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African-American Voices for Africa: Behind the Scenes of Our Public Service Announcement
By Laura Elizabeth Pohl
"I've got an idea," my colleague Racine Tucker-Hamilton said to me, excitement lighting up her face. "What do you think about producing a public service announcement?"
A television network had been asking Racine if we here at Bread had a PSA about our African-American Voices for Africa (AAVA) initiative, which aims to get African-Americans involved in advocating for policies that eradicate hunger, poverty, and disease in Africa. I loved Racine's idea and had seen plenty of PSAs but never produced one myself.
We both started by studying classic PSAs, like "Brain on Drugs" and "You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy" from the '80s. We read articles about producing effective PSAs. And most importantly, we found other creative people to work with, including Robert Wesley Branch, a radio talk show host and former producer for the Discovery Channel, TLC, BET and TV One.
And so began our seven-week journey into creating a 30-second public service announcement (PSA) raising awareness about AAVA. Seven weeks might sound like a long time but it's not when you still have other work to do.
We went through almost a dozen script revisions (who was it that said, "I would have written a shorter letter but I didn't have the time"?—writing short really is difficult). Our overall concept changed twice. We enlisted our New York-based colleague Derrick Boykin to narrate the piece and found an audio producer there, Natasha Del Toro, who recorded his narration for us. Two D.C.-based colleagues, Kristen Archer and Lamont Thompson, agreed to the only two speaking parts in the video. I spent hours researching music (jazz, classical, trance, rock—I listened to it all). I sifted through dozens of film clips I had previously shot in various African countries. Then I edited through the very best ones, cutting out short snippets that flowed well together, fit with our positive message and reinforced the narration. In all, there were five PSA versions before we settled on the final one.
We had such fun producing this piece. I often say the best work comes out of collaborating with smart, creative people. This is definitely the case with our PSA. Watch below and let us know what you think.
Laura Elizabeth Pohl is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World.
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