TBT to 1998! Finding the Good in What We Do

Finding the Good in What We Do

By Randy Murray

As we began our third campaign video with United Way, it was starting to become clear that using the power of storytelling to do good in our community – or more specifically to empower those doing good in our community – was not just a “good” thing to do; it was also good business.

Cute kid in glasses

It wouldn’t seem that working at a discounted rate and providing discounts on your equipment as well was good for business, but it did work. And the work inspired other crew members to do the same. As we started pre-production on this video, I was reminded of my middle school history teachings and the wisdom of “enlightened self-interest.” Of the intellectual pillars on which our nation was built, enlightened self-interest is one of the least mentioned. And that is a shame because in this case, it was good for business.

Small is Big

During the creative development process for this video, we talked about what tools of persuasion were available to us. We settled on two. Because they were offered, we tapped into the sports community and got celebrity spokespersons from some of our professional teams: Sherdrick Bonner from the Arizona Rattlers, Bridget Pettis from the Phoenix Mercury, Danny Manning from the Phoenix Suns and Matt Williams from the Arizona Diamondbacks. And because we felt we needed the balance, we decided to use young children on camera to increase the cuteness of the video. Casting the kids was easy – friends and family volunteered their children to be cute on camera to show they could outshine the sports celebrities. Of course, they all shone just as brightly in the end.

Arena Football QuarterbackWomen's BasketballAll-Star Basketball playerBaseball player Matt Williams
But it is the stories that are the stars of this video: a mentally challenged young man who just wants to be a contributing member of society, a young man full of promise who just wants to deliver on that promise, a young mother who just wants to be there for her family, an organization that provides hot meals for the elderly and an organization that gives young victims in our community an artistic outlet. These five stories provided such touching material that each could have made their own videos.

In retrospect, however, I feel this campaign video ended up being a classic example of too much good stuff. As a director, a wealth of content does not mean one should use it. This video actually runs over 10 minutes! This is unheard of by today’s standards. And as always, less is more. Or in this case, we might say small is big.

All About the Mom

Working with United Way, you learn quickly that when we as a community try to help one, we help many. And that the people who often benefit the most from the work of a caring community are the people who give the most. Like a mom.

For me, the most powerful element in this video is motherhood. In the first story, we see how United Way works to help Glen, a mentally challenged young adult, find work. Glen is a very touching character, yet the moment that moves me is when his mother, Angela, talks about how she finally has hope that her son will be fine after she is no longer around to care for him. It really puts things in perspective – I have never been needed so much that I was fearful I wouldn’t be around to help those who needed me.

Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped

This fear is the theme of the third story about Dana, the young mom who contracted AIDS; she was facing what many considered a likely death sentence. The power of her story betrays her calm courage. Like many of the interviews in the 1997 campaign video, this was another where I had to sit in the car afterwards to gather my composure and count my blessings.

Southwest Center for HIV and AIDS

Brian Spicker is the former executive director of Body Positive, an HIV/AIDS research and resource center. He also happens to be the current Sr. VP of Community Impact at VSUW!

Special Kids

The element of motherhood may drive many of the stories, but it’s the children who really thread the whole video together. For the final story, we focused on Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, an organization that provides arts programs¬†for abused children. Everyone at RMP was so touched by this organization that we have done a number of videos for them since. In fact, one of the most powerful videos I ever directed was for Free Arts in which I interviewed a little girl who was so grateful to have crayons to play with. A little girl who casually talked about her mother telling her not to talk about her “sad secrets.” It is no secret that these stories touched me.

Stephanie Small, Free Arts for Abused Children of AZ

It is also no secret that I enjoy directing kids or that I think they are powerful tools for storytelling. I have used them to deliver important adult content in a disorienting way; check out how in the work we have done for the AZ K12 Center here and here. I have used them to evoke emotion; check out our video for the SNAP program here. For this United Way campaign video, we wanted to increase the watchability and persuasion factors by adding a dash of cuteness. The good news was that cute kids were easily available in my life at this time. My daughter and a number of her friends were featured as well as some friends’ kids.

Pyramid formation

All of these children are now young adults building lives and careers. I hope they are supporting United Way because doing good in the community not only helps those in need and helps our community as a whole, but also is good for their career. It makes you feel good about our world.

I guess our founding fathers knew what they were talking about when they balanced business with community, taking with giving, and self-interest with enlightenment.

Here are a couple of clips from the video. Please check out the whole video on Vimeo or YouTube!

Randy is an award-winning director and producer with a passion for helping others through the power of storytelling. He’s also a political junkie, loves college football, and enjoys performing random magic tricks for children he meets in the street.