Moore Consulting

How a micro-budget video series caught the mood of an international event — part 2

In part 1 we looked at the requirements and constraints for the creation of video pieces for the non-profit International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, as well as how two of them came together.

In this final part, we’ll look at the making of the final three, explore their impact, and look at some lessons everyone can apply to creating low budget video pieces with impact

3) Dubreus Lherisson, Haiti

With Dubreus we faced the toughest technical challenges. Internet connectivity is patchy in Dubreus’ town in Haiti, and while he had an email address, he couldn’t check it regularly and the language barrier made communication hard. So a Skype video chat was out, and even getting hold of him on the phone was tricky. Eventually, Marie St Comé, a Haitian woman who lives in Santa Fe and has worked with many of the Haitian artists at the Market came to our rescue. She tracked Dubreus down through her network of connections in the country, and came into my office where we could record our phone conversation with him (with Marie doing most of the talking — in Creole). Then she reviewed the recording, picking out the most telling quotes for direct translation, and paraphrasing the rest for me to use as background for my voiceover script. Without her, the video wouldn’t have been possible.

With this material, and other content and picture research, I could write the script for the piece, including some of Dubreus’ direct quotes from the recording. Since we had no video and Dubreus was a first- time artist, tracking down enough photographs that we could use with permission but without paying a licensing fee was particularly tricky (once artists have been to Santa Fe once, we normally have lots of good images of them and their work).

4) Blaise Cayol, France

If Dubreus’ was the most challenging video to put together, the next one was perhaps the easiest. Blaise Cayol, the master basket maker from the south of France speaks good English, and has a computer with a fast internet connection (in his great cottage that looked good on the Skype session). As I’d done with al lthe other artists, I drafted some questions in advance to give Blaise the chance to prepare, so when we recorded the interview, all went well (even when one of his daughters came into the room to see who he was talking to in English). It was a pleasure to talk to him, and his answers were so good that it seemed to me we didn’t need a voiceover to explain anything in his video.

It’s my preference to let the artists speak for themselves as much as possible, and this time we had the luxury of being able to do that. I still wrote a script (from his words) so a I knew how I wanted to edit and rearrange his answers, but building the piece went well, with the images that Blaise supplied combining with some background images of his area that helped put them in context.

5) La Mega Cooperativa de Saraguros, Ecuador

When you have limited budget and time, sometimes a volunteer can be a savior. Cailyn Kilcup is an American who works in Ecuador with the women of La Mega Cooperativa — artisans who create amazing beadwork pieces. She videoed an interview with Flor Maria Cartuche Andrade, President of La Mega Cooperativa de Los Saraguros, asking her to explain the impact of the co-op’s association with the Market. She then sent me the video file, photographs and a translation. I edited the tape and built the package, but again it would have been impossible without Megan’s help.

Impact of the videos

Everyone loved the videos — Market employees showed them at fundraising events, and showed some of them to Board members. They made people cry — which is about the best reaction you could look for. If people made rational decisions on who they volunteered for or donated money to, you’d have to make a rational case with charts and tables. But most often they don’t, so telling an authentic story that moves people is crucial.

The videos appeared on the Market’s blog — highlighted on the homepage — and were also featured in the Market’s social media efforts. The blog received nearly 7000 page views in the months leading up to the Market in July, and the videos were also highlighted in the printed guide to the Market and on posters during the event itself.

The artists featured in the videos enjoyed good sales at the Market, with Blaise Cayol selling out with a day of the Market still to go.

Lessons learned

Video takes more time than you think — even with our bare bones approach, researching, recording, writing, sourcing pictures and then building the pieces took longer than the 6 hours each we’d budgeted. I’d say 8 hours allowing for revisions and uploading is still a cracking pace, but a bit more realistic for the quality of pieces we produced.

Good audio is more important than good video — with none of the interviews recorded under ideal circumstances (a high-quality camera and microphone set up in person with someone who knows what they’re doing) we had to wrestle with varying quality video and audio quality (and sometimes no video at all). It seems counterintuitive but it was easier to work around poor or no video than work with poor quality audio — especially if one key aim is to have the artists speak for themselves. We had strong photographs and some b-roll video, but nothing gives a worse impression than dodgy audio. (If anyone has suggestions for recording high quality audio over the internet, please let me know.)

The story is the most important thing — despite all the constraints, the key thing we had in our favour was that we were telling good stories that had real impact. These are people from all around the world devoted to their craft, their traditions and their communities, who could talk about what they do with passion. I’d rather have to talk to someone like that down a dodgy phone line to Haiti than shoot a big-budget interview in a high-end studio with someone who’s got nothing real to say. I think we did a good job of putting these pieces together, but a lot of it was just to get out of the way and let the artists speak.

Just do it — it’s not that hard to create pieces like this, and they can have a real impact. I’d love the time to visit these people in their environments, learn more about them and put together much richer and more slick documentaries. But that wasn’t an option, and I’m proud of what we could do with the very limited resources we had.

By David Moore on August 29, 2013.

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Exported from Medium on October 17, 2020.

Moore Consulting

How a micro-budget video series caught the mood of an international non-profit event — part 1

The International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe is a non-profit with a flagship event of an amazing market which sees 20,000 people come to buy the work of 150 folk artists from around the world. The revenue raised by the artists (who often work in co-operatives) helps to preserve folk art traditions and strengthen and support communities in places as diverse as Ecuador and Mozambique, Uzbekistan and Timor Leste.

I’ve worked with the Market on website and content projects for years, and for the tenth anniversary market this year, I suggested we produce a video series about some of the artists, looking at the impact of the Market or introducing artists that were new this year. We wanted to stress the personal success stories that underpin the Market but that can sometimes get lost in the scale of the event. Visitors get the chance to meet and interact with the artists, and take home an object created by hand with skill and passion, while the artists take home money they earned from sales to individual people.

The budget was extremely tight — I could only spend five or six hours on each of the five videos we planned — and the technical constraints were also daunting: we couldn’t go and shoot interviews with the artists. In two of the cases, however, we could source amateur video that Market employees or supporters had shot when they were in-country (those for the SEWA co-operative in India, and La Mega Cooperativa de de Saraguros in Ecuador). That left a co-op in Pakistan, a vodou flag maker in Haiti and a master basket weaver in the south of France with no video footage. I proposed using Skype to record video sessions, supplementing all the videos with lots of still photography.

Language issues were another constraint. Fortuantely the Indian and Pakistani representatives of the co-operatives spoke good English, as did Blaise the French basket maker, and we could find volunteer translators for Haiti and Ecuador. (One of the amazing things about the Market, and why Santa Fe is such a perfect place for it, is that it’s somehow not surprising that there’s a creole speaker in town who wants to help.)

The schedule called for one video a month from March up to the Market in July.

1) Lila Handicrafts

The first video I made featured the Lila Handicrafts cooperative in Pakistan. We arranged the Skype video chat with Surendar Valasai from the co-op and while the quality of the footage wasn’t great, Surendar gave us some great insight the effect the Market had had on the co-op and more broadly on the lives of women and girls in the Sindh province.

In the interests of keeping to the budget, I edited the piece down quickly using Surendar’s quotes only, and while this version was OK, but didn’t really tell as compelling a story as it could have. We decided a voiceover script could give a concise background to the story, with the best of Surendar’s quotes giving us the immediacy we wanted. Surendar’s bare-looking office in the video was a little distracting, so we supplemented the images of the great quilts made by the co-op with Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr — often from other non-profits and aid agencies.

The revised version was much stronger, and even we went over budget (I did the second edit for free), we had a template for how the others should work.


The second video was built using footage that a Market employee had shot while on a visit to the co-operative in India. She’d interviewed Rena Nanavaty from SEWA in a dark and noisy hotel lobby using a consumer video camera and no external microphone. The answers were great, but the video quality was just about OK, and the sound quality dreadful.

Final Cut Pro X tidied up the audio to an acceptable level, but again we scripted a voiceover to tell most of the story, using Rena’s quotes to add color and show the real people involved. We also sourced a range of images, and (as we’d done with Surendar) added subtitles to make sure Rena’s excellent but heavily accented English was clear for everyone. The edit was quicker this time (although finding appropriate royalty-free music always takes a lot longer than you expect) and we were very happy with the result:

> Join us next week for Part 2 of this piece, where we track down a Haitian artist on his cell phone in a cafe, and look at the lessons we’ve learned from doing these micro-budget high-impact pieces

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Today I got punched in the face by a mad man

And I feel great. A crazy man crashed his truck outside our office and then came at me and my wife when we innocently headed out to the street when we heard the crash.

He was shouting that we was going to kill us while we were backing up along the breezeway past our office, my wife and I with our palms raised in that classic ‘calm down, everything’s OK’ gesture. Our dog — locked inside — was barking in a way she never had before. The man kept coming as I tried to keep in front of my wife, and then he took a swing at me.

He glancingly connected with the left side of my face, leaving a shallow cut on my chin but no other damage to speak of. Behind me, my wife ducked into one of the other offices and they quick-wittedly locked the door behind her before calling the cops. While the crazy man was bellowing at the door, I found myself running out into the parking lot and safety.

The man went back to his truck and got into it with other passers-by who put him to the ground until the police arrived. I gave a statement, still shaken but basically OK.

As the day went on and the adrenaline faded I felt both very tired and strangely happy.

It could have been a lot worse — he could have had a gun, or a wrench, or been a better aim or a bigger guy — but today, for me, nothing worse happened.

I had a brush with the random dangerous side of life that’s always there, but that most of us aren’t exposed to every day because of the things we build and do to shield us from it. And I’m all for that — on another occasion, I might not have been so lucky, and I’m not about to start pursuing extreme sports to repeat the risk.

Instead I came home to the same peaceful house I left this morning, and loved it and the people and pets in it so much more. My life feels suddenly incredibly privileged and full of potential. The ‘scary’ pitching I’m planning to do this week to local non-profits and foundations doesn’t seem so terrifying when I’ve just had an angry unstable man come after me and hit me, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.

So hold your loved ones close, and don’t worry about all the stuff that normally preoccupies you, because for almost all of you reading this, right now, things are fine.