Company/Organization Profiles | Local Industry

Pro-Bono 2.0 (part 2)

1 Dec , 2006  

Written by Mark Dugas | Posted by:

Heartwood Media works to make the pro-bono production process better for both client and production company, while producing a video that can make everyone proud.  Also read part 1 of this article.

Well, we just shipped the final DVDs to the winner of our Heartwood Non-Profit Challenge.

As you may recall in part 1 of this article, written a few months ago, we had grown tired of the last-minute, sometimes ill-conceived, and often uninspired pro-bono projects that we had been asked to do.

Our plan was to take control of the pro-bono projects we were doing by starting a contest. Here was the plan, as written by yours truly:

“…We would do one donated project a year, and it would be a good one. We would select an organization that has a compelling message, knows their audience, and has definite plans for how the production would help. The video would have a real impact and it would make a difference.”

So yesterday, as we boxed up the final DVDs to send to our winner, the Family Resource Center at Gorham, I paused to reflect on that bold paragraph I penned all those months ago.

“Had we been successful?”

“Was this whole pro-bono contest a good idea?

The answer…”heck, yeah.”

Production was a pleasure. The people at the Family Resource Center were eager to make the shoot go smoothly. They lined up interview subjects, staged people for b-roll, coordinated and scheduled, and also bought lunch for the crew. Normally, as a Producer, I have to do all those things. This time, I was free to focus on the story.

The subject matter was very interesting, but took a bit of time and research to sort into a coherent story. Back in the 1990s, The Family Resource Center renovated an old decrepit schoolhouse at 123 Main Street into a beautiful, inviting building. Today, the building has become the social and cultural hub of the community. They offer more child and family support programs (after-school programs, substance abuse prevention, parenting counseling) than you can count. They also offer computer and job training, senior dinners, and a gathering space for support groups, clubs, and town government.

But, as I dug deeper I discovered that was only the beginning of the story. The Resource Center has become the voice for the families and children of the region. When the paper mills closed in Berlin, it was the Family Resource Center that helped local families suddenly facing unemployment and an uncertain future. When a legislator in Concord needs information on the North Country of NH, they call the Resource Center. So, they’re much more than an amazing family services agency. They play a huge role in the area, and in the state, and the video needed to tell that story.

Since the project was pro-bono, we needed to keep our costs under control. We traveled up to Gorham with our BETA rig and a very lean crew: me, a terrific DP named Cindy Jones, and a PA. We shot two days of interviews with staff members and clients, and lots of b-roll of cute kids. Another half-day was spent shooting exteriors in Gorham, Berlin, and of the paper mills.

During editing, we found ourselves wanting to do the absolute best job we could. We were touched by the work they do, and truly inspired to make a great video. The Family Resource Center loved the results:

“Wow, I promise to try and come up with some constructive suggestions, but right now we are all simply blown away by what you have put together. [We] had goosebumps watching this and everyone feels that you have captured the vision and the soul of who we are and what we do…this was the best contest I ever entered! Really, I will watch it again with a more critical eye, but right now it seems just wonderful. Thank you so much for making us feel so special.”

“Warm fuzzy” time! When’s the last time you got an email like that from a client after you asked for feedback on the rough edit?

As the post-production progressed, I realized that the narration I had written would not be necessary. I always feel it’s best to let the interviews tell the story if possible, and the people at the Resource Center are articulate, intelligent, and passionate. They told the story better than any narrator would.

So what about next year?

We’ll definitely do another Heartwood Non-Profit Challenge. We’ll continue to keep the application process nice and simple. Any callers asking for pro-bono help will continue to be referred to the contest. And of course we’ll continue to enjoy the positive press (and vibes)positive vibes, and press, that a project like this brings.

But most of all we’ll enjoy working on a project that is compelling, high quality, and has the potential to do some good in the world. And who knows, maybe we’ll get another free lunch in the process.

To learn more about the Heartwood Non-Profit Challenge, or to watch this year’s video, please visit The next deadline is January 26, 2007.

To learn more about the Heartwood Non-Profit Challenge, or to watch this year’s video, please visit The next deadline is January 26, 2007.