Producing a non-profit film can be difficult because the work is so important. There’s a looming social/humanitarian/environmental problem and taking a chance on a film production isn’t always in the cards. Also, words like “capital” and “budget” tend to complicate the matter, too.
It’s easy to make charity films the wrong way. Low budget, heavy handed, cliché ridden, predictable. If they work at all, it’s because they shame us into caring. But that’s the old way of doing things. At least according to Stefan Hunt, whose cause-based films rival Wes Anderson’s for their playfulness, spontaneity, beauty, and fun. They’re great films regardless of the cause they’re promoting. Many of them have won Vimeo Staff Picks. For Stefan, creativity and storytelling are just as important as educating people on an issue. “I want to inspire people to help, not guilt them into helping,” Stefan told us.
You don’t need a reason to make films, but it helps. Case in point: Paul Pryor, director and cinematographer best known for his work with TOMS Shoes, Charity: Water, and The Adventure Project. Paul makes films for a very simple reason: to help people. His work has helped raise awareness and funds for some of the most important issues facing our world today. (Thanks, Paul!)
Charity: water is one of those rare organizations that not only does amazing work (bringing clean water to people around the world), but also tells amazing stories. As you’d expect, we’re suckers for both. We recently flew to the Big Apple to visit with members of the charity: water creative team and hear about how they use Musicbed in their videos (honored). While we were there, we grabbed a little extra time with video producer Jamie Pent and learned more about the charity: water creative process and what it’s like crafting stories for one of the most compelling nonprofits out there today.
There are few people more experienced in cause-based storytelling than Ashley Gutierrez, creative director and founder of Cliff Co., an Impact Storytelling Agency. And that’s due to not only how long she’s worked on these types of projects, but also the specific projects on which she’s worked. Namely, Kony 2012 — arguably the most viral video of all time (at least according to TIME). If nothing else, the Kony film was a testament to the power of storytelling and the relevance of online films — particularly when it comes to causes.
Non-profit films may be the perfect testing ground for new techniques. As an action-oriented medium, it’s one of the most record- and data-driven forms of filmmaking. Beyond views, organizations need to see return on investment — it’s the entire reason they exist. So, there’s a testable result for every new implementation. Did people react differently? Did they donate? Did the storytelling tactic work?