Welcome! TBT to the 1996 VSUW Video

Welcome to the RMP Blog! We just finished our 20th campaign for Valley of the Sun United Way and thought it would be fun to start a weekly blog – 20 weeks with one post for each campaign. Ironically, after 20 weeks of celebrating VSUW, it will be 2016 and RMP will be celebrating 25 years of business which gives us another 25 blog posts to commemorate each of those years. Not sure why we thought this would be a good idea… just typing it now, it sounds like an enormous amount of work! But after a little research we realized that looking back is a very worthwhile exercise.

So every Thursday, we will share tips and clips, mostly focusing on the art of storytelling and content development with a few funny stories and industry insights tossed in. Over the years, we have been lucky enough to do everything from producing feature films and documentaries to TV series and movies. We’ve taken our cameras to the far corners of the world and worked with celebrities and captains of industry. During it all, we’ve had a blast, learned a lot and hopefully helped improve our community a bit.

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Today, it is clear that we have moved into a new age of mass communications – not just an age of story, but an age of story overload and clutter. Which is why the art of quality storytelling is more important than ever.

Click here and each Thursday afternoon, we will email you a teaser and a link to the blog. We hope you sign up! We promise to make it fun and worthy of your time! And now, without further ado, here is our first entry (remember it’s 1996). Drumroll please…


It’s a Throw Back Thursday to Honor Valley of the Sun United Way!

By Randy Murray

The funny thing is, we were having fun helping United Way tell a few amazing stories and the next thing we know, it’s 20 years later!

What a ride – all the wonderful people, courageous battles, a little heartbreak, so much joy, an abundance of good being done by incredible people – all making our community a better, richer and downright nicer place to live. And RMP has an incredible visual record of it all!

Being Socially Responsible

Our journey with United Way began one afternoon in the summer of 1995 when I received a call from Nicole Magnuson, then Sr. VP of Brand Strategy, asking if I was interested in working with Valley of the Sun United Way to produce their campaign video. It was just four years earlier that Theresa and I started Randy Murray Productions (RMP) and we had had the unfortunate experience of working for companies that were using the power of story to mislead their audience.  It was then that we decided to make RMP socially responsible, which was not a trendy idea in ’91, but we really believed in the special power of film and video. We didn’t make this decision because we thought it would be good for business – we actually thought it might not be a very lucrative strategy – but we felt that in the long run, it would be an investment worth making. We decided we wouldn’t take on projects that we felt were misleading or had the potential to leave our community worse off and instead seek projects that we felt benefitted our community and the world at large.

So naturally, we were thrilled to get the call from Nicole.

Lesson Learned

It is actually an interesting story – and an important lesson in storytelling – as to why Nicole was looking to partner with a new production company that year. There was an unfortunate controversy over the production of the previous year’s video. The 1995 video was beautifully shot, well structured, very moving and really pulled at your heart. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the homeless little boy in the video with big eyes and dirt on his face was not actually homeless; he was an actor cast as a homeless boy.

While casting an actor makes perfect sense on the one hand – you want the video to be as powerful as possible – it is not the truth the viewers expect when dealing with an organization like United Way. So as we began our journey with United Way in 1996, we knew that not only did the stories need to be powerful and factual, they also needed to be told in a truthful way. The integrity of the story needed to penetrate every aspect of the production and we viewed this requirement not as a challenge but as an opportunity.


Just a word or two on what it is like to work on a production. While a United Way project always creates a special atmosphere on the set, a production is always special. I have worked in a few industries but I have never seen anything like the working environment of a production. Craftspeople, artists, actors, volunteers and other team members all collaborate on creating something special. Like an orchestra performing a beautiful symphony, the crew and cast of a production work in sync to tell a story. It is an art in motion. It is the art of teamwork.  And we are very lucky to do it year in and year out.

Smile, Buck!

In 1996, the Olympics were in Atlanta, the Super Bowl was in Tempe, and both hairstyles and font styles were a little on the wild side. But none of that slowed United Way from leading the charge of proactively addressing the issues of the day. Our very first video for UW focused on a Girl Scout troop for kids with special needs, a super cute little boy who needed a mentor, and a young man headed in the wrong direction in life. All three stories are really great, but directing the host of the video was the most memorable aspect of this production.

In 1995, MLB awarded Arizona a franchise: the Arizona Diamondbacks. While their first season was not until 1998, Buck Showalter was hired as their first manager and stepped up to be part of the 1996 United Way video. Growing up not following baseball, I didn’t know that Buck was famous for never smiling. So there we were on the set and I said, “That was a good take, Mr. Showalter, but can you give me a little smile this time?” And of course Buck did the line again without a hint of a smile. Without thinking, I said, “Boy, that was the shittiest smile I’ve ever seen.”

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Buck broke into a big laugh, so I quickly yelled, “Action!” Buck composed himself before saying the line of course, but if you look closely you can almost see a smile on his face.

A Great Story

If you are at all involved with this year’s United Way campaign, you might recognize the young man in the 1996 video as the same Anthony featured in this year’s “Looking Back” United Way video.  Anthony was being raised by a single mom and, like many young men without a lot of adult supervision, was involved in some small time juvenile crime and headed down the wrong path in life. Then a United Way agency became involved and helped turned his life around.

Once Anthony started applying himself, the quality of his schoolwork really improved and he earned a scholarship to Brophy Prep. Later he earned a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. When he returned home to Arizona, he became a successful businessman and, in the spirit of giving back, became involved with United Way. Then one day at a United Way event, a woman approached Anthony and revealed that she was his secret benefactor at Brophy.

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Boy, that is living proof that the kindness of our community delivers tangible results.

The impact both United Way and your donations have made on Anthony’s life are like bookends to our 20 years of telling ‘stories of doing good.’ The investment in kindness has changed Anthony’s life and improved our community, while our commitment to being socially responsible storytellers has turned out to be a very rewarding business decision.

Here’s a sample of the full 1996 Campaign video, which you can watch on Vimeo or YouTube. We hope you check it out!

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.