It takes a community to create a community

Over the past 10 months, we’ve been working with Autism Canada (AC) in developing the new brand image for their newly amalgamated organization.

For the new brand’s launch, timed for the beginning of October (Autism Awareness month), we had to send the message that the organization is the leading voice in supporting and fighting to improve the lives of those affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dermot Cleary, an award-winning photographer who also sits on the AC board, had the concept of staging a giant water fight on Toronto Island, to help demonstrate a change of perception about those on the spectrum and their potential. He believed it would create a powerful video that could work on both traditional television and online platforms. Projektor was brought in to make sure that this video would align with and bring to life the brand story that we had established for Autism Canada through the branding process. Working with Lisa Boccaccio, I created a storyboard and a draft script so that we could develop a shot plan for the big day.

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At 10 am on a sweltering July morning, I arrived on location on the Island to find an army of people already busy at work on the island:

  • The production crew, setting up the cameras and all the other equipment we’d need for the day.
  • The 25+ people on the Autistic spectrum, along with their families, willing to potentially put themselves outside their comfort zone.
  • The AC volunteers, making sure that the all the families knew what was going on and were well looked after.

Throughout the day, Producer Jono Nemethy never stopped moving. He worked tirelessly – from before sunrise to way past sunset – organizing, corralling, and making sure that everyone was where they needed to be. To everyone else, the day seemed to go off without the slightest hiccup.

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Director of Photography Paul Steinberg and second camera operator Andrew Sorlie were also in constant motion all day as the light and scenarios changed. Setting up and breaking down one shot after another, while ensuring that the quality would be of the very highest level.

As the day got hotter, the excitement of the promise for the water fight built. After several hours shooting establishing shots, like people walking slowly across the park, or picking up a water balloon – and not being able to throw it – it was beginning to tax the patience of even the most patient child. When the signal came to start the water fight, the 4,000 water balloons flew through the air a great release of fun and energy.

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Once we had all the footage, the challenge was in how to best distill hours and hours of really great footage into a simple visual narrative that could be told on TV in 30 seconds – or even just 15 seconds, in the case of the online version. The biggest challenge was, in fact, making the decisions around what would have the most impact.

Shannon Lewis at Liberty&Co was instrumental, involving additional partners who freely contributed to make the final product the best it could be. She brought in Panic and Bob to do the editing where Spencer Guest took the footage and found so many jewels in the footage.

And lastly no community would be complete without its champion: Laurie Mawlam, Autism Canada’s Executive Director, was so supportive and encouraging of everyone at each and every stage along the way. Her commitment made us all work just that little bit harder.

So while the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” still holds true – it takes an entire community to help build and support a community… and to make a great video.

 

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