How to Make a Successful Charity Film

How to Make a Successful Charity Film

Whatever your cause or campaign may be, an effective film or video can be a highly powerful tool for any charity.

Having worked on a wide range of factual and charity films over the years, the production team here at PBF have some key lessons to share when it comes to delivering successful charity films that make an impact.

Here's our round up of tips for any budding charity filmmaker.

Common Types of Charity Films & their Objectives

There are many reasons why a charity might need a film or video made. The most obvious one is for a fundraising push or as part of a wider campaign, but equally charities might naturally turn to film to engage their many stakeholders, to showcase the fantastic work their volunteers carry out, to produce training films for their staff, or to put the spotlight on the daily lives of the people they serve and the difference that their work has.

As with any film project, it’s important to determine the key objectives behind the film at the outset. How will it be used and broadcast and who will it be aimed at? What do you want them to do as a result of seeing it? These are the vital questions to address early on when you embark on a charity film project.

Setting Realistic Budgets for Charity Films

Once you’ve determined your charity film’s key objectives, the next step is to establish a workable budget. This is always a key consideration of course, but many charities will likely be working with tighter purse strings. There will be charitable trusts and funding streams which exist to support certain types of films, while Kickstarter and similar campaigns can be another useful source of funding, so it’s worth exploring all of these before the budget is finalised.

Equally charities frequently rely on goodwill, so it’s worth making a thorough assessment of what favours can potentially be pulled and resources called on to help minimise production costs.

Working with Charity Ambassadors & Celebrities

One of the big advantages of working with charities is that they usually have established relationships with celebrities and other high profile public figures who may have an ambassadorial role or sit on their board should be keen to get involved with filming projects.

This means that they will probably be fairly confident in front of the camera, may need less prep time than the average presenter and will hopefully be comfortable taking direction too. Of course the flipside to this is that you can sometimes deal with some rather substantial egos, but hopefully they can put these aside in the name of a worthy cause.

They might also help with the promotion of the finished product, especially if they can be encouraged to share it with their own (often substantial) personal networks and followers on social media.

A word of advice here, if you are working with a celebrity or high profile figure, make sure that your production team are experienced at working with these types of people and are confident at directing them. For example a background in TV is a great strength when working with celebs.

Getting the best from Interviewees

Celebrity endorsers are a great asset, but you’ll probably need to feature a wide variety of ‘ordinary people’ too. Some may never have been interviewed or filmed before, so prepare to spend some time with them before you start shooting, chatting to them about what they do and generally putting them at ease. Once again, we’d recommend making sure that your team have lots of experience in this area!

The key to any good documentary is the access to the main ‘subject’, their ability to open up on camera and share a unique view or voice, and trust is often earned gradually in these situations, so prepare to put the time in to achieve this so that it feels like the interviewee is just chatting naturally to someone they know well.

Approval Process & Levels of Involvement

Charities vary massively in their size and organisational structure. Some will have sizeable marketing departments or retain advertising agencies, others will be run by just a handful of committed staff and trustees who all muck in together. So it’s worth identifying who the key project team members will be, what their roles are and how much creative say and involvement they need at various phases of the production.

Try not to present them with a fait acommpli too late in the day once you’ve already shot a lot of footage. Can you show them rushes or a rough cut at a certain intermediate point in the production? Funders may stipulate a regulatory requirement to see where their funds are going at certain stages so factor this in too.

Picture Book Films' Charity Films

Here at Picture Book Films our production team have had the honour of working with a number of charities and NGOs, including the United Nations, RNLI, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Chestnut Tree House.

Our background making documentary films for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4 means we know the terrain well and are especially well placed to take on charity film projects. You might also be inetrested to learn more about what makes us an ethical film production company.

Want to learn more?

If you have a charity film or video project you’d like to speak to us about, why not check out our showreel and then drop us a line?

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