Amy and I have spent a lot of time trying to raise the bar for the production of multimedia pieces within our national parks nonprofit. Many of our colleagues want to go out into the parks with a Flip camera and produce a video that they’re certain will captivate viewers. Their thinking often seems to be: “The parks are beautiful, the threats facing them are serious, and anyone can use a camera—you just need to push a button and aim, right?” We’ve spent a lot of energy trying to persuade people that you need a lot more than that.
But these videos from LOVE146 show that sometimes, if your story is powerful enough and simple enough, it just might be better to turn on a camera and listen to someone talk.
A few months back, Amy shared this video with several of us, and told us she thought it was brilliant:
When it comes to photography, writing, storytelling, and multimedia, Amy and I pretty much always agree. But this time, we didn’t.
I found the piece terribly depressing from the very beginning. The dreary music, the plodding pace, the imagery-- all of it brought me down. The title animation is slick, the distressed font is graphically interesting, and the sepia photos are well-conceived, but it all feels like a very corporate way to tell an otherwise human story.
And the problem is, there’s really no story. We are bombarded by numbers—27 million enslaved, 2 children sold every minute.... I’ve read a lot on what motivates people to advocacy and nearly all of it says that people are more likely to give to your cause if you share the plight of one person, not the plight of millions. A member of your audience can’t help millions, so the response is to quickly shut off. But the idea of helping one person? That’s do-able.
(Interestingly, LOVE146 tries to do this with another piece: Diana’s love story introduces us to a young girl who has been rescued from enslavement, but in blurring her face to protect her identity and translating her own words into English, we never experience the young girl directly, so the attempt fails.)
If you stick around long enough, the piece changes rhythm about two minutes through. People exchange 146 tags, we hear impassioned quotes from Martin Luther King, and then we see colorful images of children, illustrating hope and positive change. Then we’re told some very vague things about what Love146 does. Prevention, advocacy, after-care—I don’t really know what any of these things mean in concrete terms. We see a building of some sort that clearly provides schooling and care, and that tangible image helps a little.
But in the end I’m left with this vague idea that something horrible is happening to many children and some group with a weird name is doing something vague to help them. In the end, it just wasn’t enough to provoke my interest in learning more, or joining the cause. I just wanted to stop watching.
I actually think this LOVE146 video is far superior:
It’s very simple—Rob Morris, the director of LOVE146, sits before a video camera and tells a story. The sound is mediocre. The lighting is poor. A bland, grey wall serves as the background. Morris looks a little like he just woke up. But in the piece, he describes how he stood in a brothel for the first time looking into the eyes of children. He remembers trying to hold in his tears and his anger. He remembers calling his wife from his hotel. When she asked “How are you doing?” he just lost it. He “allowed his heart to break into a million pieces.” At that point, something came to life in him. Someone once told him it is the broken heart that makes us human and only once that happens can love and compassion spill out. And at that point he and the cofounders gave birth to the organization. He tells us that these stories are absolutely heartbreaking, but he celebrates that heartbreak, because it is the broken-hearted that end up changing the world.
In this brief, startlingly simple video, we learn the story of these children, the story of the director’s very personal experience, and even the story of the organization’s founding.
Because Morris starts by telling us how hard it is to deal with this subject, we’re willing to go there with him. The piece leaves us a little saddened, but with a little bit of hope. And enough curiosity to want to learn a little bit more.
Scott Kirkwood is a regular contributor to TDN.