From 30 second vlog to full documentary. Is it possible?

This month GlobalGiving UK is focusing on video and film making so our #GoodNewsFriday post focuses on one of our charity partners, Miranda from Snehalaya UK, who has gone from making a 30 second vlog to aspiring to make a full documentary. We think you can do the same.


“Working for a voluntary UK organisation called Snehalaya that focuses on Human Rights in India is my passion and my love. Although based in the UK, our work focuses on rescuing and empowering women who have been trafficked into prostitution in rural India. But because I am here, working alone, I often find myself attending training days, not only to learn new skills but also to network. Training though is sometimes EXPENSIVE – but through GlobalGiving UK’s Route to Good programme I managed to get a free ticket to the #SMEX16 event (normally tickets are £300 – not in the budget of a small charity!)


There were so many different communication workshops to choose from – all delivered from industry experts and practitioners. However, because Snehalaya (and myself) had had experience in social media campaigns (#HerVoice) and with journalists. I decided that for this training event I would focus on film. Because, in my opinion, the everyday busy person is only getting more busy and I think the best way to grab their attention is through imagery and video stories. For example, I could write about the women we rescue from prostitution and share their stories through text with you, but how much more powerful would it be if you saw them yourself? And they told you their own stories? It’s the age old saying: A picture tells a thousand words. But doesn’t that mean then that a vine or a short film can convey a million? – That’s what I wanted to find out!


And I was not disappointed. The workshop on vlogging and video content was delivered by Jonny Benjamin from Postcard Productions, and it was amazing. During the vlogging session, Jonny explained how to make our content interesting. The answer: personal storytelling!


Jonny was not just a film making expert, but he knew the charity sector well too! Not only did he make the documentary ‘Find Mike’ which was aired on Channel 4 to raise awareness about suicide, he also drew on his own personal story to create a series of ‘Recoverlogs’ where he revealed his personal struggles with Schizophrenia in an authentic and honest way through vlogging which were used by mental health charities in their campaigns. Viewers found the open, honest, personal approach refreshing and empowered them to comment, empathise and react. After watching one of his blogs, you will understand why.


He also gave us the chance to create our own 30 second vlog. I won’t make you watch mine! By the end of the day I had so many ideas, the best and biggest one being ‘I need to make a documentary about the state of mental health in India’. I had been thinking of this for a while but thanks to Jonny’s masterclass and further chats to him, I now think it’s actually possible! Other documentaries have been made that are related to the field I work in such as ‘Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids’ and ‘Lone on the Run’. Both are really powerful and emotive.


#SMEX16 gave me the opportunity to meet Jonny and Postcard Productions and develop new relationships with corporate organisations which I would otherwise find challenging being just one of thousands of small charities in England. But I think this is hugely important for not only my own charity and all small charities, but also for the companies themselves because WE have the stories and THEY have the resources and skills to present them in a way that appeals to broadcast commissioners, thus creating maximum awareness.


Even if Postcard Productions and I work together on this project, making my documentary dream come to life will be challenging for many reasons. We are putting a camera on a country that is going through immense socio, political and economic change right now. After the outrage of the Nirbaya story (the girl on the bus in Delhi), India is in a period of revolution and reform when it comes to women’s rights. I think another huge challenge for us will be making sure we take the viewer somewhere positive. The treatment of people with mental health can be brutal in India, and current laws around homosexuality and suicide don’t really help. However, we really want to give a grassroots element of positivity and shine a light on the people that are there tackling the root cause of the problems effectively.


It’s crazy how one training day has turned my lingering idea into a potential reality, but I am so excited! This film will bring the field I work in into the mainstream and could be a powerful tool to be used in all areas of our work. There are many filmmakers and companies like Postcard Productions who are looking for stories. So my advice to other charities is, if you have an idea, share it, pitch it and most of all go for it!”


Maybe you aren’t ready yet to make a documentary but we will be sharing tips and tricks and the ‘how to’s’ of smartphone video making all month! We also have a peer learning webinar which focuses on video storytelling on 20th April. Register here to join us for that.

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