The more experience we’ve gained in nonprofit video production, the more we have learned that the power of a compelling video is as much, if not more, in the storytelling as it is in the videography.

At Betterme Productions we are not videographers or even filmmakers so much as we are visual storytellers. What we created for the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding (RPCP) is arguably our best work yet, and I believe it is because of this understanding of how to tell a story.

Watch the video we created for the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding below:

So how did we do it? Below is a synopsis of the process behind a nonprofit video production:

STORYBOARDING

Upon first meeting with Heart and Jeffrey of the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding, I learned that a core part of their work is in promoting dialogue.

They get police to have conversations with black and brown youth, children to talk with their abusive parents, victims to talk with their offenders.

It is through this recognition of their approach that we embraced the value of dialogue with our new client to come up with the storyboard for the project. In fact we spent eight hours over several meetings discussing how to develop the creative concept for this video, and it paid off.

Storyboarding is an open-ended process where our creative team and the client’s team discuss many possibilities on how to visually get their message across. Guided by the story arc, we ultimately develop a beginning, middle, and end for the video. We deliver this to the client in the form of a project outline and illustrated storyboard.

THE STORY ARC

We warn our clients that the process of storyboarding may begin with a feeling of discomfort and uncertainty about the outcome, and that’s okay. We don’t come up with the story out of thin air; in reality it’s a fluid process of dialogue and discovery through which the opportunities are uncovered. Nevertheless, we do have a framework that we follow, and that is the story arc.

To develop the story arc for the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding video, we mapped out how we would go from the opening sequence to the resolution of the video.

We identified two individuals, Robin and Denaria, who had powerful stories to share about the results of their work with the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.

Before we even interviewed them, we knew that there was a suspense that we wanted to build with what we knew about their stories. It all began, in what is known as the exposition of the video, with the story of Denaria’s conflict with her mother, and the story of Robin losing her brother who was killed in a robbery.

Heart Phoenix, in the video, would then interject and establish some context about the conflicts that we face in our lives and our yearning to overcome them, and then we would continue to hear about Robin and Denaria’s stories in what is known as the rising action of the story arc.

We would learn in the climax that Robin went on to meet and forgive her brother’s killer after receiving preparation in RPCP’s Victim/Offender Dialogue program.

The falling action of the story arc would highlight, through the executive director Jeffrey’s narrative, the work that the center is doing to build peace in communities. We would hear a variety of perspectives from community members and a resolution to Robin and Denaria’s stories.

The video would end with a pleasing resolution and a call-to-action asking viewers to get involved.

SHOOTING THE VIDEO

For Robin and Denaria’s interviews, we wanted to build a set that would match the mood of the story that they would share.

We had the subjects seated in a chair against a, believe it or not, white wall, and we used directional light to isolate the subject so that all you see behind them is black.

We would shoot this with three cameras: Camera A pointed straight at the subject in a medium shot, Camera B positioned above the subject pointing down, and a sparingly-used Camera C on a handheld stabilizer for detailed shots of the hands.

We interviewed the co-founders Heart Phoenix and Jeffrey Weisberg in outdoor settings, which despite ever-present auditory disruptions that we worked around — passing cars, lawn-care equipment, crickets, wind — provided beautiful, natural scenery for their hopeful messages.

Apart from the above interviews and other interviews with police officers and community members, we captured the center’s various events on video: an “Immersion” training for community leaders from around the country, the Unity & Community “peace march,” a youth communication and self-esteem class, and a police/youth dialogue.

All of the footage is assembled in an editing timeline using Adobe Premiere Pro. Editing is a long and careful process where we compile the best snippets of interviews and primary footage, secondary (b-roll) footage, music, and text effects to create a compelling work of art.

PRESENTING THE VIDEO

The video was first unveiled at the holiday fundraiser for the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. After a wonderful dinner and music performance by Venus and the Moon, the audience of 100 people watched it on a big screen. Heart Phoenix asked us to stand and complimented Betterme Productions on a job well done.

(Photos: Gainesville Sun)

In the end, the video was an anchor for what turned out to be a successful fundraising evening for the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. It has since been viewed nearly 10,000 times online and will serve as a core part of the organization’s nonprofit marketing efforts.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the production. Please enjoy and share the final video: