Lights. Camera. Help. brings celebration, glamor and praise to the nonprofit video sphere

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Lights. Camera. Help. is, as they say on their website, "the premiere film festival for non-profit and grass roots organizations." The nonprofit organization was started up by David Neff, Rich Vazquez, and Aaron Bramley.

Neff caught my attention last year when he dropped this beautiful, totally true, totally amazing bomb in an interview with Beth Kanter in the middle of last year:  

The days of million dollar web sites are dead. Open source and local talent. It's all about that.


This quote in particular was about the video and production work Neff was (and is still) doing with the American Cancer Society by way of, and now he is interested in bringing attention to other folks who are doing interesting and altrustically-themed video and production work. He talks a bit about what that effort looks like here.  

So tell me a bit about Lights. Camera. Help.

We just launched Lights. Camera. Help. and we're just starting to take submissions. We had a party called Reel to Reality where we had all these nonprofits come and show what they're going to enter into the film festival. It's nation wide, open to everyone, and open to all 501c3s and grassroots causes. It's going off my theory that I think that video is one of the best way for nonprofits to share their mission, yet they can't get awards, they can't bother to enter film festivals because it's too expensive to enter. We're seeing everything from these amazing PSAs from people like Charity:Water to these hour-long documentaries about Meals on Wheels and stuff like that.

Are these third-party documentaries or are they...

No, no, that's the best part is that there are third party documentaries and documentaries NPOs have done themselves. Meals on Wheels has a great one that they commissioned and found some money for that's narrated by Dan Rather. There's a really nice documentary on the history of Meals on Wheels. We're kind of hoping we'll get the whole gamut.

We're also hoping that if a filmmaker does a film for a cause or a nonprofit, we'll take that into the film festival as well.

Why did you think, "These videos need to be recognized; let's start this film festival"?

I just saw a need out there. I do video at work and we can never afford to submit anywhere because it's always like, $200 to submit your film and I just thought it would be a really good way to get the message out that nonprofits should be doing video, that there's already some great people doing it, and things like that. I just started it, called two of my friends, and started it up. People thought it was cool and wanted to donate to it, and from there we filed the paperwork.

We thought it made sense because we could then do some other stuff, like offer classes on filmmaking for nonprofits instead of, you know, an organization that charges $400 to take a Final Cut Pro class for an hour. We saw it as an opportunity for us to be able to take donations, get support, and put together cool programs for these nonprofits.

You mentioned the Meals on Wheels Dan Rather video - what are some other cool videos you'd suggest people check out?

Best Friends Animal Society does this amazing animal sanctuary where any animal can go and live out the rest of its life instead of going to a kill shelter. Michael Vick's dogs ended up there after PETA and all of these other organizations said they needed to be put down. They have this great video about how long they've been around and what they do. They have some amazing documentary pieces that they've done on themselves which just show the mark of their mission and they're great.

The United Way Capital Area [Austin, TX, essentially] has some cool, gritty, give everybody Flip cams and film what they do for United Way and cut it together and it's awesome. It's very down-to-earth, user-generated content-y, if I can coin a word there.

Oh go ahead. [Laughs] Go for it. I'm pretty sure it's hyphenated.

Yeah - Definitely heavily-hyphenated [laughs] They've done some really cool work. The Capital Area Food Bank - food banks have an awesome mission, and you can go and talk to a person who's hungry, and you can talk with who's helping them eat.

Those were all of the videos that we showed in the Reel to Reality event.