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Films to inspire change

12 April 2019

Video can be a vital tool for charities when supporting and promoting their work. It offers the opportunity to share the stories of those with lived experience in an impactful way and provides a platform for people to present themselves in their own way. That is why it is so important to get it right and use this tool thoughtfully.

For me, as someone with a background in professional film, a key part of being able to make great video content is to allow yourself to be inspired by others and learn from how they have approached their filmmaking. So I’ve put together a reel of films which I thought exemplified great visual storytelling. Let CharityComms know what you think, and if you have any you think should be added to the list!

25 Years of TACT

Creators: TACT / Solomon O.B.

Campaign: 25 years of TACT

Why I chose it:

This film features TACT ambassador, poet and care leaver, Solomon O.B performing an original piece. It’s a testament to the power of platforming the skills, talents and voices of supporters and those with lived experience. It’s simple, different from your average charity video and is authentic because Solomon speaks his own message, in his own voice. He bridges the gap between ambassador, expert, artist and storyteller here, and the content is all the better for it.

Epic pillow fight!

Creators: The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Campaign: #SmashStereotypesToBits

Why I chose it:

When I first came across this, I thought I was going to hate it, based on the title alone (I played right into their hands obviously). I stand corrected. This is Incredible. It’s a perfect example of a charity taking a preconception and turning it on its head. As a woman, I feel completely empowered by this film. Be right back – off to build a robot.


Creators: Student activists at Trinity College Dublin Students Union

Campaign: Yes to Equal Marriage

Why I chose it:

This video, which came out ahead of the equal marriage referendum, appealed to young people to start the conversation between generations on the importance of equal rights.

It knows its audience and communicates directly to them – young people speaking to young people – this video structure is pretty common on YouTube and you can see why. It’s straightforward with a clear campaign ask, and a way to engage on social media. This could also be really easily repurposed for social channels with shorter edits, or even a key screengrab and the hashtag making it super budget friendly to boot.

Finally, it lightens the mood with a little bit of craic at the end. Golden.

Know Your Place

Creators: Girlguiding

Campaign objective: volunteer recruitment

Why I chose it:

Isn’t it obvious? It’s a powerful reflection of the strength and diversity of women. It takes an antiquated, oppressive phrase and reclaims it, showing the importance of Girlguiding’s work empowering young women, and the impact this can have. It also shows the strength of women of different backgrounds, motivations and interests – just like in real life.

Strictly Beza

Creators: HIV/AIDS alliance

Campaign: #LinkUp

Why I chose it:

I love this piece because, at a time where some charity campaigns were more problematic,  it presented a different narrative to what audiences may have been used to seeing, particularly of Ethiopia, characterised in the public consciousness by the reporting on the 1985 famine.

The Ethiopian famine was simplified in the UK press for a variety of political reasons, and it cannot be denied that the report made waves. However this simplistic view also simplifies a hugely varied and heterogenous nation, with a rich culture and history. It’s refreshing to see a film which platforms a different story – showing people with humanity, diversity and agency.

DublinBus Proud Dads

Creators: DublinBus

Campaign: Dublin Pride

Why I chose it:

Another great example that uses real human reflection to generate emotion. This one had a big budget, but I could see it being done on a cheap camera (or phone!) with some lapel mics. Sure, it’s intensified by the production value, but what is really valuable is the element of surprise and the positive affirmative action the dads are taking. The audience can see the positive effect that LGBTQ solidarity can have. It also reminds me of a recent framing tip I heard from Nicky Hawkins, content strategist at The Frameworks Institute – “to get an audience to change their mind, show them someone like them changing their minds”. There are some valid and important arguments against corporates co-opting pride in their marketing. At the same time, if this encourages more dads to accept their LGBTQ kids, I think it’s good that it exists.

Princes Trust

Creators: Princes Trust

Campaign: Awareness raising

Why I chose it:

This TV ad from the Princes Trust is such a great example of the ways charities can represent their beneficiaries as people affected by, and responding to, the systems and situations which hinder their progression. It presents the young people as resourceful and resilient, rather than simply victims of circumstance. It inspires hope that, with the support the organisation provides, change is possible.

The Loneliness & The Scream Music Video:

Creators: Frightened Rabbit

Campaign: none – but if there was, I’d be supporting it!

Why I chose it:

This one isn’t a charity film, but it is brilliant visual storytelling. Music videos can be great inspiration as they are restricted by time and the inability to use sound for the most part, so they completely rely on the visuals. If you want to understand that old screenwriting mantra ‘Show, don’t tell’, watch music videos. This is a prime example of powerful, intelligent and empathetic storytelling.

What makes this so powerful is the filmmaking techniques which put the viewer in the same shoes as the protagonist. Initially, shots that are long and drawn out leaving the viewer left waiting, slightly uncomfortably, for the next thing to happen – much like the protagonist. After the turning point in the narrative, the editing pace quickens, the protagonist is given new life and a sense of excitement. In the external world, nothing has changed but the change in shots and editing flow reflect his internal emotional shift, and lets the audience feel it too.

Good filmmaking invisibly suggests that its audience feel certain emotions and this one did so brilliantly. If this were attached to a charity, I’d be a new supporter.

Image: Girlguiding video, I Know My Place

Want to learn more about video in the third sector? Come along to our Video for Charities conference where we will be talking about everything from setting up an in-house team to making animations to capture the imagination of your audience. Find out more here.

Read more: 

When should we call a charity film “successful”?

Molly Clarke

former digital content officer, CharityComms

Molly was formerly the digital content officer at CharityComms and a Charity Works fellow. Before CharityComms, she was studying for her MA in International Development. Prior to that, she directed, produced and edited film projects both in a corporate and not-for-profit setting in the UK and internationally.