No Harm Done, Things Can Change

In a nutshell

Young Minds, Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and The Royal College of Psychiatrists required a series of films to engage young people, parents and professionals who are effected by self-harming. The films were part of a resource pack that the charities were creating to raise awareness around the issues.

Our approach

The charities had collectively carried out some groundwork around the campaign issue through focus groups with young people, speaking to parents and professionals about the issue what resources they needed and what these should look and feel like. This research generated some fundamental insights that would shape the video concept. From this information the brief needed the film to be not dark or triggering in feel and that it should be kept relatively short to keep the audience engaged. We knew that by creating a piece of work that was visually beautiful the audience would feel the issue was being taken seriously as this would be reflected through quality of the production.

To begin the process we worked with a group of 7-8 young people who were dealing with the issue of self-harm and gathered further insights to really understand the mind-set of someone going through the journey and what they would need from a film resource. From this we were able to get an understanding of what they felt worked and didn’t work in previous messaging by browsing campaigns online and picking out key issues around self-harm that needed to be addressed in our video. A strong focus on the positive ‘light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel’ message became clear, and this began to shape not just the storyboard, but the actors used, the locations, colours, camera angles and audio chosen to shape the piece. The young people also felt strongly that the piece had to feel “truthful” and real.

The Production

The goal was to portray a sense of reality around the subject, so the narrative focused on short scenarios, played by actors but narrated from the real interviews. With three key audiences to engage – young people, parents and professionals, we chose different locations for the films that connected with each audience. Through each story we used the metaphor of a journey to reflect the journey that people effected by self-harm go through. For instance we used sunrises, moving out of the darkness, bright colours, looking towards the future. Whilst the focus was on a positive angle, it had to address the seriousness of the issue and connect with those that might be affected by the issue. The shooting style was simple, clean and stripped back.

Underneath the scenarios we used interviews with young people, parents and professionals who had been or were affected by the issues surrounding self-harm. These interviews formed the backbone of the films. They gave us the opportunity to give the films the “truth” the young people had wanted, but without breaching any confidentiality issues of putting these people on screen. The fact that they knew it was just their voice gave them the freedom to speak with real honesty about their experiences.

Using these interviews meant the film didn’t skirt around the issue, it dealt with it head on, but with a lighter, forthcoming approach. In the young person’s film we also mixed animation with live action to help re-inforce positive messages.

The Result

The film series messaging was consistent with the resource pack campaign, helping to reinforce the key concepts that needed to be communicated. The charities launched it on their sites, through social media, and utilising their own networks, and at a launch event. The video has already generated a lot of engagement and is steadily being shared and viewed by the right audiences. With such a delicate subject it is essential that time was taken to target the right audiences, and to connect with those that are looking for that beacon of hope, which the film series continue to do.