Check out the promo video we created for Bitty Ball, an after-school program that helps kids learn values like respect, responsibility and perseverance through basketball.
There are two types of people who love being on camera: people in movies and people on television. Notice how I didn’t mention people who work for non-profits. When you dedicate your life to serving others it is hard to have the spotlight turned on you, but being good on camera is a lot easier than you think.
It is natural for your communications director to talk to you about staying on message, but that doesn’t mean memorizing anything word-for-word. Remember that the way your organization is presented in print and the way it is presented in video need to be treated separately. It all comes down to a cardinal rule of video: use everyday language. People don’t speak the way they write. Wording that successfully gets you grants will not get your message through if you repeat it on screen. It is perfectly fine to practice what you are going to say, but make sure to practice with someone other than your communications director to make sure that you’re making sense to someone who is not involved in your organization.
I’m sure you’ve tried to explain your non-profit your best friend, your parents, your family at Thanksgiving. They don’t know terms like wrap-around services or best practices and they don’t need to.
Here’s an example: Suppose your organization buys books for kids in Panama that can’t afford them. When explaining your job to your family you wouldn’t say, “My organization facilitates the purchasing and distribution of educational reading material to underserved individuals in Panama’s rural areas.”
You would say, “Do you know that they are villages in Panama where people don’t have enough money to buy books so that their children can learn how to read? My organization collects donations to buy books. We pack them in the back of my truck, then we drive an hour through mud and over rivers reach these kids. You should see their faces when they get the books, it’s better than Christmas! Their parents are so moved that some of them cry with happiness.”
Kinetic typography… it’s a fancy term that means mooooving words! What do we like about it? It all comes down to simple storytelling. Leave the non-profit jargon at the door. Tell me what your organization does in plain English. Why should people care?
You all remember the famous Mark Twain quote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”? It’s an important lesson to remember when planning out your video project. Sometimes clients want a long video because they are afraid that the audience won’t realize the breadth of their work–when they actually want a long video because they don’t know what’s important. Good videos are short, powerful, moving. Carefully selected photographs, carefully planned-out video, simple messaging, inspiring music. If you audience watches your video and says, “Wow that video was cool! I wan’t to learn more,” then they’ll visit your website and explore!
By Emma O’Connor
When Medill sophomore Elena Schneider began college, she immediately missed the relationships she had formed while serving as a mentor in a high school community outreach program. So after receiving an e-mail last summer that detailed Medill’s plan for a similar project, Elena jumped at the opportunity to participate. This new project developed into a 22-week program, called Medill Media Teens, aimed at teaching journalism skills to Chicago youth. On Saturday, May 14, Medill Media Teens celebrated the graduation of its first group of media-savvy students.
“I got involved with the program totally out of chance,” Schneider said. “I hoped—and now am sure—that Media Teens was the perfect opportunity to join a program that affects real change and supports positive relationships.”
Medill Media Teens, a collaboration between Medill and the Gary Comer Youth Center, paired 14 students from Chicago high schools with 15 Medill undergraduates for Saturday morning classes about media production and consumption, said Sarahmaria Gomez, the program’s director and an adjunct lecturer at Medill.
Based in Medill’s Downtown Chicago newsroom, the students experimented with video, audio, photography and design. The students, who were all involved in various Comer Center programs, met with media professionals, explored Chicago to capture b-roll and interview tourists, and went on field trips to such sites as Chicago’s NBC affiliate, WMAQ. They worked individually and in groups to produce several videos throughout the year. For the program’s capstone project, the students investigated issues in their community and topics that relate to their future goals.
Through fostering analytical and technical abilities, the program sought to make the students better candidates for jobs and college admissions. By Saturday’s graduation, Gomez said, the students had acquired demonstrable media skills.
“Every student grew positively in an extreme way,” Gomez said. “It goes to show that when you have love and attention, you can just grow so quickly.”
The graduation showcased the students’ finished projects and their relationships with their Medill mentors. During the celebration, mentors and students discussed the friendships they developed.
“When I asked students to speak from their hearts at graduation, they blew me away,” Gomez said. “I realized that they love the program and love what we do. Everybody trusted and befriended and formed really deep relationships.”
“By the time the Media Teens graduation was over, I don’t think anyone in the room had a dry eye,” Medill Dean John Lavine said. “It was moving. It was terrific.”
Gomez said that when she began facilitating the program, her first goal was simply to make it fun, as participants were voluntarily attending Saturday classes during the school year.
While homeschooled junior Taniqua Washington said she stuck with the program because she enjoyed the creative atmosphere, Media Teens also provided additional motivation for the students to show up to class: new video cameras. At the beginning of the program, each student borrowed a Kodak Zi8 video camera to shoot video footage during the week, and those students who attended class every Saturday were able to keep their cameras permanently.
Leslie Johnson, a Gary Comer College Prep sophomore, said he enjoyed working with the video equipment and now hopes to work as an editor or cameraman.
“I feel that others should know about this program and how it could shape their future,” Johnson said.
One thing that truly impressed Lavine was the quality of work displayed by the high school students.
“The best work the teens showed us was, frankly, outstanding,” Lavine said. “The better examples of their writing, videos and multimedia could have been done by college students, and the college students would have been proud of the work.”
Next fall, the first batch of Media Teens graduates will return to further develop their skills, while a new group of students will also enter the program. This will allow the second year students to help teach the new program participants, Gomez said.
On our recent trip to China we visited three cities, each completely different than the next. Alex captured our trip with his Leica, old school black-and-white film style.
The next stop was Xi’An. Less cosmopolitan than Beijing, Xi’An is a place where the air is heavy and you can really see the disparity between the rich and poor. If you look down from atop the majestic city walls, you can see people living among trash heaps in crumbling structures. But, Xi’An has an ancient-city charm and after seeing the Terracotta Warriors, nothing is better than resting your bones at a tea house. There’s a tea for losing weight, a tea for smokers, a tea to help with your body’s reaction to pollution, a tea for warm liver. As Alex says, “if there’s something that ails you, there’s a tea for that.”
Shanghai is a modern city. The entire city is one big marketplace, you can’t walk 10 ft without someone trying to sell you something. Shanghai is very much like any western metropolis, right down to the Starbucks. It’s big city living and big city prices, but if you use your bartering skills (as I was told to do, even though it made me a little uncomfortable) bargains abound. We also got to ride the world’s fastest train.
China was amazing, we’ll be back just as soon as we save enough money for another set of plane tickets.
This year we went back to Panama. Alex was having a big reunion with the chinese side of his family and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away from the cold. While we were there we visited a village of Embera indians on the Chagres river. It was very cool to see how they live. Our guide was a woman from Seattle named Anne who originally went down to Panama to train animals for a film and ended up marrying one of the Embera men. She was a great guide and went above and beyond to make our trip a success. Click here to see some pictures from our trip.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
While community agencies and sports programs were getting ready for Spring Into Sports, multimedia journalists Sarahmaria Gomez and Alex Fledderjohn were out in the neighborhoods asking youth and adults what neighborhood sports are all about.
Their answers are in the video below. Check it out, and send the links to others so that they can see it too. (If video doesn’t stream well, try the YouTube version.)
This month we had a fantastic opportunity to escape the dropping temperatures in Chicago to spend three weeks working on some international stories with a vacation in between. Our first stop was the Feria Internacional de Barriletes Gigantes, or the International Festival of Giant Kites in Sumpango Sacatepequez, Guatemala, about 30 minutes from Antigua. The festival is part of the Day of the Dead celebrations, put on by the indigenous community in the region. Residents
After one week of work in Guatemala City, we headed out on one of our most ambitious road trips yet. Alex drove straight for 12 hours through dozens of small towns, over countless potholes and we even shared a makeshift ferry with a semi to cross a flooded river. We arrived in Bullet Tree Falls, San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, late at night and were looking forward to visiting our old friends at the Cohune Palms cabanas next to the tranquil Mopan River. When we stepped out of the car, we were surprised to find the place eerily deserted. Exhausted and disappointed, we headed toward the lights of riverside lodge across the road. Colin, the owner of Iguana Junction informed us that the town (and most of Western Belize) had been wiped out by flooding a month earlier and many of the lodges were now only beginning to rebuild in preparation for tourist season. Colin and his wife Dawn graciously offered up the only place fit for sleeping–a room with five mattresses on the floor. Luckily they had fixed up their kitchen and we had a delicious dinner of Ramen, fine conversation and even an after-dinner drink (We started off with a cooler full of beer that the Belizean boarder patrol helped themselves to. At least they didn’t take the rum.) Good thing we were traveling with three of our awesome friends, which made a potentially disheartening situation into a laughter-filled adventure. That night, our floor accommodations felt like the Four Seasons to us. We even ended up staying an extra day to relax by the now bloated, rapid river. We didn’t much care that someone’s washing machine floated by on what was once a clear blue and very swimmable river. Our friend Jessica and I tied vines to our waists and splashed around–just to make sure we wouldn’t be carried away by the current. What a difference great friends make.
The next day, Alex drove us four more hours to Placencia, Belize. We spent four days in a house just minutes from the beach and even had time to hang out with the local school kids. Our final stop were the ruins of Yaxha which were less-developed, but just as stunning as Tikal with a fraction of the tourists. We were treated to a territorial dispute between howler monkeys and spider monkeys–the uninhibited wildlife is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ll excuse the 100+ mosquito bites I got that day. A week later they still itch, little reminders of a wild vacation.
There’s a new farmers market on 61st and Dorchester in Woodlawn. It bustled with shoppers, the beets were fresh and going fast and the nine vendors nearly sold out of everything. This is one great step toward building healthier communities, especially because of the scarcity of fresh produce in this area. We can’t wait to see how this market grows. Enjoy the sights and sounds!