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Lights, camera, potential disaster

16 April 2019

Video is everywhere. Whether it’s the 300 hours uploaded to YouTube every minute or the mind-bending statistic that by 2022, online videos will make up more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic.

We carry a video screen in our pockets, we sit and work at one most days and we often watch one at night. Video has become the most powerful marketing tool in the toolbox. And it’s here to stay. So, how do you make video perform well for your charity and how do you harness the power of it to help build your brand?

At Creative Concern we’ve been producing films for charities to communicate causes, issues and campaigns for over fifteen years. Here’s a few top tips on harnessing the power of video as a force for good for your charity.

Can you see it in your mind?

The best advice I’ve been told is to visualise the film in your mind before you start. If you can see it, and you’d watch it, go ahead and make it. If you can’t visualise the final film, think again and explore a different approach.

Film has to have a purpose

Like all good communications, a film has to have a purpose. Even if the film is for ‘video content’ be clear on what you want your audience to think, feel and do as a result of watching your film.

Does it move?

Video is about moving pictures. Sounds ridiculously obvious but things that move make great films, static scenes are far less captivating. We were once asked to make a film about a sustainable procurement strategy – not easy and not particularly film friendly! Think about visual moving sequences and you’ll be off to a great start.

Take your audience somewhere new

Video has an amazing and powerful ability to transport your audience somewhere new. Think about how you can share something that the public doesn’t normally see. Take them behind the scenes or consider exploring moments that may normally be private or hidden from view.

Emotional weight

The best films have emotional weight. I believe film is the most powerful medium for conveying emotions and creating empathy. Whatever story you are telling, find the emotional weight behind it and make your audience believe and care.

Looks good, sounds terrible

Don’t forget about audio. You can shoot decent pictures even on your phone, but all too often audio is neglected. Use headphones to monitor sound quality, get yourself an external microphone and find somewhere quiet to record your interviews.

Play your strongest hand

Just because your chief executive likes being on film doesn’t mean they are any good on camera! If you are featuring your team, be strict and seek out the most charismatic, authentic voices that come across well on camera. Also consider featuring donors, supporters, volunteers – choose the right people to get your message across.

Edit and edit again

Editing isn’t really about the technical process of using editing software, it’s about selecting the very best shots, the very best interview clips and the very best visual elements that work together. Be super choosey with your material, just because you’ve filmed two hours of footage doesn’t mean you need to make a longer film than you planned. Be selective… edit and edit again.

Variety is the spice of life

When it comes to the actual shots, go for variety. A good mix of shots keeps your audience happy and makes the edit easier. Shoot very wide, wide, mid-shots, close ups and super close up.

People like watching people

We like watching people, we just do, so make sure you include people in your shots to make it relevant. If you were shooting a film about a new visitor centre for example, don’t shoot it empty, feature your service users, the public, fill it with people.

We don’t talk in sound bites

A common mistake is to shoot loads of interviews and then hope to get some juicy sound bites. You might be lucky, but most likely you’ll spends days in the edit trying to shorten long rambling sentences. If you want a short pithy soundbite, ask for one. Ask your interviewee to summarise their answer in five words. They might still give you ten but at least you’ll have something to work with.

Going viral

Wanting your film to go viral is a bit like wanting to be a celebrity. Wanting it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Sure you can make films that are more watchable and shareable on social media but with the volume of new content created every hour – going viral isn’t something you can control.

Where are my views?

The days of a good film always gaining good audience views are long gone. Films need to be marketed or supported as part of your wider marketing and communications strategy. When you create a film, make sure you put together a promotional plan to find and connect with your target audience.

Enjoy and experiment

Above all, make sure you enjoy the experience of making films. Experiment creatively, try different approaches, and if you’ve enjoyed making them, the chances are your audience will enjoy watching them too.

Creative Concern is an agency specialising in communications for charities. They will be sharing more key tips for success at the Video for Charities conference on April 25th.

Image: Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Chris Dessent

managing director, Creative Concern

Co-founder of the North's leading ethical communications agency Creative Concern, Chris is passionate about communicating sustainable development. Chris' agency specialises in communicating green issues, regeneration, climate change, environmental technologies and much more. Chris himself is a specialist in film and video directing and producing, and devising integrated PR and marketing campaigns.