Its no coincidence I publish this today, World Aids Day . And before I start I’d like to reinforce – “kissing and hugging don’t spread HIV, ignorance does”.
Today The Food Chain launch a film I made for them. Its already debuted at a gala dinner in London, which raised over £12,000 for this small yet essential organisation.
I hope the story of one young man, Luke, conveys the soul and the empowerment the work of The Food Chain gives to those living with HIV.
I’m not going to lecture you on the importance of their work, or praise their continued valiant commitment to the services they run. You can look at their website and watch the film to learn more about that. Rather I’m going to share with you what I learned about client relationships and managing the delicate balance between all stakeholders… No don’t go, it really did throw up an interesting conundrum.
Challenge 1 – representing the boring.
The Food Chain asked me to make a film that showed the impact of their work. The impact is kind of obvious when you meet their service users, but from a film making point of view I didn’t see them in their “before” state. And there wasn’t the resources to follow a new service user through their complete journey (if ever such a journey is complete).
Importantly the film should also show an example of each of the services they provide. The most boring, visually speaking, of these services being grocery deliveries. Yet, its one of the most essential and expensive services they offer. We all know what a Sainsbury’s lorry looks like turning up at your house with some bags of food in – and to be honest the importance of this is quite obvious too.
Challenge 2 – Funding verses ideas
The other detail to understand, this whole film making project is funded by The City Bridge Trust as part of a scheme called Telling Your Stories, facilitated by The Media Trust.
The Food Chain specifically wanted the film for their fundraising event and then for public launch on World Aids Day. The running time didn’t matter, the content did. As part of the deal with City Bridge Trust, Media Trust produce a compilation of the Telling Your Stories films for the Community Channel and for a screening at the Barbican, their brief has a strict running time of 3 mins per film.
A quick bit of maths (not my strongest subject) 3 services to cover, at least one case study and some vox pops (all content requirements from The Food Chain) led me to realise its going to be tricky to fit it all in and retain the all important impact.
Challenge 3 – collaborative creativity
The Food Chain themselves had their creative hats on and had come up with an idea to solve the boring grocery delivery problem –
-An abstract talking fridge-
Yes they had nailed it so they thought. I listened with interest. How on earth am I going to do this. Limited equipment, no lights, no real drama background (a bit of re-con on Crimewatch doesn’t really count) limited time, no art director, no prop store and a client wedded to the idea.
Well you’ve got to give it a shot, right? I didn’t have any better ideas and the point of doing this sort of project is for a challenge outside the constraints of the day job.
I revisited the section of my brain where A level theatre studies is stored, (arguably not my best subject either) what would Mr Kane do? And honestly it felt a bit like this, as I set up a scene in my building-site of a kitchen to create a dilapidated sad looking fridge. I visited my local pharmacy to buy some pots of pills and hid all the Waitrose branded products that lived in my fridge.
With little clue of how this was going to look I set the camera rolling.
Several scenes of the same fridge to denote the passing of time and grocery deliveries gradually filling it up – and then the money shot, the bright sparkly new happy fridge full of lush fruit and veg and nutritious gold! Yes It was going to be great.
In the edit, I panicked. It looked like an A level theatre studies project, a clever idea by a teenager, (Mr Kane would have been proud). But not a glossy charity promo – on reflection I began to feel a DoP with more style and experience would have been a better choice for this project.
But somehow it got the message across. It served as a punctuation mark between the documentary style sections. Although technically and stylistically I find it a little cringeworthy, there’s something about it that is a bit mysterious, its almost purposefully amateur, and I sort of like that.
With great apprehension , I sent The Food Chain a rough cut. They LOVED it. I was relived.
Media Trust however, did not. It was too abstract, and of course it was too long. Cutting the fridge scenes meant the film would run exactly to the three minute brief. Deep down I knew the fridge was frivolous. It would never make the final cut , what on earth had I been thinking. I’m not an artist or a dramatist or a stylish DoP. I should have stuck to what I know.
I’m happy with the three minute version, it will look good when its screened at the Barbican and it shows off what I’m good at, talking with people, listening to people and story telling. And it shows off what The Media Trust are good it, and next time I make a film with them I’ll know – no talking fridges.
But the version that’s on The Food Chain’s website today? And the version that helped them to raise over twelve grand? Yes you guessed it, the talking fridge.
Which cut do you prefer?