Case study: Control - charity film that changed perceptions
A close analysis of the highly acclaimed film, by Moving Image founder, Steve Garvey.
‘Control’ by Raw London for Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services was one of the most awarded branded films of 2017, punching well above its budget to compete with big brands and big agencies. What was the secret?
NDAS is a small, young charity who gave Raw London creative freedom. NDAS did their homework, asking young people in Northumberland what kind of content they wanted for messages about domestic abuse, how to prevent it and how to support victims of it. The audience said they wanted video.
NDAS considered making a case study film, but the risk to interviewees was too great. They figured they knew their audience and Raw London, a specialist branded content agency, knew how to make films. So they gave the agency leeway to deliver what the creative team really wanted to make.
This was a pro bono project, so the production team could be creative as long as they minimised cash and time spent. Those constraints brought the agency’s team together – everybody wanted it to be a hit.
Ryan Wilkins, Raw London CEO, said the pitch from NDAS attracted him partly because it was a difficult topic to handle sensitively and creatively. The sheer enthusiasm of the NDAS team was the other factor.
NDAS aimed to get the film into every school in Northumberland to raise awareness of what a controlling relationship is and how it starts. The audience was tightly focused by geography and age, so the right project was perhaps easier to define.
This shaped media strategy as the team knew if they could get deep engagement from the core audience, the film’s influence would spread organically. Since there was no budget, they targeted Northumbrian media, education professionals and the dance community.
Valentine’s Day 2017 was chosen for launch. Would the vast amount of romantic content flood the message about a difficult subject? The team had researched and engaged with regional media and influencers, and the media picked up the angle that this was something different. The film got 350,000 views on Facebook in the first week, and the reach spread from there.
The right script
Raw London were initially nervous about pitching their idea of a dance video to Maggie Martin, Children’s Service Co-ordinator of NDAS, but she immediately bought into it. The creative approach made the idea deliverable within budget, with a supportive crew and a one-day shoot in January on Dursingham Bog on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
The script was essentially choreography. Carys Staton was recruited early to develop the routine, followed by two student dancers who were already friends. There were three rehearsals and the music was selected just a few days before the shoot.
Achieving the look
Producer Amber Parsons had been hoping for mist on the moor to create atmosphere, but shoot day dawned bright and cold. Dan McKenzie-Cossou operated a Canon 1DX on a gimbal, with a second unit using a Canon C300. Ryan Wilkins explains the grade by Jon Gibson was crucial in delivering a consistent look. Before the grade, the film had wide image variations due to rapidly changing winter light.
‘Control has made a massive difference to us,’ says NDAS CEO Georgia Evans. ‘As an organisation it really put us on the map.’ Not only has every school in Northumberland screened it, national and international media and social reach was extensive and healthcare and police organisations have used the film too.
It’s striking that local government in Northumberland has no budget to support victims of domestic abuse, leaving NDAS in a critical role. 'Control' has achieved widespread recognition for NDAS, and generated huge debate around the attitudes that trigger abuse.
You can support the excellent work of NDAS here. For Georgia and Maggie, regular monthly donations, however modest, free up resource to offer more support for victims of domestic abuse. What better way to celebrate the season of goodwill?
Lexi Powner: Director and Lead Editor
Louisa Wells: Director
Lee Jones: DOPChoreographer: Carys Staton
Dancers: Connor Scott, Ella Pileggi
Make-up & Hair: Ema Tiller Cordy
Camera / Gimbal Operator: Dan McKenzie-Cossou
Grade: Jon Dobson