As a newcomer to Halifax from Australia in the middle of winter, I was eager to sink my teeth into any work that I could find to keep myself busy and stave off those winter blues. Enter Alex’s Safe Harbour – a local charity providing free grief support for children, teens & families. They were in need of financial expertise on their new board of directors. With a background as a CFO and Company Secretary, I was primed to add value to this rewarding volunteer position.
A couple of months later, I landed my job as Business Manager & Accountant here at Journeyman. As part of ASH’s drive to raise funds, we discussed the need to create a video to promote the cause. Naturally, I took the idea to my colleagues at Journeyman to see if this was something that we could produce on a pro-bono basis.
Mathew saw this as way to support a fantastic cause and an opportunity to up-skill our internal resources, but it came with a catch: I was to be the producer of this film – a bit of a change from my regular bean-counting ways! This was going to be quite an adventure…
In any profession, a key element of success is to surround yourself with talented people. Thankfully, we have a plethora of eager and experienced participants, both inside and outside Journeyman. As a first-time producer who might potentially need to be “carried” through this project, this was a critical element to getting the job done.
Director & Sound: Oren Hercz
Script / Editor: Andrew Fleming
Shooter: Gesar Mukpo
Production Advisor / Assistant Producer: Sarah Riley
Production Coordinator: Heather Frantsi
The main goal of the film was to increase awareness of ASH, with three main benefits: to inform the community of the services provided, to attract volunteers to the charity, and to support fundraising efforts.
The team assembled to brainstorm ideas for the script. Given the weight of the subject matter , we thought it would be a challenge to find people willing to be featured, but the response from program participants was overwhelming. People wanted to share their stories with us, a testament to the success of the ASH’s programs in helping people accept and be open about their grief.
We chose to focus on the story of the Tews family – an extremely brave, open and resilient family who tragically lost their three year-old daughter to a brain tumour. We had only one opportunity to shoot – at ASH’s final event before the summer break. We arrived at 2pm and were on location for only 6 hours to capture everything we needed to produce a 6 minute film. That meant I even got to do some the shooting as a 2nd unit cameraman – another first!
It was great to see the crew in action. While Gesar was busy trying to capture key events, Oren was directing and following with his sound kit, and Riley was having release forms completed by all in attendance. Everyone knew what needed to be done (except me at times) and it all came together.
Throughout this process I came to appreciate the importance of editing, which is without doubt one of the most critical aspects of the whole production process. You can have fantastic footage wasted by a poor editing job, and conversely, a skilled editor can make a compelling piece from below-par content. Andrew did a fantastic job piecing together the footage and really crafting it into a story. (For more on editing, please read Oren’s blog post here.)
We delivered the rough cut to the ASH Film Committee with positive feedback. After the sound mix and a couple of minor edits, we had the fine cut complete, and presented this to the entire board of directors. The board was ecstatic with the finished product which was a great result for the team.
The final part of the process is reaching your audience, ensuring all of the hard work in planning and production doesn’t go to waste, so we developed a plan to maximize exposure. We decided on a coordinated approach between Journeyman and ASH, involving social media, email blasts, websites and blogs (yes, including this one!). The launch date of August 26th coincided with the lead up to national Grief Awareness Day on August 30th, giving the local media a chance to catch on to the compelling story.
I had an absolute blast as producer of my first film! My saving grace was working with a team of experienced (and patient) professionals. The fact that the film was for a fantastic cause was the cherry on top.
My very special thanks to:
The inspirational Tews Family – thank you for openness and willingness to share your difficult story with us for the betterment of this great cause.
Gesar Mukpo, a regular Journeyman freelancer, for shooting this film on a pro-bono basis. Good karma coming your way!
The Journeyman team – on behalf of ASH, we understand that this fantastic work comes at a significant investment of time and resources. Thank you for dedicating both towards this project.