Taking a video from concept to completion

In 2016, Growing Home, an urban farm and workforce development program located on Chicago’s south side, celebrated ten years in the Englewood neighborhood. That year, we had the honor of collaborating with the nonprofit organization to produce a video to showcase its mission and influence in the community.

This year, Growing Home presented us with another opportunity to help spread the word about their organization and share the remarkable success stories of its graduates, all of whom have overcome hardship after hardship to find meaningful work and truly change their lives. We jumped at the chance.

Often these types of stories are told through a documentary-style approach, but we all agreed we wanted to move beyond that style and create something with a more artistic bent. We needed to capture all of the most inspiring aspects in a fresh, new way, and we had to be mindful of the fact that the video needed to work in a variety of settings.

We decided to shoot in black and white and go an unconventional route with our voice-over, which might have been hard sells on other projects. Growing Home met each of these ideas with enthusiasm and soon enough we had a talented, professional spoken word artist on board. Harold Green, then a stranger to the Growing Home program, wrote a piece specifically for this video and recorded it. An Englewood native, his words and emotion brought the growth and humanity of the program and its participants to life in a way that traditional, scripted voice-over wouldn’t have been able to do. We’d be remiss if we didn’t commend Growing Home for their advocacy and collaborative approach to this video; and thank them for letting us help share their mission and the graduates’ powerful stories in a unique way.

Exactly how were we able to highlight the trickle-down effect and impact Growing Home has had on five individuals and their colleagues, communities, and families, in only two minutes? Here are the storytelling components we focused on:

Theme. The Growing Home team told us that they’d heard the word “legacy” multiple times during a meeting in preparation for their annual benefit. This mention was the start of an idea. Legacy is about the ripple effect of giving back, leaving something of value behind, and making a difference. We built the narrative on the idea of legacy, illustrating that the graduates, no matter their past or their hardships, desire and are worthy of opportunities to hand down better lives to their communities and families.

Concept. The theme is one thing; translating it to a video concept is another. We wanted to create a visual narrative that showed the graduates’ legacies: with their families, at their jobs, being part of the community. We decided on black and white to strike a balance between different ideas—it was dramatic, yet upbeat; classic, while modern; and abstract and concrete. For the voice-over, Harold’s involvement, as writer and spoken word artist, was a gamechanger. He took our idea and concept and eloquently, poetically, and soulfully articulated the resilience of the graduates and their communities.

Production. The black and white approach was just step one; we needed to capture powerful imagery that tied the piece together and share bits of the graduates’ lives and legacies in purposeful ways. In the video, you’ll see the graduates at work, with their families, and on the Growing Home farm. You’ll also see the cityscape against the neighborhood, positive-messaged street murals, and the retail redevelopment at 63rd and Halsted Streets. We needed to capture warmth coupled with labor and past strife and illustrate growth.

Call to action. We’ve drawn viewers in, but what do we want them to do? At the end of the video, the following words appear, along with the Growing Home logo. The call to action is where we go beyond feelings to help make a lasting change.

You can have an impact greater than you know. Join us.

DeQuesha Hopkins

DeQuesha is an editorial associate at Leff. She collaborates with the Leff editorial and design teams to avoid oversights, maintain accuracy, and safeguard the uniformity of client work and the company website.

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