Leaving a legacy

We've just completed and signed off on our latest production for CAFOD, producing both DVD and web versions of a film for their legacy department. This is the 6 minute web version below:

Pitching and planning Just a few days ago, I was going through the emails to check some details and realised that it is pretty much exactly a year since we first went into CAFOD to pitch for the project. The initial meeting was more of a 'credentials' meeting; although we've done a large amount of work for CAFOD over a number of years, because it's such a large organisation, there are still plenty of teams that we've not yet met or worked with. In essence, it's almost like presenting to a new client - at this stage it's about presenting the background to Purple Flame, showing some relevant work and putting some draft ideas on the table that will work together to produce a creative brief. We got on well and were awarded the contract and started work on pulling together the various details. Lynn Rothwell came on-board with the project to work as the location director / producer.

Over the next few months, we started working alongside Beth and Maria in the Legacy team, developing the story angles and putting some guidelines together as to the best people to take on the trip with us. This would be a slightly different process, as we would be taking a couple of lay executors with us (non-legal professionals who have the responsibility of managing someone's will and bequests) -the remit was to follow their journey and see how they reacted to viewing CAFOD's work overseas - the essential premise was "My mother left money to CAFOD in her will - I'm keen to see how CAFOD works to help people in disadvantaged situations."

One of the key things I teach people in video training is to have an easy to remember proposition statement - something that is one or two sentences long, that describes the project in a nutshell and that will help in keeping the aims of the filming in mind. It's very easy to become distracted and realise that you've drifted away from your original aims and it doesn't really matter what the size of the film is, having this key statement in mind is something that we would still do on any shoot. The country we were due to film in changed, along with the initial suggestions for the people we would take out - but by late November we had our plans for Nicaragua coming together, along with John and Kate  - our lay executors, and key people for the video. We were able to start to put in the detail to the projects we would visit and think about timetables and what would and wouldn't be possible in the time there. There's a description of the planning process pre-Mali trip here - the principles for this were pretty much the same.

Filming This would be quite a large team that we would be working with; as well as the Purple Flame team of myself as cameraman / photographer and Lynn Rothwell producing / directing, we had John and Kate travelling with us, alongside Beth from the Legacy team and Sarah from the Latin America team (who had spent a lot of time in Nicaragua and would also be working as a translator with us) - and then meeting up with the CAFOD representative on location alongside their local partner (the John XXIII Social Action Institute). Definitely a case of needing two vehicles to move us all around and ensure that the logistics of the trip ran smoothly! We were very well looked after by the team in Managua and the communities that we visited over the week there were very welcoming and accommodating of the large team that descended on them. So a week of filming water projects, education, disaster risk reduction and health-care initiatives passed by in a flash and it seemed like no time at all, finding myself back at my desk in London, slowly logging all the available footage and beginning to put an edit plan together.

Producing the final film Generally, I'll go through all the footage first before even touching the edit suite - get a rough list of all the shots together and outline transcripts which helps both in terms of finding footage quickly during the edit, but you also find yourself mentally constructing the edit and knowing what shots will work together as you review the footage. It's also that time when there will be one or two occasions when you look at shots and think - why didn't I do that angle / that quote! With good planning, it doesn't happen too often, but any cameraman who comes back from shooting live action and doesn't think to him/herself "if only I'd got that particular shot" is probably not being self-critical enough. Whilst I'm logging footage, there are various technical conform processes that go on to make sure that footage shot across different cameras is put into a format that will work together smoothly in the edit. This outline generally translates to a paper edit - a rough outline of how the film works. Depending on the nature of the project, this can either be as simple as a list of various scenes or a more detailed breakdown of quotes and shots.

Once this is done, it's now time to fire up the edit suite, crank the coffee machine and get cutting. In this case, there were several revision stages - we tend to put the film online on an unlisted link which is then sent round to the various people who need to comment. Towards the end, when it gets to the fine-tuning stage it's useful to have the client come into the studio in order to make final decisions - at this stage it's normally about things such as the exact phrasing on the end titles / credits and the odd shot here and there that needs trimming or altering. In this case, we had Beth from the legacy team and the visual communications manager, Roland, in from CAFOD. Much drinking of tea, eating of biscuits and finally agreement on the end product.

For this film, the DVD was fairly straightforward - a simple play button and some chapters, so there wasn't much of a delay between completing the film and having this ready. One of our debates in the team was concerning the overall length, possibly being a little long at 9minutes. However, the two things we took into consideration was that firstly, people would be directly requesting the DVD, so there is already a commitment to watching something - and indeed if it were too short, you'd feel short-changed - there's a motive and commitment to watch something if you've put it into your DVD player or computer and sat down to watch specifically.  Secondly, the target audience is a more mature one, so more likely to accept a longer item, rather than anything that's overly fast-paced. However, we did recognise that a web edit would need to be shorter, so we set about trimming it down and ended up with a 6minute edit for youtube (the one previewed above).

As I write, the letters to supporters are going out and a stack of DVDs being produced.  CAFOD's legacy manger said: “The story we wanted to tell was a very sensitive one, but Purple Flame immediately understood that and produced a film that exceeded our expectations. Everyone who’s seen it has loved it and I’m confident our supporters will respond really positively. Having such a high quality resource will boost our programme for years to come.” If you're interested in hearing more about leaving a legacy to CAFOD - do have a look at their webpage: www.cafod.org.uk/legacy      

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