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Creating a Charity Video

Creating a video for the charity SELF, Support for Early Learning and Families, was a challenge because they have a cause that takes an intellectual argument to make the case for, and yet, even the most persuasive arguments won’t move people to action.  People are moved by stories, by other people’s heartfelt experiences.  The problem is that people’s stories don’t always fit into the points you want to make in order to bring the strongest case.

To solve this challenge, the first step was to understand the intellectual argument.  We spent time with Debbie Ham, SELF’s director, getting a feel for what they do and supplemented that with our own research.

SELF is a proponent of early learning programs.  Over 50% of kids are showing up for kindergarten completely unprepared to learn on the first day.  If the schools fail to get kids to grade level by third grade, their chances of ever catching up drop dramatically.   By investing in early learning programs, we can prepare kids for kindergarten and thereby increase their success rate in school, the numbers that go to college, get good jobs, stay out of trouble and are able to go on to support themselves.  One study, in fact, found that for every dollar spent, seven were returned.

To state all that in a documentary style as an intellectual argument wouldn’t cause people to reach for there wallets.  We needed people who had been served by these programs to talk about their experiences… to show us why these programs were important and how they worked.  But how do you find people whose stories are compelling and who will best lay out the case you’re trying to make?  Well, a good technique is to screen as many people as you can before taping… a short informational interview not on camera, not with the crew, just to hear their stories and discover the most compelling ones.  During this process you learn who would come across well on camera, who has a story that could touch an audience.  From there you create a rough outline using their stories and create a list of questions which will be used to solicit the telling of the story you are after.

Working closely with Debbie Ham, along with Patricia Jones, we were able to pre-screen a lot of potential interviewees.  From those, we narrowed down our interview list for the video to five people, knowing full well we would end up using three stories.  We then had two interviewees who would tie the stories together giving the facts to the emotional content – Debbie Ham and Tom Nadal, Executive Director, Elementary Education, Evergreen Public Schools, ESD112.

Setting up to begin interviewing

Once we had all the interviews on the edit suite, it was a matter of cutting them down and tying them together into a logical story.  It took a while, but the finished video turned out great.  It was screened at a fund raising event for SELF, held at the Vancouver Hilton.  The comments regarding the video were all very positive.

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