Communications: Film-makers give their time for free

Television production companies have donated time and money worth more than £500,000 to make a series of short films highlighting the contribution made by volunteers to 26 small charities.

The films are between three and five minutes long and were made as part of the Media Trust's Volunteer Films initiative, now in its second year.

They will be screened over four episodes on the Community Channel during Volunteers' Week, which begins tomorrow.

Prajna Khanna, a freelance producer, made a film for Roko Cancer to raise awareness of the risk of breast cancer among women in the south Asian community. "I'm of Asian descent, so I know that Asian women will talk about a broken leg, or even other types of cancer - but they won't talk about breast cancer," she said.

"I thought it might be difficult to put together a crew of people who were willing to work for free, but that was the easy part. The tricky bit was getting women to talk openly about their experiences."

Roko Cancer had no experience of dealing with the media and wasn't really sure about what would and wouldn't work. "It wanted us to focus on people dying of cancer, but we wanted to make it more positive," said Khanna.

When producer Richard Scrase volunteered to make a film for Blue Ventures, the marine conservation charity took the unusual step of giving him a completely free rein to make the film he wanted to make.

Richard Nimmo, managing director of Blue Ventures, said: "Richard filmed at our project in Madagascar. We had no reason to fear what he was doing because we are very proud of the work we do and have a good relationship with the local community."

Scrase made a longer documentary about Blue Ventures' work in Madagascar, which he then edited to make a shorter film for the Community Channel.

"I spent a lot of time talking to the local people," he said. "I wanted to know what they really thought of Blue Ventures' work.

"For a conservation charity to have a real impact, it needs to change people's attitudes. Otherwise, when the project comes to an end, things will go back to the way they were before.

"I discovered that the charity works in collaboration with local people and made a film that I hope will be used as an educational tool to set up other conservation projects."

Scrase had a positive experience making the film, but remains unsure whether he would repeat it.

"I might consider doing something like this again if I was able to get my basic expenses covered," he said. "This time, I paid for the flight myself."

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