Empowering Voices: A Special Interest Video Spotlighting Theatrical Diversity

At Skillman Video Group, we often lightly joke that we are always fighting the good fight against “death by corporate video,” or otherwise good information that fails to wow a viewer due to lack of a story arc, written-format spoken lines, a deer-in-the-headlights delivery, or a runtime beyond an audience’s attention span, for example.

Our client’s work is interesting and impactful, and it’s our job to help them tell stories about their work through the medium of video so that it’s compelling to watch. Occasionally, they come to us for videos about special interest work that they’ve been doing. 

The Concept 

We are fortunate to have a long-established partnership with a management consultancy that specializes in data research, analysis, and recommendations, with far-reaching implications across a range of industries. It’s important to them that their revolutionary work also benefits the not-for-profit and civic sectors, and they choose strategic partners to synergize their impact on the communities that these serve.

One of their partners is an arts organization that strives to increase representation for black and African American leadership in theater roles. Our client approached us in January 2023, in advance of February’s annual Black History Month, to create a video that tells the story of their joint efforts. 


Our client brought to the kick-off with SVG a working storyboard for their special interest video project, including scripted lines and suggested matching visuals. We were able to review their document together and affirm the key messages that they needed to include about the scope of the issue, how they worked to develop possible solutions, and how they implemented them.  

We helped them estimate the runtime and consider some details they could cut to maintain the right emphasis, pace, and length. We participated in conversations about who needed to appear in the video. We assessed which visuals would be easy to assemble and a few that were likely to need some possible alternative approaches. 

We began our planning for capturing all of the footage and collating all of the images and music we’d need to edit the video together against a final script in time for its timely target release date. With the creative established, we could quickly begin the production work for the special interest video. 

The Production 

There are some challenges to overcome in creating a special interest video project when SVG is consulting as creative, but due to budget, deadline, or other constraints, there won’t be a video production shoot with a professional camera and videographer, lighting and audio equipment, and a producer to interview the on-screen speaker. We still need to get the best possible quality talking head footage to edit together into a high resolution end product. 

DIY Shoots: Guidance and Equipment

To this end, we coordinated with our client team to schedule DIY video shoots, accommodating one at an office in Chicago and consolidating a trio based in New York City for a single half-day shoot at someone’s home. We offered some basic recommendations for how to frame the subject in the shot as well as some affordable tools that could up-level the content, for example, a ring light on an adjustable tripod with a built-in cell phone holder could properly illuminate the speaker and capture the footage at eye-level height in adequate resolution. 

This helped us avoid some of the common DIY pitfalls like backlighting, a subject placed at the wrong distance or line of sight from the camera, or using a laptop stock camera to record a video conference with a blurred background—the archnemesis of good-looking self-shot content in corporate HD video. 

Prep Calls

With the shoots set up, we also made a point to prepare each speaker. Firstly, Christina, as the consulting creative director on the special interest video project, talked with each one individually via a short video conference in advance to make sure they were freshly briefed on their talking points to cover and to give them some expert advice about appearing on camera.  

Remote Direction 

Secondly, she “remotely directed” the scheduled DIY video shoots. In an age of widespread adoption of stable virtual connectivity tools, she was able to help warm up the speaker, listen in, and offer feedback much as she would have done if live in person, but via a video conference session on a laptop to one side as they delivered their lines to a cell phone used to record the footage.

This allowed her to coach them in real time to slow down, take a breath, smile, look right into the camera, and ultimately deliver a great take for each line. That interpersonal interaction with a seasoned producer helped each speaker achieve better “takes” more quickly than they could have on their own. 

Tailoring to our clients needs—getting the best self-shot footage

We understand that not every special interest video project can accommodate a full shoot, so that’s why we work intentionally with our clients to tweak any of these easily achievable inputs that can drastically improve the output quality, in the case of self-shot footage. 

self shot footage example

The Content 

While the successful project relied on collaboration between many cross-organizational teammates, the special interest video would feature the three leaders from the arts organization and the partner from our client organization who worked with them as speakers.

We would use their talking head documentary style A roll film along with B roll that we sourced from their own website and images, stock footage, and graphics that we designed and animated in line with our client’s video corporate brand standards, to illustrate major plot points.

We also took their strategic partner’s freshly updated logo and animated that for the intro and outro bumpers, which we were glad to provide to them for their future reuse. 


The story we needed to tell in the special interest video was one of the ongoing underrepresentation of Black and African American representation in theater roles, in the American theater and especially on Broadway, and concerted efforts to change that. Raising awareness of this chasm is the first step in efforts to bridge it. 

While there have been incremental improvements in representation for Black and African American performers on stage in recent years, this has actually led to an “illusion of inclusion” that belies the ongoing dearth of representation in many other industry roles such as producers, designers, general managers, press agents, and attorneys, among others. 

B-Roll: underrepresentation

You can’t always find what you’re looking for among stock content if you’re looking for something especially niche, but there is a daunting array of content available for licensing that can represent general people, places, industries, and even concepts (like “satisfied customer”).

It was striking, then, that when we sourced footage from the major online industry catalog that we generally use for stock content, we could find plenty of scenes of on-stage performers auditioning or acting, and even some diverse representation of race and physicality (e.g., Black, Asian, in a wheelchair, etc.), but almost without exception, we found older white males when keyword searching for scenes depicting theater directors. It was a humbling reminder of the importance of the messages in the special interest video.

special interest project - infographic of Blacks underrepresented on Broadway since 1866

Music: supporting composer of color

Rather than select a generic music track, we were all the more grateful that the project could support a composer of color whom they knew in their networks, commissioning one of his music tracks to set the important tone for the video and celebrate Black and African American contributions to the Arts. 

Depicting the Solutions

We also needed to tell the story of the efforts that the team was implementing to increase Black and African American access to roles in the theater industry, described as a sustainable roadmap. These included a fellowship program, the establishment of a national database, and a sponsored annual performance series. We were able to use a blend of stock footage and original animated graphics with text and figures over the narrator’s explanation to illustrate these points. 


“Version 3” is one way we describe a point at which we’ve already made two rounds of client feedback revisions and added all of the proposed style treatments, and we typically oblige one final round of changes to effect all final minor edits and licensed approved stock content, then provide “Version 4” for consideration as final for acceptance (or quote additional work for further changes).  

Even though we were editing the content together from a storyboard with pre-scripted lines and stock content, by the time we reached our penultimate Version 3 of this special video interest, our client couldn’t decide between the slightly longer version with more details about the roadmap or a slightly shorter version that would omit this scene, for the version to show to their partner for their feedback. They decided to work with us to quote edit both versions, with the idea that they would choose one or the other version to complete. 

In the end, our client decided that they’d in fact like us to complete both, optioning the slightly shorter version for their internal marketing purposes and sponsoring the second slightly longer version that preserved the more detailed scene for their partner’s distinct marketing purposes. We were pleased that they could see the value of both in their respective contexts and that we could work with them to accommodate these different uses of the same original source of special interest video. 

The Impact 

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Our “methodical approach to creativity” let us plan a workable way to deliver but then adapt in real-time for a valued repeat client with some exceptional civic work that they wanted to highlight. It was important to our client to receive their special interest video in time for corollary programming, including staff newsletters and events, at the beginning of the month. It was important to their partner, our secondary client by proxy, that they receive a quality video that they could use to broadcast their message on their website and other possible platforms to be used over the long term. SVG was humbled to be a small part of a big collaboration to tell an important story.