WHOSE STORY DO WE TELL?

So you have read our ‘How to create a short film guaranteed to attract supporters’ blog and have decided to take the plunge and create a compelling short film about your charity. You have the message you want to communicate but how do you choose who is going to tell their story?

WHERE TO START
With your key message in mind, you should begin by looking at your potential story-tellers from the whole spectrum of your charity.
Whilst, it tends to be more moving to hear from a beneficiary, don’t exclude your donors, volunteers or even staff. Many of them will have chosen to support your cause because of their own personal experiences and will have their own story to tell.
It might also be more compelling to have a non-beneficiary tell their story if that fits better with your message. For example, if your message is that you want to tell your supporters what a difference your volunteer mentors make, with the end result being that you want more mentors to come forward, then why not ask a current mentor to tell their story. Using an enthusiastic volunteer to recruit more volunteers can be very powerful and gives an unique insight into what it is like to help your charity.
By opening up your pool of potential story-tellers, you can experiment with different interpretation’s of your message and ultimately give yourself a better chance of choosing that perfect story!

BE FLEXIBLE
We recommend shortlisting at least two or three potential storytellers to give yourself flexibility. Charity filmaking rarely goes in the way that you think it will. The narrative evolves as the story unfolds and guides the content of the film. Being flexible with the content, makes sure that the story feels authentic and that it flows naturally, rather than being scripted or too structured.
We have learnt the hard way, that sometimes the people who you think will be great on camera and have an amazing story, just don’t come across well. This could be nerves, a complex story that can’t be told in under two minutes or they might decide half-way through that they don’t want to go through with it after-all.
So be flexible! Ask your chosen few to tell you their story over the phone or even better in person whilst you record it on your smartphone. Provided you are clear with your storytellers from the start that you have a others in mind too, they should understand if you don’t include them in your film.

DUTY OF CARE
You are a charity and the people you help could be vulnerable or at risk. It is imperative that you consider the Duty of Care owed to your storytellers throughout the filming process. Speak to your team before filming and check whether they are mentally and emotionally prepared, as well as considering whether exposure could put them at risk in any way.
Coming from charity backgrounds, The Saltways have a unique insight into understanding the duty of care during filmmaking. If you do use another filmmaker it is essential that you have a conversation with them and the crew before filming about the sensitivity of your story and its teller.

BE CLEAR
Once you have chosen your storyteller it is time to brief them. Be clear, transparent and upfront about what the filming will entail, and more importantly how the video will be used. Make sure that they know where it will be released, what the goals are and what messaging will be used around the video. We also recommend that your filmakers ask your storyteller to sign a release form to protect all parties involved. You can find basic samples of a release form online.

BE EVEN MORE FLEXIBLE
During filming or even editing, it can become clear that the message you are trying to convey just isn’t coming across well enough. Rather than spending hours trying to produce something that feels heavily edited and disjointed, it might be a better option to just reshoot the film with someone else. This can be frustrating but it is better to do this than to put your investment at risk and release something that doesn’t work.
Provided you have gone through the process above, this is unlikely to happen but it is always worth bearing the mantra in mind – be flexible.

THANK, THANK AND THANK AGAIN
Without your storyteller you wouldn’t have a film so it is so important that you thank them. Us fundraisers tend to be pretty good at this already but go the extra mile to make them feel special. Keep your storyteller updated with the success of your campaign – how much it’s raised, how many new volunteers have come forward, how many views it has had – let them know the difference they have made.

Be prepared to be blown away by the amount of people who want to help you by telling their story. Remember to be sensitive, supportive and transparent. Together, you are going to create something very special!
Emma@thesaltways.com