Before Filming

Before shooting material for your video, a strategic planning process is essential. This will include:

  • choosing a filmmaking approach
  • building a team
  • planning your video (content and style)
  • planning your shoot (schedule and logistics).

Choosing a Filmmaking Approach

It’s important to understand when it is most effective for a filmmaker to act alone or as part of a small team. This will depend on the needs and goals of the initiative, and on the knowledge and skills in the affected community or the pool of potential participants. You’ll need to know your people and your objectives to make the best judgement.

There are three basic scenarios for forming a team for a video:

  • 1A filmmaker from outside a community comes in to direct a video alone or with a small team, and seeks assistance and collaboration from community members. (This scenario carries a risk of tokenising community members; care should be taken to honour everyone’s contribution.)
  • 2A group of people who come together to make a video as a truly participatory or co-creative team, Similarly, a set of people or teams that collaborate on each others’ video in a collective effort.
  • 3A filmmaker or strategist from outside a community comes in to assist a director or group from that community to design and execute their own videos, and to provide services, consulting or resources.

For example, a small and agile team or an individual video-maker may be required when documenting human rights abuses or protests, when conducting undercover activism or citizen journalism, or when creating advocacy videos with specific restrictions on messaging, production standards or timely release.

In these cases, the process is likely to be covert and quick, and there will be a need to prioritise safety or to ensure controlled and targeted messaging with strong creative direction. Opening up these processes for broader participation may not be possible.

When there is more time and flexibility, deeper engagement is possible and more effective for long-term, community-driven change. Your primary choices will be about who has control and influence over the filmmaking process — specifically who determines the aims, content, voice, style, production and distribution.

Building a Team

Building a team can be a pivotal moment for ensuring that undervalued or unheard perspectives are amplified, and for connecting and contributing to a social movement. The skills required to build and manage a diverse team include managing diverse viewpoints, opinions and experiences; ensuring that no one monopolises dialogue or decision-making; and managing conflict.

Impacts of Building and Training a Team

  • When a team represents different parts of a community (e.g., location, age, background, gender, religion, livelihood, etc.), it helps to ensure various perspectives and voices are heard. This will give the video a deep, nuanced and comprehensive point of view, and will therefore reach and be well-received by those different groups.
  • Using a collaborative or participatory filmmaking process helps build mutual understanding when various members of the team collaboratively explore the issue through the video.
  • You can identify potential change-makers in the filmmaking process who might continue to use their new skills to achieve impacts for their communities. These might be the technical skills to continue making videos for change, but also other soft and hard skills, such as collaborative working, collective decision-making, public speaking, facilitation, self-reflection, interview skills or event organisation.

The composition of a team will differ according to each project, but including people who can speak directly about a community’s experience and political, social and cultural context can make a significant difference. (This may mean bringing in the subjects of your video to provide additional input on context, or to engage other community members or stakeholders to advise.)

We recommend you build a team that will be able to:

  • access and support the voices that need to be amplified
  • explore essential issues in a careful way, using their own personal experience where appropriate
  • be sensitive to the context within which the filmmaking is taking place
  • have insight into what will reach particular local audiences, and make change
  • take an ethical filmmaking approach.

Planning the video

Once you have identified, prioritised and analysed the issues to be explored through your Video for Change project (Research and Planning), the next step is to plan your video.

This is another moment that invites participation. It is an opportunity to seek input from people, gather ideas on issues, people and places to video. Again, this is another opportunity that allows people to feel fairly represented and be involved in the decision-making.

Planning the content and style of your video involves answering the following questions:

  • Audience segmentation and goals — Who are you trying to reach? Why and how?
  • Storyboarding — How will you tell your story and what will you include?
  • Shooting schedule and logistics — How will you organise your shoot, taking into account local circumstances?

Strategies for collaborating with your team, and/or other community members or stakeholders on your planning process may include the following:

  • Invite support and input at the ideas stage, and respond to and include suggestions wherever possible.
  • Keep people informed on the progress of your video to sustain engagement and continue to build a supportive audience for your finished video.
  • Seek feedback on your plans with local representatives to consider potential risks and how to maximise impact. Join community meetings, meet people, build relationships and explain the aims of your video project.
  • Plan your consent process and ways to integrate informal evaluation into the process, in a way that is empowering for those involved.