20 February 2023

Filming Self-Denial: Behind the scenes

Bridget O’Leary

Image shows behind the scenes of a self-denial video. A young person in a wheelchair talks to a camera while other young people stand around and watch.

Video Production Unit Manager Bridget O’Leary takes us behind the scenes of this year’s Self-Denial Appeal videos.

How many Self-Denial videos are there?

Five. Three featuring different countries – Kenya, Moldova and Pakistan – plus an introduction explaining where the funds go and a final video to summarise the stories we’ve heard and reminding people how to give.

How big is the filming team?

Two people: Creative Director Neil MacInnes, who directed, and me, who produced and did the sound.

We try to share travelling abroad between team members who want to do it, but it also has to be the right team for that project. We visited Kenya and Moldova in person and used Zoom for interviews in Pakistan, with a local young man from The Salvation Army doing some filming for us.

How long did you stay in each place for?

Five to seven days. You can’t just film people without building up a relationship first if you want the best result.

Do you know who you’re going to film beforehand?

In Moldova, we knew we were going to film Dmitry. The division out there put him forward, preparing him and his grandad as well as gaining consent. In Kenya, at Joytown School, we did many interviews before we found Josfridah on the penultimate day. We’d filmed with other children, and they were good interviews, but hers was so powerful. She’s so wise for her age and has been through so much trauma and hardship. She was incredibly inspiring.

Image shows behind the scenes of a self-denial video. A young person in a wheelchair talks to a camera while other young people stand around and watch.

Is their on-screen presence as important as their story?

Viewers really need to understand the contributor’s story, to journey alongside them and for as much of their story as possible to be in their own words, so yes the interview is crucial in this situation.

When did you do the filming?

In October. It was an incredible, unforgettable experience, and such a privilege to see the difference the Army makes around the world.

How many hours of footage did you end up with?

Approximately 10 hours.

How long does it take to edit it together?

It typically takes two to three months. Neil drives the edit forward working on the shape of the films, he has the vision, he’s supported by a freelance editor, Jon, who works on the graphics and the online edit (the final colour grading, sound mix and tweaking).

What’s the most challenging part of the process?

It’s a fine balance, to maintain dignity and respect and to gather material which portrays a story well. I believe we do strike that balance. To film anything is a decision, and sometimes we chose not to.

At Joytown they were keen for us to film some of the children eating using their feet. Just by being there and watching without filming felt like an infringement on their dignity and so we chose not to. In Dmitry’s scenario, where he had lost his parents and siblings, it was important that an advocate was involved to support him as he told us about his past. It is a privilege to be entrusted to capture someone’s story professionally, to shape it and craft it into a form that others can view, building understanding so that they learn, do or feel something different than before.

There are quite a few ways to give to Self-Denial. You can use the envelope, or this year's collection box. You can visit salvationist.org.uk/selfdenial – or, if you have a standing order set up already, you can make a payment that way. Speak with your corps treasurer.

Written by

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Bridget O'Leary

Video Production Unit Manager

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Watch the videos

Self-Denial 2023: Inspiring the next generation

Eli Clifton (Maidstone) and Lynette Kakande (Gateshead) introduce the theme for this year’s Self-Denial Appeal.

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3 Feb 2023

Self-Denial 2023: Getting young people the support they need to thrive

As part of the Self-Denial Appeal, Joyce shares her hopes for the future.

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8 Feb 2023

Self-Denial 2023: A welcome place of safety

As part of the Self-Denial Appeal, Dmitry shares his story of being welcomed.

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15 Feb 2023

Self-Denial 2023: Like you’re in Heaven

As part of the Self-Denial Appeal, Josfridah shares his story of being welcomed.

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22 Feb 2023