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Authentic filmmaking in lockdown: Lessons learnt from the Stroke Association’s latest UGC series

2 June 2020

Like many charities, the Stroke Association has been unable to deliver face-to-face services during lockdown. But they haven’t let this stop the vital work they do. They have adapted their services and created new ones to continue to support stroke survivors to rebuild their lives and to help the NHS.

As part of this shift the charity has also made a series of short User Generated Content (UGC) videos, with the help of our team at Morever, in order to create an integrated campaign that communicates this new coronavirus offering.

Though we have made countless UGC films, this time was different – a pandemic and a lockdown. So here’s what the last few weeks have taught us.

The importance of a clear idea

Stroke still strikes every five minutes and changes lives in an instant. With social distancing in place, and many stroke survivors being discharged from hospital sooner than normal, it’s tougher than ever before and stroke survivors are feeling even more isolated and alone.

That’s why, working with the charity, we decided three short videos for social, each featuring a stroke survivor, and a Stroke Association rep delivering the service would be a good way to show why the service is needed. Helping to increase awareness, engage the audience and raise funds.

Applying Morever’s methodology

We used our tried and tested methodology for delivering contributor-led films to create something that would deliver on all the aims that the Stroke Association set for the series.

  1. We asked that the key practical and personal questions were covered in the Stroke Association’s first calls with contributors: what’s your internet connection like, how much time do you have available each day to film, who do you live with and how do they feel about the filming?
    Being direct and being honest about the time commitment, saves time in the long run.
  2. Our Contributor Lead at Morever spoke on the phone to the contributors, to talk through the self-filming process and learn more about their daily schedule during the filming window.
  3. These two conversations culminated in a case study brief for each video, covering the stroke survivors’ experience, practical information and the core narrative for each film. This invaluable ‘go to’ doc was referenced throughout the project lifecycle.
  4. Contributors were then sent a short filming guide (covering areas like: how to upload your photos, framing, safety whilst filming and so on) plus a bespoke ‘shot list’ based on the case study brief.
  5. Contributors uploaded footage to Google Photos each day so we could review and feedback for the following day’s filming.
  6. A recorded video conference call helped with more informal content – calls were done in the evening and were treated as a conversation, not an interview. This footage formed the backbone to each video.

The importance of the human side of UGC

Alongside the practical side of things there is the very human side to gathering user generated content that needs to be considered. It’s a very personal experience for our contributors, and the more relaxed they feel and the more trust you build, the more likely you’ll get some fantastic and meaningful content.

Jane Maber, head of brand at the Stroke Association says: “As a charity that has previously relied on professional shoots, the benefits of a user-generated content approach soon became clear during the coronavirus crisis.

“Yes it meant we could still capture content safely and quickly, but more so it allowed us to live our brand and values by handing the camera over to stroke survivors and truly putting their experience front and centre.”

But remember as it is about putting your contributors’ experiences front and centre you must be vigilant with your responsibility to be aware of the mental and physical wellbeing of those involved and make sure you are putting them first.

For example the reality of self-filming can be tough, especially the reality of self-filming during a horrible and unsettling time. During our project with the Stroke Association some contributors couldn’t continue with the process. So remember it doesn’t matter how much you try to mitigate against this by asking the right questions at the start, self-filming might not feel right when it comes to it and if that’s the case you have to be prepared to rethink things. The fall back here is the recorded call but if this still isn’t right for your contributor, then let them be. Their mental and physical well-being is by far the priority.

What we learnt

  1. Grant all involved in the project the benefit of a tight brief! Help everyone understand what you are trying to achieve and why. In this case yes it was emergent, yes there were lots of stakeholders and yes we were all time poor. But the Stroke Association gave us a tight brief and it made all the difference.
  2. Creating a project plan with dependencies kept requests realistic and gave everyone in the charity/agency team full transparency. Content was needed fast and we had to reduce our recommended filming window duration so this meant being even more vigilant each day when checking the content. By doing this we could see how the narrative was shaping up, how we were progressing through the shot list, and were able to revisit the case study brief to stay on track.
  3. Remain unflappable. There will always be a film. You may have lost contact with your contributor, they may feel self-conscious now it’s come to self-filming, but there are always options; always ways. And as long as the charity and the agency are tight knit and talking, all will be well.
  4. Make the process work for contributors. Is a one off ‘shot list’ too much for someone who has memory loss? Chunk it up on a daily basis. No process is set in stone. For us understanding stroke and the personal situations survivors may be facing was vital. We know more now, but at the start understanding that stroke survivors can experience issues with memory, speech and fatigue was invaluable when planning how they might self-film. The Stroke Association had so much insight to offer and it was critical to planning a project like this.

Investing in getting it right can have great impact

In our opinion the reaction from the public shows just how successful this project has been. The Stroke Association now have some very early results for the first of the three films – it has generated nearly one million paid engagements on Facebook, 50% above target.

More than that though the film has resonated…

Facebook testimonial

Instagram testimonial

To see all the videos in the series visit https://www.stroke.org.uk/rebuilding-lives

If you are interested in making user-generated videos with Morever please get in touch with abi@morever.co.uk. We are the beneficiaries of a business grant and are able to provide tech including smartphones, selfie sticks and tripods without cost at this time.

Abi Mellor

managing director, Morever

Abi Mellor is managing director of Brighton based creative agency Morever. Morever specialise in visual storytelling through film, animation and motion graphics. Gold winners at this year's Charity Film Awards Morever have specialist expertise in authentic storytelling.