A guide to filmmaking for charities and NGOs

duckrabbit-filmmaking-guide

Duckrabbit are well known in the charity/NGO sector for both their filmmaking and their superb training courses. They have just produced an excellent introduction to filmmaking which is packed with tips. The guide takes you through the process of pre-production right through to post production with advice of budgets. storyboarding, editing etc. The guide also links to examples of films which is really handy.

A few years ago I wrote a quick blog post Top 10 tips for making an NGO video – this new guide from duckrabbit is ten times better and packed with some really simple advice which is often overlooked. A must read for anyone wanting to maximise their film budget in the development / NGO / charity sector!

 

To download a free copy visit their website

 

 

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Social media for agricultural development actors

social-media-for-agriculture

A great new resource on social media can help agriculture in developing countries has just been produced by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The publication ‘Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media’ features case studies from Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, Ghana, Samoa, Rwanda, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago.

The case studies are the result of 120 training events in 37 African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries, where training was given to more than 3,500 people. The publication offers a range of examples of how Web 2.0. technologies and social media have contributed to policy dialogue and advocacy, value chain development and the provision of information services. These case studies include tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Skype as well as Wikis, blogs, discussion groups, the use of search engines and crowdfunding.

I was particularly interested in the Do Agric advocacy campaign which aimed (and succeeded to remind leaders that they had promised to commit 10% of budgets to agriculture. The petition was signed by more than 2.2 million people.

Another story that caught my eye was an NGO called the Women in Business Inc in Pacific Island State of Samoa. Through social media they have increased their e-commerce side of the business to sell indigenous products. Some of the finest traditional woven Samoan mats sell for around 2,290 Euros. Most of the initial enquiries about the mats are received via Facebook.

You can download the Embracing Web 2.0. and Social Media booklet from the CTA website.

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Cafedirect – #OneBigTweet

OneBigTweet

A new fundraising campaign from Cafédirect #OneBigTweet  offers the public the chance to donate to Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), a charity that supports smallholder tea and coffee farmers around the world, without spending a penny.

By signing up, people can join a large network of twitter users donating their followers. CPF wants to grow #OneBigTweet so big that is can be auctioned for charity. The buyer will then be able to auto-retweet their #OneBigTweet from the accounts of supporters for onetime only.“When we looked around at the saturated fundraising market, we felt that there’s not much chance for a small charity struggling to be noticed in this environment” said Katie Messick Maddox, Business Development & Investments Manager at CPF. “Rather than wanting to resort to the same old tactics, we at CPF want to set ourselves out from the crowd.”

Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation won the Google Impact Challenge in July 2014 and used the £500,000 to launch their first subsidiary social Enterprise, We Farm. They are always looking for new and exciting ways to build upon their past successes and engage with new audiences to have an even greater impact on the 280,000+ smallholder farmers in their network globally.“Our programmes with farmers look to support them in developing and sharing their innovations and knowledge with fellow farmers across our smallholder network,” says CPF General Manager, Claire Rhodes “#OneBigTweet is designed to reflect this by leveraging social media to create a new kind of crowd-funding movement.”

There have been quite a few Thunderclap requests from charities before, so it will be interesting to see if this campaign gets traction.

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NGO documentary film highlights sanitation issues in Indian slum

I recently organised for Steve Melia, Head of Film at WaterAid UK to speak to students on the MA Media and International Development course that I teach on. The seminar was a huge success and many students (and myself) were engrossed by a film ‘Across the Tracks’ that WaterAid produced this year. I caught up with Catherine Feltham, the producer/director to find out more about the production.

Trailer for Across the tracks by WaterAid.

Why did WaterAid produce this film? 

We were commissioned to tell an in-depth, character-led story that people would be able to connect emotionally with, while also demonstrating the impact of WaterAid’s work in India through the HSBC Water Programme. ​

After meeting HSBC NOW TV, a web-based TV programme broadcasting weekly to HSBC’s 265,000+ employees and wider community around the world via the organisation’s intranet and external YouTube channel – we set about identifying the right story to give an insight into WaterAid’s work in India. We were struck by one particularly challenging urban slum, where lack of sanitation was a major issue. We quickly identified that violence against women and girls was prevalent in the slum, and that the lack of toilets only added to this risk.  This also felt the right time for WaterAid to make its own in-depth documentary film, which could be pitched to different audiences such as film festivals and media outlets.

We planned for a shoot that would enable us to gather the depth of content for HSBC NOW and also to enable production of a 20-minute film to be pitched at broadcasters, and a 10-minute film to be pitched at short film competitions, festivals and other online sites.

What are the objectives? 

At the front of our minds was that this story should meaningfully contribute towards the national and international conversation around Clean India​, a campaign launched by the Indian Government in October, which aims to see a toilet in every household by 2019. As well as attracting global attention to sanitation issues, we were keen to show that not having access to somewhere safe and clean to go to the toilet doesn’t just impact on health, but also dignity and livelihoods.

One of the key messages we wanted to emphasise was that everyone, everywhere should have access to basic necessities such as a toilet, regardless of where they live.

Who is the main audience?

We wanted to reach a wide audience, from HSBC employees and WaterAid supporters, to policy makers and people working in development. We also wanted to tap into an audience of film enthusiasts and the culturally engaged.

How long did it take to produce? How many people were involved?

We undertook a recce in April 2014 to identify potential characters for the film.  This took place in as part of an existing WaterAid supporter visit to Kanpur, India. This was really crucial for the planning of this film as it enabled us to gather interviews with several people living in the slum, get a sense of people’s personalities and how they might be on camera, and to start to work out who the key individuals were who were engaged with the WaterAid project there.

After the recce we started regular communications with WaterAid India and the project partner, a charity called Shramik Bharti, which delivers the project in Rakhi Mandi and therefore knows the community closely.   We discussed the full implications of filming with them, impacts on the project, people’s time and the logistics around filming the construction of Radha’s toilet from start to finish. We wanted to film ‘in the action’ and actuality style footage, rather than after the event, so we needed to ensure this was possible. We didn’t want to turn up to a toilet already half way through construction!

As the shoot only had one content-gathering objective, we had time to consider how to create a product with high production values.  So we researched film techniques and styles and this is when we decided to gather aerial footage.  We booked an Indian drone operator called Nikhil Thakkar, from Wonderwork Productions, and worked with him to gather general shots to show the scale of the slum, the location of the slum, the area the community used for the toilet, and also to gather shots of each character from above.  We felt this footage would be integral to telling the story by showing the challenges of the urban slum environment.

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The shoot took place in October 2014 over ten days, with the first two days used to complete the recce and plans with no cameras out.  The core team on the shoot was made up of myself (producer/director), the DOP, a second camera operator/photographer, and two translators.  In addition we had fantastic support from Shramik Bharti day-to-day, and WaterAid’s Partnership Communications Manager joined for half of the trip to help with logistics, and wider fact and story gathering to build the context. We also had the local drone operator join for two days of the shoot. Having the support of the WaterAid India local team was also integral to making the shoot a success.

In December we began the edit and completed the 20 minute and the 10 minute film the day before the deadline (25 January) for the first competition we wanted to enter!  We were shortlisted in the final 10 films (of over 100 entries) in the Rankin and DocHeads short film competition 2015. Our 10 minute film is now live on the Rankin site as a result of this exposure. We hope that this is the first of many distribution opportunities for the film and Radha’s story.

The film also aired HSBC NOW on 6 February and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from employees including converting an editor from HSBC’s production company into a new WaterAid monthly donor! The intranet version of their film has reached nearly 16,000 people so far. As you can probably gauge, a lot of people were involved in the project overall, from internal WaterAid stakeholders, to the partner organisation, the corporate partner and production staff.

How did you choose the main character?

The main character is Radha Verma.   Radha immediately stood out as she had engaged  with the WaterAid project work very early on in an environment where it was very difficult for our partners (Shramik Bharti) to gain the trust and ears of the community.

Rakhi Mandi slum is situated next to the Delhi-Kolkata railway line in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India. Rakhi Mandi is one of the oldest slums in Kanpur, thought to be around 65-years-old. There are at least 3,500 people living here.  The biggest challenge with the project work was to change people’s mindsets. Living on unofficial land with no support from local government, people thought nothing could be done and that they were born to live like this and that going to the toilet in the open was just the ‘norm’.

Before the project could get underway, Shramik Bharti had to bring a largely disparate community together. Community facilitators described families in Rakhi Mandi that were not close, with high levels of domestic violence, alcoholism and drug abuse. It took a long time to identify potential leaders and build people’s trust. In the first five months they visited Rakhi Mandi every day, focusing on cleanliness, and started to encourage families to build soak pits to dispose of household waste water, which would bring a visible change to people’s homes and surrounding areas, and go some way towards tackling serious drainage issues in the slum. Shramik Bharti first talked to people about their personal problems, their health, their kids, and built up a bond, before identifying leaders, forming a water user committee and training them on how to access services from local government officials.

Radha shone as an example of someone who wanted to change her situation and understood the benefits to her and her family. She had been one of the first in the community to build a soak pit and was also really determined to get a toilet for their home as her daughter Nisha has narrowly escaped an attack when going for open defecation.  This incident also demonstrated the very real dangers women and young girls face, as a result of having no safe place to go to the toilet, without sharing the detail of some of the more violent stories we were aware of such as rape in the community.

The secondary characters we selected – Kalavati (who features in both the 10 and 20 minute film, and HSBC’s film) and Laddan (who features in the 20 minute film) also both stood out as key individuals in the change taking place in Rakhi Mandi. They represented the hope and life that the project has.

Do you think it will share very well on social media?

We believe that social media will be a powerful tool for promoting the film and the wider story the film tells. Already the trailer for the film has received nearly 1,500 views on Vimeo without any real push to it yet.  It was liked by well-known filmmaker Philip Bloom who tweeted it out in the first few days and we saw a huge boost to views after this.

We have not started social media activities around the film with full force yet as we are still pitching and entering the films into competitions and to media outlets. However, the small social activity we have done so far has proven to engage with audiences. For example, we edited a 15-second ‘Instavid’ version of the trailer of the film for Instagram and published it the day that the Rankin/DocHeads film competition winner was announced.   The film gained 277 views, and nearly 10% of those people used the URL link we provided to visit the website to view the film.  Our average views on an Instavid on our channel range between 200 and 300 and we don’t usually provide URL links as these are not direct links within Instagram, so we were pleased with the rate of people who used the link to visit the page.

We have more Instavid’s edited and ready to use as we begin to push the film out further and we will also be using Twitter and Facebook to promote the film.  The social media pick-up will of course be more successful if we can link the film to a film festival or screening as we will be able to tap into wider networks outside of WaterAid.

Are you going to enter it into any film festivals?

Yes, absolutely. We have already begun the process and will be continuing to submit the film throughout the year. Before we went on the shoot we put together a draft distribution plan which included film festivals, competitions, online sites, media outlets and screenings.  Our colleagues in India are also researching festivals in India that we can submit the film to.

 Website link: http://www.wateraid.org/acrossthetracks​

Image Credits:  WaterAid/Nikhil Thakkar and WaterAid/Isabelle Neill

 

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Raising awareness of humanitarian issues through music videos – UNICEF

UNICEF’s recent music video series designed to raise awareness of children’s rights has undoubtedly reached an audience who were possibly oblivious to some of the suffering  portrayed in these powerful films. To date the videos have been viewed by over 300,000 people and earlier this week the final video in the series was released featuring SOJA.

The production of this series over the last two years has taken an immense amount of planning. I contacted Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator at UNICEF to find out more about the creative process behind the videos.

This series of music videos must have taken a lot of planning. What were the most important factors in its success?

The most important aspect of this work is selecting the specific child rights issue – whether its access to education, ending violence or improving water and sanitation– to highlight in the music video. We do this by working closely with our colleagues in the country office to identify an issue UNICEF is advocating for locally.  For example, in the Chad RL Grime video we focused on child marriage because Chad has the third highest child marriage rate in the world, while the Ethiopia video focused on education as many children in rural Ethiopia are out of school.

You also need to ensure you identify an artist that has a significant fan base, that’s critically praised, that is smart, intelligent, passionate and understands your work. This is essential for success and for a mutually beneficial relationship.  The team the artist works with is also very important.  You need to know they’re willing to help you seed the content with different outlets.

I know that seeding is vital in these campaigns. Can you tell me a bit more about the process of seeding.

It is amazing to watch how some videos achieve traction or the snowball effect.  We always try to ensure that our media team is in sync with the artists’ publicity team and normally the publicity team is excellent at getting the core message of the video to external audiences – at least to relevant music media.  A press release at their end also helps.

Take the ODESZA video as an example. Their team posted something on their website and across social media, which resulted in an excellent article on thissongissick- (large music blog), whose Facebook Page has more than a quarter of million fans, all enthusiastic about music and great new collaborations.

On top of all this, we’re promoting videos strongly now on Facebook and YouTube, which means the number of views is split between the two platforms.  For some of our most successful videos, a lot of the views stem from the fact they are being hosted on external media outlet websites (earned media) such as Huffington Post, UpworthyAPlus , etc. which all link back to the Youtube version of the video on our UNICEF channel (and not the Facebook Page).

For instance, the average view time for the Chad Child Marriage video which featured a track by RL Grime is 2:56 seconds (76% of the video), which is tremendous and can perhaps be linked back to the fact that engaged audiences are viewing this video from a player on a website they trust, rather than stumbling upon the video from a link they clicked.

How important was the relationship with the country offices to the production?

Working closely with colleagues in our various country offices is essential to the success of these videos. It’s the country offices who have the most knowledge and understanding on the issues affecting children in their countries. They also can localize the videos so they are relevant for their audiences.

For instance, when we worked with the UNICEF office in Tanzania to create the Four Tet video on child protection issues, our colleagues in Tanzania included their local goodwill ambassador into the video as the mother character.  They also included a prominent musician from the region as the father.  Colleagues in our country offices are also very good at utilizing the video for important advocacy purposes.  For instance, after the video with Moderat in Paraguay was created, the government officially recognized UNICEF’s #ENDviolence campaign. Another example is that the First Lady of Chad showed the RL Grime child marriage video to Heads of State and their spouses at the recent AU Summit in Addis Ababa this past January to support the AU’s #ENDChildMarriage campaign.

How are production teams selected?

Aside from the Chad and Namibia videos, all other videos were shot by local production companies.  Rooftop Productions is amazing and created the RL Grime, BANKS, and ODESZA videos.

We normally go through every possible production company before deciding. It’s a balance between quality of work and who will give us the best deal. All of the artists provided free licences to use their music.

Who has the responsibility for the storyboarding?

We have a storyboard for every video created. We tend to start the process as a team and then we have a few rounds of revisions based on feedback from both communications colleagues and the different program teams that are involved. There are so many talented colleagues in UNICEF who contribute to the creative process.

How long did it take to make each of these films?

It takes approximately 3 months to create one of these videos.  Ensuring you identify the best time to launch the video is also important in reaching the most people with these important messages about children’s rights.

For instance we starting shooting the ODESZA video in late October because we wanted to launch it on World AIDS Day, December 1st.

Why did UNICEF decide to focus on making music related videos?

Music resonates globally and has helped us provoke conversations around key issues UNICEF advocates for. Music can often touch people in ways other media cannot. It makes them think about their own lives and helps them relate to others because they feel something in the music which is sometimes harder to convey to a general audience.

When you can see your product being talked about on the largest social media networks in the world, then you know something went right and you can celebrate the idea that at first was only a glimmer in an eye. It’s a complicated but enjoyable process which I love supporting and bringing to life because I myself love the videos, grew up loving music (and still do) and I’m able to bring my passion and expertise together with these sorts of campaigns.

I’ve also heard from up and coming artists that they love these kinds of collaborations as it gives them a chance to give back and be a part of something both cool and educational.  It’s a special process, for sure, and something that lights up my work.  I’m sure these videos will be watched and shared for many years to come.

 

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