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5th September 2017
Change for Good: Making a Difference

Change for Good, a partnership between UNICEF and easyJet which raises money to protect millions of children around the world, has raised £9m since it was founded in 2012. That translates to the vaccinating of more than 13 million children against polio and a further 5.3 million mothers and babies against deadly diseases. Through the distribution of vitamin A supplements, Change for Good has protected 4.8 million children from blindness. The partnership has also played a crucial role in keeping children safe in emergencies including the Nepal earthquake, the Ebola crisis, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the crisis in Syria and the surrounding regions.

Earlier this year, Connected Pictures traveled to the Philippines to capture the difference that easyJet’s support makes and, most importantly, why it’s fundamental that the airline continues to support the campaign. Using the Typhoon Haiyan as a case study, the emotive film puts those affected by the 2013 disaster at the fore. Captured in just three days, the evocative film explores the real and personal effects that Change for Good has had on children, families, teachers and health workers in the immediate vicinity of the 2013 typhoon.

In the interview published below, director Stephen Ashwell discusses the film; the logistical challenges involved in shooting on a low-budget and with no time for re-shoots; and the beauty of such a personal approach.

Tell us about the history of the Change for Good partnership?

Change for Good is a partnership between easyJet and UNICEF that began in 2012. It has raised £9m to date to support UNICEF’s vaccination programmes and provide life-saving aid during emergencies.

Why did UNICEF and easyJet want to make a film about the Change for Good project,

and specifically their work in the Philippines?

Every year, since the partnership began, easyJet has commissioned Connected Pictures to create an inspirational documentary film that follows easyJet crew members visiting UNICEF projects and experiencing first hand how the money raised by easyJet is used by UNICEF. The primary objective of these films is to motivate and engage easyJet staff members, particularly cabin crew, to raise funds for the Change for Good partnership. Between 2012 and 2016, easyJet focused on vaccination programmes and UNICEF’s mission to eradicate Polio. However, for the first time this year, easyJet wanted a film that not only showed UNICEF’s vaccination work but also showed how UNICEF help during emergencies. The Philippines was chosen because in 2013 the strongest ever super-typhoon killed thousands of people and wreaked widespread destruction. easyJet raised over £460,000 to help UNICEF protect children in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon.

What was the brief?

easyJet and UNICEF asked for a film that shows the difference that easyJet’s support makes and why it is so important that easyJet continues to raise funds for UNICEF. The brief was to talk about UNICEF’s emergency work, using Typhoon Haiyan as a case study. It also highlighted UNICEF’s campaign to vaccinate children against polio so that the disease can be eradicated forever. The film is about learning, first hand, how UNICEF responded to the disaster and helped to protect children and keep them safe.

How did you respond to the brief? What was the thinking behind your approach to the

film?

To show the importance of the support given, we chose to open the film with archive footage from 2013 that shows the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan and the huge impact that it had. We built the body of the film around the personal stories of the children and families affected by the typhoon that were helped by UNICEF. We chose to have the easyJet crew conduct the interviews with these people so that it became their story. This created a more emotive and human connection. We visited school and healthcare centers that were rebuilt by UNICEF to show how Change for Good is saving and changing children’s lives by supporting UNICEF emergency work and vaccinating children against polio. We then closed the film with the easyJet people’s personal response and commitment to the partnership.

What research did you do ahead of the shoot and then once you were in the Philippines?

Research is the most fundamental element of making a good documentary because it ensures that, once you’re out in the field, you capture the right material to make a compelling story in the limited time that you have. With this kind of job, there is no option for re-shoots or pick-ups. I researched all the locations and contributors in collaboration with UNICEF. Local UNICEF officers in the Philippines conducted preliminary interviews with children, families, teachers and health workers. We then selected the strongest and most relevant people to visit. Once we identified the people we wanted to visit, we set about working out an itinerary: how long we would spend with each person, how long the travel time was between each, and how much daylight we had in order to film as much as we could each day. Thankfully, the majority of our itinerary went as planned but, as with all documentary filming, things did change on the day.

What was the experience of being in the Philippines and making the film like?

It was an incredible privilege to film the work UNICEF is doing in the Philippines. The local people suffered great tragedy and loss because of Typhoon Haiyan but had such positivity and thankfulness for everything they had and everything UNICEF had done to help them. It is a beautiful country with such welcoming and friendly people – I will certainly be returning in the future.

How did the process of filming work? Did you plan a lot of shots or did you follow the team and captured what you could?

As I mentioned above, we did as much research as we could before we arrived so that we knew where we were going and who we were going to meet, but that is all we could plan for. I also knew the kind of interview frames I wanted to get as well as the types of establishing shots I hoped to get for each location. However, without a recce of any of the locations, I did the rest on my feet in the moment. Therefore the shoot was planned to an extent but mostly consisted of me capturing and directing the action as it happened.

What was the biggest challenge when making the film?

There are many challenges when making a film like this. I guess the biggest is knowing that you can’t re-shoot anything: what you capture is what you get and that’s it. We only had three days shooting so the pressure was on to make sure I had enough good material. Avoiding illness is a big one and thankfully I avoided any sickness. Rain can be a huge problem out in places like the Philippines. Torrential rain can not only ruin your camera kit but it’s also so loud that it makes it very hard to record clean sound. Thankfully on this trip, all the rain came at night and we had dry weather when filming. Finally, of course, the biggest challenge when on a low budget charity job like this is multi-rolling. It’s always a good test of my energy and endurance doing these sorts of jobs when I’m directing, interviewing, camera operating and sound recording all at once. However, despite the challenges, I love doing these jobs and making films that support people less fortunate than myself.

How is this project similar to your existing body of work? And how does it differ?

Over the years I’ve gained a lot of experience filming these kinds of documentaries across Africa and Asia but what really made this one different was the emergency response element. I’ll never forget standing on the shoreline and meeting families and children who lost everything through the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. It clearly showed me why we need to support emergency appeals like the work of UNICEF in times of disaster.

Watch the full film here.

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