Sub urban, a commercial production and location services company that was launched in 2000 and whose head office is in Johannesburg has produced a webisode – a documentary series for release on the web.  It’s the first product of Sub urban’s New Media division specialising in non-traditional ways of delivering advertising/ promotional messages; anything from text messaging to the internet.

As a result of increased demand for new media content and the revival of the documentary, Leo Burnett Chicago briefed Sub urban to develop a webisode.

In Focus spoke to Michelle Cavé: Head of Marketing at Sub urban. “The webisode plays a vital role in demonstrating advertising with a conscience and the value of social responsibility.  It was produced as a result of corporate funding donated to a charity initiative that aims to give all young girls around the world a chance to shine.  It’s intended to pull on the heart-strings of viewers and encourage further donations, without coming across as a direct call-to-action that plays on feelings of guilt.  Rather, the series of episodes are designed to entertain and capture audiences’ attention, because it’s interesting and takes a colourful, positive angle on personal stories”.

International, award-winning documentary director, Toni Strasburg was sourced by Sub urban to shoot the story, which features young, San girls becoming women through puberty.  It tells their stories through their world by sharing their dreams, imagination and creativity.

Strasburg has worked as an International Peace Monitor and Election Observer for the United Nations.  Before joining the film industry specialising in social and political documentaries, she worked as a teacher, social worker and researcher. This experience was incredibly valuable for directing a story of such a delicate nature.

Miles Goodall, Sub urban partner and director comments.  “This personal and emotional narrative was best shot by a female director, who was capable of balancing the facts with the emotion.  Strasburg possessed a gentle mannerism that allowed her to work with the villagers in a way that encouraged them to open up and share feelings, experiences and thoughts.  It’s a powerful combination that offers emotional appeal”.

The production team set up camp for ten days in a remote Namibian location. Says Sub urban MD/ Executive Producer, Linda Notelovitz Goodall, “It was important for us to spend time with the girls before we started shooting their stories.  This way we’d ease them into feeling comfortable having the crew and cameras in their space.  It was essential to gain their trust so that they wouldn’t feel nervous or awkward around us and allowing them to easily communicate and share their stories.”

One of the crucial elements of getting this webisode right was having a strong team supporting Strasburg.  It was quite challenging working in extreme temperatures, with little or no infrastructure, little or no communication with anyone outside of the village and dealing with language barriers”.

Says Notelovitz Goodall, “All footage is being edited in the States, so we’re waiting for the final cut to come through, and soon we’ll be able to measure the success of the campaign.  It’s very exciting to be a part of an innovative project that supports our ‘energy exchange’ philosophy and provides a platform for an individual to have hope in their future.  It’s always incredibly rewarding to catalyze change in someone else’s life.”