The creativity and ambition on display in charity films can be staggering. But there’s a perception that these elements are mostly reserved for the biggest and most recognisable charities – those with the budget to spend on creative. In our experience, it’s something that comes up time and time again for smaller charities, and it’s a perception that we should change.
This has never been clearer to us than when we worked with the small charity- PLANETS. It’s an incredible charity who change the lives of those affected by pancreatic, liver, colorectal, gastric, oesophageal and neuroendocrine cancer through funding support groups, treatments and research. But when they first thought about making a film, they were trapped by what they felt they could achieve with video. This blog is all about how we helped shift that perception for PLANETS (and how you can, too!).
Part 1: Finding your story
The most important part of any storytelling project, whether creating a film or otherwise, is finding your story – a story that gets to the heart of who you are as an organisation.
This story is what we refer to as a universal story. Something that transcends your charity, to speak to your audience on a deeper and emotional level. This story doesn’t have to be directly about your charity and your day-to-day operations (quite the opposite actually).
Key questions to ask yourself are:
- What do you stand for as a charity?
- How can you tell a story that expresses your values?
- What do you want your audience to think, feel, do in response to your film?
We asked these questions of PLANETS, who gave us great answers. They initially wanted something very traditional for their film, but after considering these questions, they were on track to create something truly special.
Part 2: Not limiting yourself before you’ve begun
We often encounter small charities who limit their film projects before they’ve even started. They seem to feel that there is some kind of expectation of them. They’re a small charity, so they have to make content on a smaller scale. This thinking is understandable, but we want to encourage small charities who feel this to think bigger.
Allocating a budget to a film project can be scary, especially when finances are tight, so you may feel inclined make something traditional that you feel will do many jobs in one. But often this can lead to more predictable narratives which can water down the impact of your film.
There’s also a common misconception that the more corporate style films are easier to produce. However, we have found that they can take just as long (if not longer) to produce, can be even more labour intensive and are susceptible to going off course logistically.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the right story for your charity to tell?
- Does your film idea actually reflect your core values or the things that will connect with your audience on an emotional level?
- Does the story foster connection and encourage action?
In the case of PLANETS, when they answered these questions, they found that their initial idea wasn’t what was best for the charity, but what they felt was expected. They came to the decision to trust us as the specialists and create a film that both confounded those expectations and connected with their audience.
Part 3: Making it all happen
Let’s imagine that you’ve settled on an ambitious and emotionally-led film idea. What now?
Well, one of the scariest parts of producing a film is handling the logistics and making it a reality. This can be off-putting, leading many clients to create more conservative ideas in a bid to make it feel more manageable. After all, there are so many moving parts – people, locations, scheduling – that it can be pretty overwhelming. Not only this, but it can seem almost impossible to make this all happen.
However, you probably have plenty of people and locations within your network which means making a more impactful film doesn’t actually mean more work. If you take some time to reach out to them, explain the project, and just see if they can help you out, you’d be surprised how willing people are to help make your film idea a reality.
- Who in your network can help you with people, locations or other logistical matters.
- The value you can offer back to these individuals and organisations so that it’s a mutually beneficial undertaking.
PLANETS absolutely excelled at this process. They reached out to their networks and were able to source medical locations, home locations and people to act in their film. All of this came together to create a film that was way more ambitious than they had originally envisioned. And here’s what we ended up making together:
We know starting a film project can be daunting for small charities. It’s a big responsibility and it can be a lot of pressure. But remember, telling a universal story and utilising your networks can help you to create a compelling film that helps you to stand out from the crowd and maximise the time spent on worthwhile engagement.
Asking the questions above is a good first step for planning your film project. PLANETS were in your exact position, but by following this process, they now have a film that has surpassed all their expectations. The moral of my blog is that if they can do it, so can you!
If you’re interested in finding out more about how the PLANETS film was made, check out our behind-the-scenes video here:
Banner Image: Linda Rossow Berg on Unsplash