School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies, 2017
“We are not an advertising agency, and we are not a service for hire. We are a collective of collaborators who believe in the power of working together" (Film for Change 2017).
Helen likes to organise things, and Jesse likes to point a camera at them. Together, this duo have plans to become the resource centre for films for charities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.
This year, they’ve made 55 films, including a partnership with UNICEF- the future for change is on its way.
Although they’re now both experienced film makers, they actually met in Psychology class. “We were the ones who turned up really early [to class] ... we met doing a Salient crossword,” Helen laughs.
“Film was my ‘fun’ paper.”
They both loved the practical film paper, and lecturer Paul Wolffram is now one of the board members of Film for Change.
“Creating independent film makers with a wide set of skills, is what Victoria’s Film programme does,” says Helen. “With Vic students, when they come to us to volunteer ... we know how they’d fit in with us, because of our shared experiences,” Jesse adds.
So how did they begin and build the company? Helen was volunteering at Rethinking Crime & Punishment and made a short PSA video with Wellington Rape Crisis.
The video raised $50,000. They grew from there, with more videos for Rethinking, and entering the VUW entrepreneur and AMP scholarship awards.
Helen says, “People responded to us so well, and gave us some money - that’s when I thought, let’s go ahead with this. I was surrounded by film students itching to test out their film skills, and I was working at another charity, Just Speak. Why not combine those two things?”
What’s their growth like now? “It’s like an infinite snowball … then an avalanche,” says Helen. Jesse admits that they’ve got to the point where they have to put off, or turn away projects.
“We just can’t do as much work as we’d like to … that’s why we are continuing to bring on as many volunteers as we can.”
The volunteer experience is a huge part of what makes Film for Change Aotearoa unique. “We let volunteers into every pocket of the organisation,” explains Helen.
“If they want to learn admin, or how to manage social media … it’s not just film making that we have the resources to educate on.”
Their volunteer outreach goes beyond the local. “As a local company, we’re kind of limited geographically,” says Jesse.
“But when we train volunteers that then go out and work on projects elsewhere in New Zealand and overseas … we’re sending people out into the world that have that same set of values and skills.”
“I mean, we’re called Film for Change Aotearoa, coz we’re here … but our idea is such that anyone could run with it. It’d be possible to start a Film for Change ... Canada. Film for Change, Africa. Expanding ... the idea globally.”