TURNING SMALL STORIES INTO BIG ADVENTURES
Updated: Dec 1, 2019
Live Baltimore Case Study: How We Transformed Negative Perceptions By Finding Emotional Value In Unexpected Stories.
Q: How do you tell great stories when you're not sure what to say?
Based on current local news and a certain cable subscription series optics, Baltimore might appear to have little to cheer about. Its tarnished image is reinforced by negative images on television and staggering crime stats. In the neighborhoods that struggle the most, an apathetic ache blankets those who are too tired to be cynical.
Enter Live Baltimore, a company whose mission is to stabilize the city’s population by providing a knowledge base and resources to help residents build and maintain thriving neighborhoods. Their 'Way To Stay' program targets families with up-to-date info on home buying and schools in effort to give them every reason to stay here and raise their children.
A: Focus on something small and unexpected and make a big deal out of it.
Live Baltimore contacted Shine to help them connect with parents on an emotional level through videos about three local schools. If a parent was on the fence about keeping their kids in the city, these videos would bring them around. Although these schools perform well despite shrinking budgets, they were older, poorly lit and in reform, so not quite camera-ready yet. So we decided to focus on life outside of the school. We looked for small, unexpected stories that had heart. Our intent was to make them bigger than life and let their heartbeat speak to the spirit of the schools.
Kudos to Live Baltimore for taking a bold direction, as the creative risks involved in the execution on these projects was high, involving lots of coordination, spontaneity, and belief in the unseen. The reward for their courage was expressed by recognition and praise (“blown away...”) from the Mayor and the CEO of public schools after viewing the films. Through press releases, boosted posts on Facebook, placements and ad buys on YouTube and their own site, the response exceeded their expectations. The Executive Director gushed that the spots were “blowing up online!” and they were “getting phones calls from random acquaintances saying, Wow!“
Annie Milli, Executive Director of Live Baltimore shares more on her experience with Shine and thoughts on making good creative choices in the video below.
Here is how we did it:
Video 1: Federal Hill Prep - Mornings in Motion
We had heard a rumor of a “Scooter Gang” - a mobilization of kids and parents who walked, rode bikes, and scootered their way to school, meeting up with other neighborhoods along the way. Their members included those parents who go the extra for the school, volunteering, donating and being stewards of their communities. We found and interviewed the Dads who started the whole thing, then we filmed the entire ride, outfitting kids with GoPro’s, flying drones above and putting our cinematographer on roller blades. It started with just two kids, then grew into a massive parade flooding the streets - a demonstration of collaboration, commitment and the joy of doing the unexpected.
Video 2: Hamilton Elementary - Growing Minds
In a lonely parking lot backed up against the edge of the schoolyard sits an unusually lush patch of land. This tiny garden is opening up a world of discovery and learning for the kids at Hamilton Elementary. Run solely by Scott Hartman, the Environmental Education Program teaches urban kids about bugs, plants, food and health. It introduces them to the outdoors as a place of wonder rather than something to fear or disregard. The 20’ wide strip of green is flanked by rows of cars and an expanse of asphalt, as a self-contained paradise amid a backdrop of utility. To show this unique space, we had to make it it’s own universe, shutting out the parking lot and making the garden feel unlimited. We did this by strategic camera placement, typically very low or very high. The low angles reinforced the point of view of the kids, the high angles showed them in the context of their environment. We showed the outdoor classroom at the end of the garden buzzing with energy as kids inspected bugs and learned anatomy. This unexpected piece of land in a parking lot has been transformed into a natural learning lab that will, in turn, lay the seeds for future careers in environmental fields.
Video 3: Medfield Heights - A Family of Learning
We knew there was something special at Medfield Heights, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. Visiting the school we were met with the familiar wear and tear of all schools of that age, but, after touring two classrooms, an unexpected story began to emerge. Each teacher we met had child who attended the school. And they could recite a list of other teachers who also had kids attending Medfield. And they taught each other’s kids and looked after them like family. The more we learned of these connections, the school transformed from a just a building to a place where the teachers felt all children could thrive because they treated every kid as if they were their own. We needed a way to turn this web of familial connection into a visual, so we looked to animation. Choosing to represent the school and the families with cheerful illustrations that grew in complexity was the perfect metaphor representing how the school is a representation of the community and the city itself.