CASE STUDY of ¡Libérate!, a public service announcement (PSA)

¡Libérate! (Free yourself) is a "call to action" social marketing campaign using film and fashion and urging the community at large to let go of the heavy burdens that accompany homophobia.  Juntos Construyendo, a subset of the Latino Commission on AIDS, funded the production of the PSA.  Hector L. Torres III, my co-producer on the PSA, wanted to do something different from the typical PSA that bores its audience.  We came up with a simple but artistic idea for a PSA that treats homophobia as an affliction that affects the homophobic as much as the homosexual.  Hence, the need for both the homophobe and the homosexual to liberate themselves so that all people in the community can heal and grow.  Here's a teaser:

The main production strategy was to shoot something artistic and ambiguous unlike your typical PSA.  To do so, our creative concept had to overcome a tiny budget, a small cast and crew and a short amount of time.

Elements of the Strategy

KNOW YOUR VISION AND PURPOSE FOR SHOOTING BUT BE FLEXIBLE TO ADAPT.  Even though time was of the essence, Hector and I came up with about 5 different concepts that we wanted to shoot.  They could all be done with our tiny budget and crew but they required varying degrees of post production work.  We finally nailed our concept, finalized our budget and selected our cast.  However, recent videos surfaced using a crucial effect we wanted to do and we didn't want to seem to "jump on the bandwagon" so we cut it out.  It changed the concept but because our concept was flexible to begin with we were able to adapt and keep the essence of the PSA intact.

NO MATTER HOW SMALL YOUR BUDGET OR HOW SHORT YOUR SCHEDULE OR HOW SIMPLE THE SHOOT, PREPARE A BUDGET, SCRIPT BREAKDOWN, SCHEDULE AND STORYBOARD. It would be easy to argue that with a 1-day, 1-location shoot with a small cast and crew and a tiny budget we could afford to skip filling out production documents like the budget, schedule and storyboards. But for a no-budget production they are vital.  They not only organize your efforts and keep you on a realistic track but they expose you to things you might have overlooked or reveal solutions you didn’t expect. The budget and the schedule speak for themselves. More specifically, the storyboards and breakdown sheets helped us decide certain pieces of wardrobe and visualize how the PSA would play out so that we could pick the shots that would flow best.  It also allowed us to imagine how we would use the dolly and what shots were most important to set up in case we ran out of time.

IF YOU CAN’T DO A TEST SHOOT WITH THE CAMERAS DUE TO BUDGET REASONs, WATCH CAMERA COMPARISON TESTS ONLINE.  We couldn't afford to rent the cameras for a test shoot and we were undecided between going with the Canon 5d Mk III or the Sony NEX-FS700.  Luckily, the web afforded us the ability to watch camera tests:

We would have preferred doing our tests ourselves but this was the best second option and it helped us go with the Sony camera.

TAKE TIME TO MEET WITH YOUR CO-PRODUCERS AND OTHER MANAGEMENT STAFF  TO DO AN AFTER-ACTION REVIEW.  In the military, the after-action review (AAR) is "a professional discussion of an event, focused on performance standards, that enables soldiers to discover for themselves what happened, why it happened, and how to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses. It is a tool leaders and units can use to get maximum benefit from every mission or task."  Meeting with Hector allowed us to assess what went right and what went wrong, what we could've done better and what we did right.  Discussing it and hearing someone else's perspective was invaluable which be invaluable on my next production.

To find out more about: ¡Libérate!

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