Rachel King was nervous. She’d agreed to let us feature her in a fundraising video we were producing for Uprise Nashville, but she didn’t know if she was ready to open up about her past. It had taken her two years to climb out of her life of homelessness and addiction – a life that we learned had hit rock bottom in a homeless camp behind a rundown mall. She was nervous not just because we were bringing cameras. She was nervous because what we were asking her to do. We wanted her to take us back to her camp and tell us her story.
Capturing the moment
When Rachel agreed to return to her old homeless camp, we knew that her emotions would be running high. She was in a very different place now, but as we got to know her we suspected she still needed to reckon with her past. We needed to follow her back into the woods and simply roll our camera. No interview questions necessary. And this is how our story for Rachel began.
Showing versus telling
The easy way to to tell Rachel’s backstory would have been to simply sit her down and ask her about it. Maybe toss in some old photos and call it a day. But no matter how good an interviewer you are, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get the same emotional power that’s produced naturally by placing someone in the environment where their story happened.
We didn’t just go back to Rachel’s homeless camp. We also followed her as she reported to work at her new job. Then we filmed as she visited the staff at UpRise for a reunion. Why did we go through all that trouble? Because stories are about journeys, and along those journeys heroes make connections with other people – storytellers call them guides – and these people lead our heroes to their destination. To tell Rachel’s story, we had to trace the steps of her own journey, and reveal UpRise as her guide.
A success story for UpRise Nashville
When UpRise Nashville showed the video at a church Christmas Eve service and ushers passed the plates, the staff was shocked to discover the audience had donated $120k. In one night. No social media, no paid ads. Just one showing at a church. That’s the difference between a video people passively watch and a film that audiences can’t forget.