How Contra make emotive charity videos John Ford - Head of Film by John Ford, Head of Film

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How Contra use video production to cover real stories affecting real people.

We recently made a film about a  young girl who has been given a platform for positive change thanks to her involvement with the charity XLP. Glitch, who is now 19, has gone from being homeless and without hope to living a stable life. We pride ourselves on being able to make heartfelt, authentic charity videos that really connect the viewer with the reality of the contributor’s story.

Watch our recent film for XLP ‘Glitch’s Story’ here:

We invest time in Pre-Production

Contra invest a lot of time in pre production to get to know the contributor, to listen to their story, and to work with them to ensure their story is accurately represented by the film. It is really important for us to get to know the person behind the voice to keep our narrative as authentic as possible.

Video Production Company with Red Dragon Camera

A word from the Director, David Hayes:

“Our brief was to tell the story of how the charity work of XLP has helped to create a more positive future for a 19 year old girl called Glitch. Growing up on an estate in Peckham with 14 siblings, Glitch remembers often being completely forgotten by her own mother. At the age of 15, following a big falling out, she was forced to live on the streets and did so for three years.

When I first met with Glitch we talked through her experiences and I realised that at the centre of her transformation was the friendship and trust that she had built with a representative from the charity XLP. This representative ran a drama class at Glitch’s school and encouraged her to embrace her love for wordplay by writing and performing poetry. Gradually this friendship grew, along with Glitch’s poetry and her own sense of self worth.

As soon as Glitch gave me some of her poems to read I became set on featuring her work in the film. Having her deliver those cutting words directly to the viewer offers a very powerful framing device for the narrative. We knew that the RED would handle these performance close ups perfectly with its stunning skin tones. The depth of the image, particularly with Glitch’s eyes, works brilliantly to draw the viewer in.

Working on a tight charity budget meant that we had to capture everything in one shoot day with Glitch. The flexibility of the RED was ideal in this situation. Stripping the camera back to a small handheld size allowed us to get very close to Glitch as she led us around her old estate and through the busy streets of Peckham.

In contrast, as the story progresses and Glitch starts to talk about writing, the film required a more dream-like aesthetic to represent her memories of that transitional period. The RED’s high frame rate gave us the option to shoot beautiful sequences to visualise Glitch’s writing process and also the notion of time passing.”

A word from our Head of Post Will Hammond:

“When it came to post it was no hassle editing the 6k RAW footage natively. Using Premiere Pro to cut and DaVinci Resolve to grade we were able to stay in 6k timelines all the way up until exporting the final film. When working on a project with tight deadlines and a low budget there’s no time for technology to slow you down, so being able to start work as soon as the rushes are on your machine makes a massive difference.

Davinci Resolve grade

Using RAW footage was especially powerful when grading, giving us so much flexibility with the look of each scene. This ensured that every frame reflected the mood and feel of the narrative and allowed us to show Glitch’s story in the best and most powerful way possible.”

A word from the Director of Photography, John Ford:

From my point of view as DoP on the shoot it was a pleasure to work with the Dragon on this powerful story as it really brought out the best from our subject. We were in some very tricky locations and I didn’t want lighting to get in the way of our subject feeling comfortable in front of the camera so we had to strip everything back.We shot using the Canon C-NE primes, 24, 50 and 85 using the Schneider Hollywood Blackmagic pro 1/8th on the poetry but we kept the rest of the footage un filtered for a gritty, real look. We shot everything 6k WS up to 100fps. Audio was recorded direct into the camera using Sound Devices Mix D going into the ActionProducts EPIC/SCARLET XLR Audio Adaptor.

Negative fill helped to control the lighting where we didn’t want to use lights, aided by two Felloni Bi-Colour Light Panels. Indeed the interview was carefully placed to make the most out of natural light – no other lighting was used, just the two broad windows, giving a lovely soft natural fill.

Video Production Company with Red Epic Dragon

Video Production Company with Red Epic Dragon

In all instances our character, Glitch, was able to have a clear dialogue with our Director without interference from technical considerations.

The Red really brought out the lovely colour of her eyes while being very flattering to skin tones. I’ve always loved the way Red does that.The crazy latitude allowed us to shoot both in bright sunshine as well as darkened rooms without loosing detail or latitude.

Being handheld and shooting gorilla style in Peckham meant we had to be very stripped back and shooting at 100fps brought those street scenes to life adding real intensity.

High End Video Production for Charities is our passion!

Video provides an excellent platform for getting your story heard. It is a platform to tell someone’s story in a compelling way requiring very little input from the audience. Video is highly shareable  on many different forms of social media and can very quickly grab a viewer’s attention. This is highly valuable in a world where so much online content is seen every second of every day. The film was premiered at XLP’s annual donor event in central London.

John Ford - Head of Film by John Ford, Head of Film
  • Image of GOLD: Marketing and PR EVCOM 2017
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  • Image of Silver Direction EVCOM 2017
  • Image of GOLD Cinematography EVCOM 2017
  • Image of EVCOM Charity & Not for Profit
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  • BBC Radio 4
  • Imperial College London
  • Instituto Neymar Jr
  • Buyagift
  • Now Tv
  • UGG
  • Save the children
  • BBC
  • Sky
  • Design Museum
  • University of Cambridge
  • Cadbury
  • Honda
  • RedBull
  • KPMG

Each day Contra makes beautiful web applications films for brands documentaries scripts and stories animations that inspire campaigns that convert social media campaigns content that engages clients more beautiful