At WITNESS, we rotate facilitators at our weekly staff meetings. If assigned as facilitator, the person is responsible for doing some research and sharing a current advocacy video of interest. My turn up, I screened the doGooder Nonprofit Video Award winner, “Protect Our Defenders.” The video addresses rape in the military.
Everyone seemed moved. It was obvious by their reaction why this video was a winner. So, I asked the room, “What moments in the video do you remember or stood out?” Answers: the statistics, the video included a male subject, the rape kit, the Congresswoman’s closing statement.
The Storytelling Arch of an Advocacy Video
Using this information, I broke down the elements further, relating them to advocacy videos:
- Beginning (exposition) = Introduce the issue
- Transition point 1 = moves story to next section
- Middle (rising action) = Building blocks of story are added about core problem of issue
- Transition point 2 (climax) = moves story towards ending
- End (falling action) = Propose a possible solution/action
Applying the above to “Protect Our Defenders,” I found a correlation between the breakdown and the moments staff remembered.
1. Introduce the issue 0:00 to 0:42 (42 secs)
Transition point 1: Statistical information was used to emphasize and legitimize the first interviewee’s statement. The numbers directly tied to the interviewee’s accusations.
2. Rising action, building up the story about core problem of issue 0:41 to 1:13 (32 secs)
Introduction to middle: This section starts with a male interviewee. Men are rarely included in rape issues and using this interviewee helps to pull in the viewer further.
Rising action: Rape kit – The next interviewee describes her rape case. Her story helps raise the stakes of the problem: it isn’t only about rape, but the unwillingness to address the issue even with case evidence. The filmmaker even leaves in a few frames of the interviewee trying not to cry.
Transition point 2: Last interviewee summarizes core problem of issue with this quote, “The chain of command has a vested interest in keeping this under the rug.”
3. Propose a possible solution/action 1:13 to 1:38 (25 secs)
Ending: Representative Jackie Speier (an expert) on the House floor addresses colleagues. She emphasizes the summary made in transition point 2 and adds, “…[it is] a problem we can fix.” Then the video cuts to a graphic.
More Good Examples
I also applied this breakdown to each of the other winners of the doGooder Nonprofit Awards. Each had similar correlations. Transitions were used to emphasize points and raise the action from section to section. The transitions tended to be key moments that viewers remembered. The pacing moved faster as the story progressed towards its ending. Lastly, because these videos are meant to be viewed online, each included a prompt for the viewer to take part in an online action or visit a website.
The ending of advocacy videos is what most differentiates them from other types of videos. Online or offline advocacy videos call for an action, whether it is to fill out postcards at a live screening or sign an online petition or other action.
Apply this breakdown to advocacy videos you find interesting. Does it give you any insights? Share your results in the comments below.