Using Interviews in Fundraising Videos

A month from now, October 14th, will be the yearly fundraiser for Community Housing Network. I’ve been providing media assistance for this event for many years, taking client photos and creating videos. What’s most interesting about this gig are all the personal stories I hear when interviewing those helped by the organization. Some were homeless. Some are handicapped. Some are the emotional family of handicapped individuals. Others are recovering from mental illness. Just showing up with a camera tells these people that I’m interested in them, and most just open up and tell me all about their lives. I always have to coax them to talk about what’s going to be relevant to the project at hand, but between those discussions I always hear some strange or interesting stories. For example, one guy that worked at an airport  offered details about why you never stand in front of a jet plane engine and what impacts can do to the human body. You never know what you’re going to learn.

Now I can take a decent photograph of most anyone, but not everyone makes a good candidate for a video interview. Some people are simply better at getting to the point in an interesting way, while other people can’t help but meander, lose track of their thoughts, or don’t understand what’s interesting or pertinent to other people. It’s important to schedule more interviews than you expect to need, especially if you don’t meet ahead of time.

I lucked out with the following video. The client wanted the video to be in the words of their clients. We didn’t have time to do as many interviews as I had wanted. Luckily, we only threw out half of them to narrowed it down to the ones we used. One guy we didn’t use answered each question with a single short sentence. Useless. Another kept going off on tangents while thinking about his life on the street, constantly bringing up topics a bit too earthy our purposes. In the end I blended three stories and found a heart-tugging ending note.

This year time was short, so I had to depend on a lot of old footage and photographs I’d taken in prior years. We also used scripted narration so it would have a different feel than the previous video. This approach was a lot easier, faster, and cheaper, but only because I had a lot of materials on hand. Creatively I’d prefer to have done more with this, but “more” is not always what a client wants or needs.

One difficulty I had was that we couldn’t shoot the narrator talking, which meant I needed to find imagery to run through the entire video. Also, the narration was informative, but often didn’t lend itself to visuals. A successions of photographs and a mix of video shot around the office was used to give the eye some candy. I shot one interview to break up the narration and offer something more personal, though it was done at their offices to save on travel time.

What’s great about using interviews in informative videos is that stories and emotion can draw people in and allow them to sympathize.  Honesty and truth comes through. You don’t get that with a bullet point slide or an talking head.


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