Let’s start, as we always do, with getting the human angle. Sightsavers wanted to communicate how its work distributing treatments for river blindness is making a profound difference for individuals and communities in some of the poorest regions across the globe. So we needed to find someone who could represent this story to the wider public.
That meant going to the Kaduna state in Nigeria to talk directly to the people affected. After a careful selection process, we decided to focus on the story of Dorcas, an eight-year-old who, thanks to the treatment programme delivered by Sightsavers, will never risk losing her sight to river blindness. It was a particularly moving interaction because we also met and interviewed her grandfather Simon, who has been blind for nearly 30 years as a result of this neglected tropical disease.
Another key aspect of the film was getting the breathtaking drone footage of the fast-flowing rivers where river blindness occurs. To our knowledge, this is the first drone film documenting the origins of river blindness in this way. As Nigerian law insists on drone operators having to own a piece of land in Nigeria itself (and we didn’t think it was likely we’d set up a Cloud Nine Media there anytime soon), we found an excellent local operator, Jide “J.Billion” Makinde, to work with us on the filming.
In these remote places, there are always technical obstacles to overcome. Regular power cuts, no mobile signal and no WiFi let alone travelling with a 12 man strong armed guard along treacherous roads all added to excitement when finally meeting Dorcas, Simon and all the other locals we encountered.
Of course, one of the most exciting aspects of this whole project was the live link-up with the conference in the UK. Just three weeks after returning from the shoot, we also oversaw the logistical challenge of linking the live celebration of the billionth treatment in Nigeria with audiences in Cambridge and Ireland.
Cloud Nine Media was the transmission nerve centre, providing multiple outputs for the different audiences. Alongside our main film to be shown at a cross-national conference, we prepared six foreign-language versions for simultaneous publishing across the globe, as well as social media vignettes and 360-video footage posted on Facebook, all according to pre-approved scripts and storyboards.
With two crews providing live footage simultaneously in Cambridge and Abuja, it was our job to capture the excitement of the billionth treatment celebration. From bandwidth challenges to making sure we interviewed the right people at the right time, we drew on all our experience and technical know-how to make the event an experience that everyone would remember. After the conference was finished, we also created a highlights film to provide stakeholders with a document of this important milestone that is being used to drive further engagement.
Since the event, Sightsavers has told us that, rather than focusing on a single film, having a whole suite of assets that are being used across all media channels has helped them reach new audiences and significantly extend the reach of their message.
In terms of project satisfaction, we couldn’t ask for more.
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