At the heart of Side by Side are the many relationships between clients and their providers forged with courage, dedication, and resiliency over many years. Four clients wrote letters to their providers describing the transformative power of these relationships on their lives. Then the providers wrote back.
"As part of a rebrand campaign for our 123 year old nonprofit, we engaged Andrew to create a video that would capture the essence of our work with vulnerable young people and cut through our long history and vast array of programs. What Andrew delivered was magic beyond anything we could’ve hoped for.
With an intuitive understanding of our work and the traumatic histories of our young people, Andrew developed a concept – letter writing between pairs of direct care staff and clients – that allowed the narrative to come directly from their words and experience. There was no scripting and no key messages, just the writing and reading of real letters between the young people and their providers to reveal the authentic depth of emotion in the relationship. Andrew established immediate and sustained trust with the staff and clients, some of whom were initially, and understandably, reticent to share their vulnerabilities in front of a camera. In the end, all of the participants felt their truth to be seen and honestly represented through the filming, and in the final product. As a result, the video has brought our organization closer together. And the quality of the production and the universally resonant narrative has enabled us to reach far beyond our current audience, building awareness and funds that will enable us to serve more vulnerable young people in years to come."
- Amber Whiteside, Director of Communications
Side by Side, 2018
Director: Andrew Hida
Cinematographer: Andrew Hida, Pete Bell
Editor: Andrew Hida
Music: Caleb Etheridge
Client-side Producer: Amber Whiteside
BACKGROUND AND CHALLENGES
Founded in 1895, Sunny Hills Services is a non-profit organization that serves youth in the Bay Area providing a wide range of programming from substance abuse treatment and mental health services, to transitional housing support and LGBTQ programming. In 2018, Sunny Hills Services launched a massive campaign to unite the various stakeholders and programs of the organization under the new Side by Side brand.
Side by Side wanted to leverage the power of video to tell their story. But, how do you tell a single story that engages their extremely diverse clientele with locations spread across three counties? How do you simultaneously represent the organization’s breadth of programming and services while honoring the deep impact and transformative power of these programs on their clients?
IDEA AND RESULT
Through extensive conversations with the client it became clear that at the core of Side by Side’s work are the relationships between the providers and their youth clients. This became the guiding principle informing every design decision. I devised a concept centered around letter writing as a deeply personal process and a unique experience that we rarely share in today’s digital world.
This approach was a risk. Its success depended on thorough casting and vetting of the participants, the creation of a safe and respectful filming environment, and the confidence and buy-in of the client that the pay off would be tremendous.
The result is an authentic look at the passion that drives the providers in caring for youth, and the transformative impact that this care has had on individual clients. It is fully inspirational, yet embedded in the grittiness of the work, at times through the lens which society brands the most vulnerable. We created not only a powerful story, but a special experience that honored the youth for their courage and strength, and the staff for their compassion and expertise.
One week after publication, Dear Timberlie has well-over 125,000 views and has been syndicated by Upworthy across their channels. Dear Timberlie has become an indispensable tool for Side by Side’s fundraising campaigns and communications priorities.