the beginning. It became very clear that it wasn’t going to be suitable to just have it as a standalone documentary, and that more needed to be done with the work than merely live as a story.

While we secured coverage on the ABC, we also needed to work with audiences that aren’t your typical ABC audiences. We ended up being featured on Gogglebox and the Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show.

The issue of money in politics gets very serious very quickly. … But comedy is a way to break through

A clear sign that we were cutting-through to mainstream audiences was when one of the people on Gogglebox said ‘That is the most interesting political documentary I’ve ever seen’, and his friend quipped ‘That’s the only political documentary you’ve ever seen’.

It really was about reaching audiences that aren’t typically thinking about these issues and we achieved that.

How important was the support you received from the Impact Fund community?

The support from the Impact Fund really made it possible to find the best stories that showcase solutions. Not only that, but we also formed meaningful relationships with the people and organisations involved in those solutions.

The Impact Fund community urged us to meet with other members of civil society doing work in the democracy space, which led to some great connections, including our work with the Australian Democracy Network who became our partner for the film’s impact campaign.

The support from the Impact Fund really made it possible to find the best stories that showcase solutions

The film could have just gone to air as a piece on its own – audiences could have watched it and been made aware of the issue. But thanks to the Impact Fund, we were able to have a campaign and a clear path for audiences, so not only are they inspired by watching the film, but they also have a website they can click on, they can talk to their MPs about the issue, and they can connect with the organisations advocating for transparency overhaul.