Films are great storytellers, often more powerful than the written word, and for nonprofits, they can offer a deep insight into their cause. And in today’s YouTube world, creating films has become an important way for nonprofits to display their work virally. The Austin, Texas-based organization Lights. Camera. Help. hosts a film festival every year specifically to showcase films created by nonprofits. They’re partnering with Charleston’s own nonprofit, the Greater Park Circle Film Society, to stage a film festival in North Charleston this work.
The celebration of cause-driven films showcases the best from the Austin festival and also focuses on local films, with presentations by their nonprofit producers. Lights. Camera. Help. is not your ordinary film festival. Rather than highlighting new indie shorts, the obscure, and or the avant garde, it encourages cause-driven productions that bring to light social difficulties while promoting the organizations working to fix them. Melanie Mathos, of Blackbaud, one of the event’s sponsors, says “As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ If this is true, then it’s safe to say that a video is probably worth a million words.”
Three of the films shown at the national festival will screen locally. Girls of Daraja is winner of the “Best Short” category for its depiction of the Daraja Academy’s work to improve educational opportunities for the female youth of Kenya. EcoViva: An Introduction is the winner of “Best Public Service Announcement.” The PSA promotes EcoViva’s efforts to help build peace and fight poverty in post-civil war El Salvador. And the winner of “Best Feature,” submitted by the Institute on Disability, is Including Samuel, a documentation following a family’s endeavors and struggles to include a child suffering from cerebral palsy in every facet of their lives.
The two local nonprofits featured in the festival are Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy, is a provider of pastoral care and counseling for employees and families of law enforcement and emergency service agencies, and Windwood Farm, a therapeutic residence for abused and neglected children.
Nicholai Burton, the Film Society’s chief information office, says the combination of the two nonprofits felt like a great fit. The Film Society routinely does events with local nonprofits, and Burton says they think “an event like this will lead to even more collaborations with other groups.” “I’m excited to learn about different techniques of using film to promote a nonprofit’s mission beyond the typical public service announcement,” he says.