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The Making of Who Wants to be a Volunteer

Below is an interview with Kristin Marie Skaar and Kristoffer Kinge from SAIH about the planning of their wonderful new video ‘Who Wants to Be a Volunteer.Thank you Kristin and Kristoffer for the frank and honest answers to my questions.

This is your third very successful video and my favourite yet. Please explain the creative process behind your storytelling. How did you come up with the idea for Who Wants to Be a Volunteer?

Well, we started the creative process in January, and have been working on many different drafts all throughout the Spring. The initial ideas were very different from this one. The actual idea for WWTBAV came in June, when one of us got a crazy idea about making an “African game show”. Then another mentioned that it should be called Who Wants To Be a Volunteer, and play off the original Millionaire game show, and the ball started rolling. We started making drafts, and we’ve been through many ideas for questions, challenge scenes etc.

iKind – the South African company which made the video – gave us great feedback on each idea, and also came up with several new ideas and twists to existing scenes. It’s been a long process with funding applications, dozens of creative meetings, countless Skype sessions with iKind etc., but it’s all been worth it when we see the engagement the video creates across the world.

How many people were involved with making this film? You have Lilly, the Presenter, audience members, dancers etc and that’s just the “actors”, let alone the director, producer, camera operators etc.

Wer’e actually not sure of how many extras we’ve had in the film, but the creative team in SAIH has existed of 9 people throughout the year (some were only active in the beginning etc.), lead by Kristoffer, Sindre and Kristin (12 people overall). The South African team were 11, and then there’s the actors Breezy V, Michael and Katy, plus the dancers and the other participants in the challenges. Here are the credits list from the video below.

SAIH-Team:
– Executive Producers: Kristoffer Kinge, Sindre Edland-Gryt, Kristin Marie Skaar
– Creative Team:
– Stine Navarsete
– Eva Lien
– Jørn Wichne Pedersen
– Almaz Asfaha
– Annette Hexeberg Hammerstad
– Vanessa Merinen
– Cathrine Nodberg
– Kaare Bilden
– Erlend Seilskjær

– South African Team:
– Director, writer and co-writer : Matt Nefdt
– Producer, writer and co-writer : Devin Carter
– Production Manager : Rose Lovell
– Executive Producer : Michael Nefdt
– Production Design : Clint McLean
– DOP : Devin Carter
– Gaffer : Jonathan Nivison
– Sound : Ryan Hall
– Makeup and Hair : Pam McNeill
– Camera Assistant/Jib Operator : Dylan Marriot
– Production Assistant : Calyn Hilder

– Cast :
– Game Show Host : Breezy V
– Contestant : Katy Moore
– Guest Appearance : Michael Mbhele
– Dancers from Flatfoot Dance Company

– Post :
– Offline : Devin Carter
– Online : Matt Nefdt
– Music composition/sound design : Kurt Peinke

How long did the video take to make. Please explain the process from early concept brainstorming, through to story boarding, script writing, filming and post production.

We started in January and we’ve probably had about 10 creative brainstorming sessions with the creative team (especially before the summer), 15 story boarding and script writing sessions, and several post production meetings with iKind. Of course it’s also been the discussed quite a lot here at the office, especially between Sindre and Kristoffer.

Since we didn’t get the funding before May, we were unsure about whether we’d actually be able make the video. We’ve probably been through 15 different drafts and ideas, but when we came up with the idea for the WWTBAV in June the process intensified. We sent our drafts to iKind, and they went through them and sent us back treatments and scripts. We’ve also had Skype meetings where we discussed the drafts and scripts in detail. That process started in August, and they started filming in September. They’ve sent us about 5-6 different versions of the video, and we got the final one the 6th of November (the day before the launch!).

The Million dollar question (I have to credit the trope somehow) – how much did this film cost to make and who funded it? Do you think it is good use of money and why?

The film and website cost about 116 000 NOK (around £11,000) in total, which is a really low amount of money compared to comparable informational videos. We received 200 000 NOK in funding from Norad (the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), through their special funding system for civil society organizations working with advocacy and information activities to raise awareness among the general public in Norway around development issues. We could never have managed this without this funding and the cooperation with iKind, so we are very grateful for that.

When you see how much debate, engagement and media attention the video has sparked, I would absolutely argue that it’s a good use of money. The video has reached more than 430 000 views on YouTube (and the number is rising fast!), and has been covered by media from Japan and South Africa to the US and Norway. As we’ve seen with our two previous videos, we reach much farther by using creativity and humour when addressing serious issues. People have reacted very well to the video, which is really fun for us to see! Our goal is to raise awareness and stimulate debate.

Please explain more about the seeding strategy – both online and offline. You have received amazing media coverage again this year so I am particularly interested in your offline PR strategy. Did you pay for any YouTube advertising?

We haven’t paid for any YouTube advertising etc. We can’t afford using money on that kind of thing. The #1 one strategy that we’ve had every year since our first video is the timing: Well in time before Christmas, around the same time when the big NGOs start their Christmas fundraising campaigns (and also when Band Aid tends to pop up – like this year!). The release day we’ve set to a Friday around lunch time, a time when people start getting ready for less serious stuff and looking forward to the weekend. Then the video can start “moving” during the weekend. This strategy has worked very well. Of course, contacting people on Twitter and spreading it on Facebook in the beginning has helped getting it all started. We’ve also had a kind of seeding strategy every year. But for instance, the first year, we had prepared a long list of bloggers, people on Twitter and media that we wanted to use. When the video was out, it started to seed itself instead. This has happened every year. It also looks like the kick-off we had in 2012 is still alive in a way, which makes all this flow by itself. When BBC, News24 Africa, Al Jazeera++ suddenly calls our little office here in Oslo – that’s just amazing and beyond our dreams!

When it comes to media specifically, we’ve kept a list of international journalists and media channels who have written about our videos the last two years, so when we sent out our international press release all these were included in the list. Also, social media definitely has played its part in spreading the video to blogs and news channels.

It’s kind of interesting that we’ve received much more media coverage internationally than nationally.

Of course, we’ve had a separate media plan nationally here in Norway. For instance, this year we worked a lot prior to the release date to get Norwegian media to write about the awards and the video. The national broadcasting NRK took the story and also invited us to talk about it on the radio, etc. In addition, after our press release we received a call from two other large newspapers, and so it continued.

Obviously you are interested in raising awareness of stereotypes in development communications, especially fundraising, but what is your number one aim?

First of all, numerous writers, politicians, activists and organizations from the global south have for years criticized the way African countries are being portrayed in western media and in fundraising campaigns. This has inspired us. SAIH has worked with a topic we’ve called “Our view of the South” for many years now. As SAIH’s primary expertise is education projects – and the organization is run by students – one important goal when it comes to this specific theme is to engage, educate and raise awareness in the general public about what the world actually looks like. It’s not as “black and white” as fundraising campaigns have tended to frame it. All this use of stereotypes creates a distance between “us” and “them”, and it is also misinforming people’s general view. We also believe it creates apathy instead of action.

Which do you think has been most successful in terms of raising awareness, is it the Rusty and Golden Radiator Awards or the videos?

So far, the videos. Last year, the first time we had the awards, we received around 5-6000 votes, while around 700,000 saw the video. And when BBC called yesterday, they hadn’t heard about the awards, only the videos. So this is something we’re working on. The videos are of course easier to relate to, they are funny and lasts for 3 minutes. Perfect for social media. And they seem to create debate and awareness and have been referenced to in a lot of different discussions. While the awards require more time, and it might be something that’s difficult to understand immediately. Also, it might be more for those who are interested in fundraising and the NGO world? Still, it’s something that really illustrates what we are working on, and it is in these cases that we actually address the large NGO’s and their fundraising communication directly. It might just need some time to get settled.

Lastly, did you manage to see Bob Geldof’s speech on X-Factor? I’d love to know what you think.

We haven’t seen it! Heard it was horrible..? Would love to hear it all if you got it.

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