We’re like a lot of small businesses: we don’t do a lot of marketing. Our marketing is our work. During the past 15 years, Dorst MediaWorks’ video teams have been to 50+ countries and made hundreds of documentary-style videos for organizations that do good.
But Covid-19 has been a nightmare. It put a stop to travel. Practically overnight, business stopped. We had a few stressful weeks. How could we make videos like we always had?
After all, we tell stories featuring real people: we travel, we spend time with people, we film them. But the pandemic made us explore our own resilience, imagination, and problem-solving to respond to these challenging times.
We had a hot minute to give our clients a good work-around. Some asked for videos made with Zoom interviews, but our initial results were insipid. It was like giving a 5-star chef a microwave for her birthday. It’s not innovative, it’s not special, it’s not good. So don’t do it.
How could we tell stories without spending time with beneficiaries on the ground? Well, check this out:
It turns out that a lot of our normal workflow with our clients at USAID, the World Bank, and other international organizations, is relevant whether we’re traveling the world or quarantined. We pivoted from travel to telling stories in new ways. We wrote scripts that didn’t require in-country footage. We moved our post-production from Premiere to After Effects. We favored photos over footage. We used narration over interviews.
In other words, we changed our identity and the way we work to respond to the unique and stringent constraints of Covid-19.
And it worked. Our last few jobs have had our clients so pleased that they offered to write reviews. For us, as a small business that doesn’t do much marketing, reviews are super important. Google and Yelp are a couple ways to do it. But something we’ve preferred of late is a verified platform like Clutch. They offer a holistic process that gives potential buyers a full look into how vendors operate.
As part of the process, Clutch reaches out to our clients for a 15-minute interview call. Clutch assesses the impact that Dorst MediaWorks has had. We are graded on quality, attention to deadlines, project management skills, and overall price. Then Clutch transcribes and distills the interview into an edited format. For example, take a look at our most recent reviews below:
We’re thrilled you’ve read this blog, and are interested in helping small businesses like us! Drop us a line if you’d like to talk about your next big video project. And above all, stay safe and healthy. 😀
This article outlines how you can use video captured on day #1 of a conference to unite and inspire conference-goers on day #2.
At Dorst MediaWorks, we’re always looking for new ways that our videos can be useful and even inspire audiences.
Most of the time, that means transporting viewers to other countries with documentary-style storytelling—and immersing them in the lives of people that are benefiting from our clients’ projects.
In pursuit of that mission, we’ve left our home base of Washington, DC to go film in more than 50 countries in the past 15 years to tell stories about international development, environmental conservation, and humanitarian relief.
Often, these videos play at events and are meant to educate, raise funds, or inspire. But recently, we tried something completely new for us.
We interviewed people on day #1 of a conference, and then edited a video overnight—in less than 14 hours—with the goal of inspiring participants and building community. How’d we do it?
Here are 9 steps to turning around your own lightning-fast video to inspire participants on day #2 of your own conference. Here’s the video:
1. Make sure your video team knows the content and your point of view in advance
In April of last year, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and the World Bank Group hosted the Development Marketplace Awards for Innovation in the prevention of gender-based violence. Hundreds of people from around the world attended.
They hired Dorst MediaWorks to produce some videos profiling the winners. As a result, our editorial team got familiar with the content and the way that the partners talk about the issue of gender-based violence. We completed those videos and they all played on day #1 of the conference.
This process helped us enormously, because we learned the content and messaging.
If your video team is coming in fresh to do an overnight video, you might want to write the script and do most of the edit in advance—and just leave placeholders for your interviews—much like a journalist on deadline will write most of an article and leave a few placeholders for quotes.
2. Interview Style: Ensure quality
We recognized that this was a rare opportunity to have leaders from all over the world together in one place. So we wanted to capture their perspectives. But what was the best style? During style discussions, it was suggested that we conduct brief stand-up interviews with people on-the-fly. We strongly resisted that idea, believing we could get better quality with a dedicated room and no ambient noise. This was the right decision.
3. Set up a professional interview room nearby
We sent a one-person crew (camera operator) to the World Bank on the first day of the conference. There, we set up an interview room near where participants were spending the afternoon. Our first priority was to have professional lighting and quality audio—thus the separate room. Then we tasked one World Bank staffer with asking the questions (he knew the content very well and could ask follow-ups if he wasn’t satisfied). A second staffer escorted interviewees to us, just when we needed them. It worked well, since participants had been forewarned and were happy to take part.
4. Keep the interviews short – and note the timecode of the best content
Our objective was to conduct brief, but substantive interviews with about a dozen experts. We asked each the same four questions. The cameraman, who was also the editor, noted the timecode for the best answers. This made editing go faster. (We didn’t follow a typical documentary workflow, where we transcribe all of the interviews and read everything. We chose one money quote from each person and called it a day.)
5. Approach: don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good
Even watching the video now, there are several things I’d improve, but our approach was to do our best given the time constraints. By the time we got back to the edit bay in the late afternoon, we had about 14 hours to do the editing.
6. Objective: Remember your goal
Our goal was to kick off day #2 with some energy and get people on the same page. That’s why we started the video with prominent text highlighting the big challenge: “Almost one billion women have suffered gender-based violence.” But we wanted to quickly transition to a more hopeful tone, thus the sudden sunrise footage and early musical peak: we wanted to wake people up and get them paying attention. The suggestion is that with all of these thoughtful, impactful people here working together, there’s hope.
7. Feature crowd favorites to build community
The next 30 seconds of the video featured sound bites from six experts from six countries around the globe. These are some of the leaders, and we chose them with the goal of building some community. Then we included footage and mentioned winners from the past few years to further create a sense of community. These were all people and projects most participants would recognize.
8. Cut to the music
The goal was to infuse some energy into the morning, so we decided to lay an upbeat music track throughout. This also made editing easier. The rhythm dictated the cut points for the editor.
9. Long-term value
This quick video was the first deliverable. Later, we got the interviews transcribed and our client used some of the best quotes in online articles. They also logged the two hours of interview footage into the organizational video database for future videos.
So there you go. When you organize your next conference, consider using video of participants to help inspire people on day #2. It’s a fast turnaround, but with these tips, you can do it.
The 2020 Development Marketplace: Innovations to Address Gender-Based Violence Call for Proposals is now open.
Dorst MediaWorks is a Washington, D.C. based video production company which helps international organizations create documentary-style films. We have been working with top-notch international organizations since 2002, including the World Bank, USAID and many more nonprofits that we believe are here to change the world. We have worked in over 50 countries, creating award-winning, human-centered videos wherever we go, always respecting the local culture and people.
Clutch is a B2B ratings and review firm also located in DC which collects client reviews and connects businesses so they can be more successful together. We recently partnered with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to create a video for a country documentary series. The Deputy Chief of the IMF, one of our partners in this project, left Dorst MediaWorks a review outlining our excellent services. The Deputy Chief explained our involvement in the project, how we developed a game plan for the video, and how we delivered results. They are quoted as saying, “they produced a beautiful video that was very visually appealing–we’ve posted it with pride on our website and social media channels.” Moreover, our profile features a comprehensive project summary with the IMF, here are a few more quotes:
“Steve [Producer/Director] gets it. Not only is he a talented video producer, but he also understands the subject matter.”
“Dorst MediaWorks did a phenomenal job of creating a video that effectively told the organization’s narrative, including its complexities.”
Dorst MediaWorks has been featured on two other sites that provide B2B services. The Manifest gathers business news and tips and has listed us as one of the top video production companies. The other site, Visual Objects, posts portfolios of visual and creative design firms and has listed our portfolio items open to anyone curious about our completed projects!
We are so proud of the entire Dorst MediaWorks’ production team and their ability to capture emotional stories and change the world one video at a time!
We encourage anyone considering our services to come by our websiteto learn more about our message and our videos.
So, you work for a government agency or a contractor. Do you ever feel intimidated by the challenge of creating videos that show results from your successful programs? There’s no need to be. They are another important way to get the word out to your target audience.
Why documentary style? First, these videos are perceived as more credible. They aren’t primarily promotional, nor are they scripted. They use the voices of project beneficiaries who talk about their impressions and experiences. These testimonials, as a result, are more enduring. Whether your target audience watches these stories this month or next year, they find them informative and memorable. Ultimately, this makes for a cost-effective communications investment that builds your brand over time.
Second, documentary-style videos are a great tool for organizations that are trying to be accountable and transparent to their stakeholders. If USAID is running a project in Lebanon or USDA is funding a program in Afghanistan, should they interview an executive in a Washington, D.C. office or actually show the project where it is being administered? Ultimately, federal agencies are accountable to citizens, and videos are a great way to share information in an accessible way.
You don’t need an Act of Congress to create a quality documentary-style video. Just a professional crew from Dorst MediaWorks. Here are 21 great videos produced by Dorst MediaWorks for USAID, USDA, and MCC during the past few years. You should have no trouble getting inspired to make a documentary-style video part of your marketing strategy.
1. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Haiti Private Sector Development
This is the story of USAID’s efforts to spur Haiti’s private sector. We see through the eyes of one factory employee, Hermine, who is one step closer to her dream of owning her a home and providing a solid education for her son.
2. Afghanistan: Empowering Women Farmers
After the war, Afghan farmers — particularly women farmers — were getting virtually no support from the government. This is the story of how the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture improves how it does business, which helps farmers, spurs the economy, and contributes to stability. This is a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) that is uniquely effective.
3. Washington DC Government Video Production: “Annie’s Story,” Millennium Challenge Corporation Malawi
This is the story of Annie’s tragic loss and her new passion. It’s also the story of how the Millennium Challenge Corporation helped Malawian women in river communities develop new economic opportunities that protect the rivers that power 90% of the country’s electricity.
4. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Lebanon & Rabih’s Fishing Business
This is the story of Rabih, who struggles to make a living as a fisherman before buying a new boat and building his business. And the microfinance institution Al Majmoua, which is extending loans to rural entrepreneurs in Lebanon for the first time
5. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Ghana & the Global Shea Alliance
USAID and the Global Shea Alliance help 16 million women from 21 African countries to collect, harvest and sell shea products around the world. By linking these communities to the global market, USAID helps families engage in international trade and earn a reliable source of income — helping their countries on their journey to self-reliance. This video highlights the work Rita Dampson does with shea collectors and processors in rural Ghana.
6. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Ethiopia & Sara’s Handicraft Passion
This is the story of Sara, a fashion designer from Ethiopia. Not long ago, she had 7 employees and only served the local market. Today she has more than 400 employees and her designs appear in major retailers such as J. Crew.
7. Washington DC Government Video Production: “Mary’s Story,” Millennium Challenge Corporation Malawi
This is the story of Mary’s new business and her improved quality of life. It’s also the story of how the Millennium Challenge Corporation helped Malawian women in river communities develop new economic opportunities that also protect the rivers that power 90% of the country’s electricity.
8. Sustainable Development Video Production: Afghanistan, From Ledgers to Biometrics
This is the story of a transformation. After the war, the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture is in disarray. Staff stand in line for an hour to sign in for work (if they come at all) and accounts maintain paper records. Through a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) the Ministry sees a lot of improvements.
9. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Lebanon & Hala’s Flower Shop
This is the story of Hala, who had a passion for flower arranging and used to dream of starting her own business. And the microfinance institution Vitas, which is extending loans to women entrepreneurs in Lebanon for the first time.
10. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Birth of Ethiopia’s NovaStar Garments
This is the story of Mohammed, who moves back to Ethiopia after 18 years in the U.S. to open a textile factory. The problem is, he doesn’t have much experience, or any buyers. It’s also the story of USAID, whose initial support gives Mohammed just the market exposure he needs to rapidly expand his business.
11. Washington DC Government Video Production: “Judith & Alice’s Story,” MCC in Malawi
This is the story of Judith and Alice’s new business and their improved quality of life. It’s also the story of how the Millennium Challenge Corporation helped Malawian women in river communities develop new economic opportunities that also protect the rivers that power 90% of the country’s electricity.
12. Washington DC Sustainable Development Video Production: Afghanistan, Taking Stock of a Modern Ministry
With more than 9,000 staff and tens of millions of dollars of new donor investments, the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture needed a way to track its assets. This is the story of a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) that helped them do it. Since 1964, IESC has worked in 130 countries and helped to create or save over 1.5 million jobs.
13. Washington DC Government Video Production: “Powering Malawi” Millennium Challenge Corporation Malawi
This is the story of Malawi’s power sector reforms and how it is spurring economic growth and poverty reduction by by improving the availability, reliability and quality of the power supply.
14. Washington DC Sustainable Development Video Production, Afghanistan, By Afghans, for Afghans (POV Mohamad Jaqob Hotak)
This is the story of Dr. Jaqob, who is the director of human resources at the 9,000 member Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan. After working for 10 years with various international donors and NGOs, he shares why a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) is uniquely effective. Since 1964, IESC has worked in 130 countries and helped to create or save over 1.5 million jobs.
15. Washington DC Sustainable Development Video Production, Afghanistan, By Afghans, for Afghans (POV Herschel Weeks)
This is the story of Herschel Weeks, an American aid worker who has led projects in challenging places around the world for the past 25 years. As Chief of Party for a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) Herschel shares why he thinks this is the most successful project he’s ever worked on.
16. Washington DC Sustainable Development Video Production: Afghanistan, By Afghans, for Afghans (POV Noor Seddiq)
This is the story of Noor Seddiq, an Afghan national who after 25 years living in the U.S. has returned to help rebuild the country. As Deputy Chief of Party for a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) Noor is a bridge between the U.S., program staff (99% of whom are Afghan), and the Ministry of Agriculture and its farmers.
17. Washington DC Sustainable Development Video Production: Afghanistan, “CBCMP, A Huge Difference”
This is the story of how the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture improves how it does business, which helps farmers, spurs the economy, and contributes to stability. This is a USDA program named CBCMP (Capacity Building and Change Management) that is uniquely effective.
18. Washington DC Government Video Production: “Emily’s Story,” Millennium Challenge Corporation Malawi
This is the story of Emily’s new business, beekeeping, and her improved quality of life. It’s also the story of how the Millennium Challenge Corporation helped Malawian women in river communities develop new economic opportunities that also protect the rivers that power 90% of the country’s electricity.
19. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Promoting Trade in Ethiopia
This is the story of Mohammed, Sarah, and Abebe, three Ethiopian businesspeople who built successful companies exporting to the United States. It’s also the story of USAID, whose advice and exposure was exactly what these business owners needed.
20. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Lebanon, Samir’s Cattle Business
This is the story of Samir, who almost gives up cattle farming before finally building a thriving business. And the microfinance institution Emkan, which is extending loans to fishermen and farmers in Lebanon for the first time.
21. Washington DC USAID Video Production: Ethiopia, Tikur Abay Targets America
This is the story of Abebe, who owns a shoe company in Ethiopia. Working with USAID, can he break into the massive U.S. market?
Dorst MediaWorks, Inc is centrally located in Washington DC, a few minutes from the DC Convention Center and the Mt. Vernon Square metro station, conveniently located on the green and yellow lines. We’re a short walk or Uber ride from dozens of US Government buildings.
Because we’re all hard-wired for story, focus on people and their passions first, not on your own programs.
It’s been more than 4 years since I first wrote about Kinote, a coffee farmer in Meru, Kenya who was working hard to build a larger house for his family.
For a DC-based client, I was in rural Kenya to tell Kinote’s story. The larger context was the agricultural extension agent (and his NGO) who was helping the farmers improve yields and sell direct-to-market.
Despite the many differences between us, Kinote’s quest to grow his business and provide for his family was something I identified with.
His story came rushing back to me as I added new clips to my company’s updated reel, “Videos for Good.” [Dorst MediaWorks Reel 2018].”
That’s because Kinote’s two young daughters are the first two people you see in the video, wiping sleep out of their eyes crawling out of bed.
Kinote’s not alone. Every person in the reel brings back a torrent of memories for me, usually their hopes and dreams.
How do you tell these stories? I mean, corporate governance and capacity building are super abstract.
It’s the people and their passions.
I don’t recall the details of the programmatic interventions on any of these project, but I definitely remember the hopes and dreams of the people I chose to film.
LeCow is a Brazilian teenager from a sprawling favela who’s dream is to become a musician (13 seconds.)
Sara wants to grow her clothing company and export from Ethiopia to America (34 seconds. Spolier: She succeeds, and I see her products at The Gap at a Maryland suburban mall 12 months later!)
Rabih’s chief ambition is to grow his fishing business in Lebanon (At 38 seconds.)
The beautiful thing about the documentary video process is that you give voice to people. Done properly, it’s founded on listening. You look people in the eyes. You follow and observe them. In their own voices, whether that’s Meru, Arabic, or Tagalog, they share what matters to them.
Why do I remember LeCow, Sara, and Rabih like we met yesterday?
Early on, I found myself writing scripts that featured the organizations that hired me, rather than their beneficiaries.
My big “aha moment” came during a strategy session with a big multilateral client that does a lot of work throughout Latin America.
They were understandably focused on programmatic nuts and bolts: logistics, buzzwords, metrics. They were in their own world.
I just wanted to learn about the people they serve.
Fortunately, the Director of Communications had just spent a week in the field and she had a lot of great stories.
The people we want to focus on, we all agreed, are no different than you or me. They have jobs and families. They have a past and a future.
Finally, the makings of a script outline! What if we just show their before and after, I proposed, and be honest about how your organization is helping them achieve their dreams?
Kinote is doing his best to increase coffee production so he can build a three-room house, tripling the size of his current house.
Rabih (00:38), the fisherman: “My dream is to expand my business, and buy a larger boat.”
Maxima (00:41) who I met in the slums of Manila: “I intend to keep working to provide a better future for my grandchildren.”
Kinote, Rabih, and Maxima are agents of their own change. Today, their families and communities are better. Our project helped them along the way.
That’s the story.
Organizations that do good: a conduit of authentic communications
So much of successful communications by organizations that do good is simply getting out of the way.
Are you the SCR arm of a Fortune 500 company working in your own community? Let the people you help tell their own story in their own voices (and minimize the product placement on your branded t-shirts in the video!).
Are you a large issue-oriented nonprofit, focused on water or nutrition or women’s reproductive rights? Your best stories feature the people benefiting from your activities.
Are you a foundation funding 501(c)3s? Is there a way that people can help illustrate the larger issues you care about?
The Dorst MediaWorks reel “Videos for Good” speaks to these creative choices, with animated text: “What is your greatest dream … goal … hope … desire.”
Hala in rural Lebanon: “I started alone in this (flower) business. But today I have four shops and four employees.”
Anthony, in Kenya: “Visiting them (the farmers) you’ll see bigger smiles, because there’s hope now.”
Again, animated text: “My health … civil society … conflict … economy … education is better.”
“My governance … agriculture … rule of law … job …is better.”
It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing nonprofit marketing, a fundraising video, or nonprofit media of any kind.
Focus the lens on the people you serve. Help them tell their own stories in their own voices. In so doing, you’re connecting your audiences with hopes and dreams that resonate.
“My life is better.”
Let the people you serve tell the story
Their passions are the secret sauce in impactful storytelling.
When they achieve their hopes and dreams, with a little nudge from your organization, this illustrates results.