The challenge: Make a video that encapsulates WITNESS and its work empowering human rights defenders to use video since 1992, set against a backdrop of global events from the last 20 years. This video can be no more than 2 minutes long. Oh, and with no voiceovers and only minimal text.

This is precisely what the amazing team at Stalkr was able to pull off to produce our 20th Anniversary video.  Over the past couple of months, they worked with us to gather together footage from our campaigns and other sources all over the world. Made up of almost 200 shots, this 2-minute video tells the story of “20 years of video for change” almost entirely in pictures. We are so pleased to be able to share it with all of you as part of our anniversary celebrations!

In case you are wondering how something like this gets made, I spoke to Stalkr co-founder Dan Kern and asked him about the creative process and the production behind the video:

Yvonne: Tell me about the concept for the 20th anniversary video and the thinking behind it.

Dan: We set out to try to capture 20 years of history in 2 minutes and condense a number of major human rights events and more importantly the emotion behind them. It was less important for us to show the march of time and more important for us to tap into the sentiment of all these moments in human rights – positive events as well as abuses – and to see them through the eyes of amateur film and video makers. We developed our creative approach after much discussion with WITNESS, which is really our process – we don’t come in and impose our views, we’d much rather work by collaborating.

Y: You’ve produced videos for a wide range of organizations and companies. What, if anything, was different about working with WITNESS, an organization that specializes in human rights video?

Dan: The WITNESS Archive is a huge unbelievable asset in a project like this, being able to tap into thousands of hours of material that is already organized and well documented. Even when we work for a huge corporate client, you would think they’d have similar sorts of archives, but often they’re in complete disarray. Having an archive to work from is a great start, but secondly and more importantly, having an open creative conversation with WITNESS enabled us to drill into exactly what was needed for this project from day one and achieve it.

Y: One of the unique markers of Stalkr’s work is your use of archival footage. What do you think that adds to the effect or message of your videos?

Dan: Archives, for us, are really a way of traveling through time and being able to tap into a lot of deeper feelings that people have, memories that people have from earlier times in their lives. So when we use old faded newsreel footage, or Super 8 footage, or something very contemporary that we’ve all seen, in all these instances it’s about connecting the viewer with broader emotional experiences that they remember. That’s how we use it as a storytelling tool.

Y: Can you talk to us about the steps were involved in the production of the 20th Anniversary video?

Dan: It started with a creative discovery period where we were able to settle on the scope of the project. Then it was straight into accumulation of footage. In order to end up with these 2 minutes, our team went through hundreds of hours of material to distill it down to several hours of selects that were on-brief. Then the edit began as a montage of these selects into progressively shorter pieces until we felt the essence of the creative brief had been captured. Alongside the edit, our rights-clearance team was in touch with footage owners on every continent as we secured permission to use their material. And every step of the way, we were in constant dialogue with WITNESS to make sure we were hitting our mark.

For us, this was a perfect example of how we like to work creatively with our clients from start to finish to achieve a collective vision, and we’re very happy with it.

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