Author : Lindsey Perkins Wade

Annalisa-Russell-Smith-Spirit-of-CaringBehind the Camera: The Filming of Annalisa Russell-Smith’s <i>Spirit of Caring</i>

Behind the Camera: The Filming of Annalisa Russell-Smith’s Spirit of Caring

Communicators often get the opportunity – some would say responsibility – to tell a story that can affect the lives of a number of people. Professionals either do the work pro bono or offer nonprofits a substantial discount. AMCP judges see numerous wonderful projects where it’s clear the entrants are entirely invested in the cause.

One such example was independent storyteller Annalisa Russell-Smith‘s videos for Community Mental Health Affiliates. We recently caught up with the owner of Local Planet Productions to discuss the project, which just received a Platinum Award in the Hermes Creative Awards.

CMHA – The Spirit of Caring from Annalisa Russell-Smith on Vimeo.

Where did these videos appear for CMHA?

The main feature piece, “The Spirit of Caring,” was first shown at CMHA’s annual meeting, a gathering of supporters, legislators, fundraisers and community members in October 2015. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as each of the clients who appeared in the film took a bow. All the films are available on the CMHA website and are used for educational purposes in the community, for training and recruiting new staff, and for fundraising and lobbying. The shorter profiles are used on social media, especially during the various rounds of state budget cuts.

How did you get involved with CMHA, and what was their objective for this project?

Mental health is a subject too scary for many to discuss and yet one in four people has a diagnosable mental health condition, so raising awareness is a big priority for CMHA to break down some of the barriers preventing people from seeking help.

I got involved because I saw the amazing work they are doing in the community, but I could see how difficult it is to even begin explaining the complexity of their programs and the many kinds of problems they help people deal with in order to live productive lives. So I pitched the idea of doing a series of short, shareable films with the personal stories of people whose lives have been affected in very positive ways by CMHA to their executive team.

Mental illness and addiction are complex and often misunderstood. Why did you choose the approach you did for your videos?

Tackling complex subjects is what I do best, because at the end of the day it’s all about breaking them down into parts that are more easily understood, and there’s no better way to do that than by talking to people with first-hand experience of the problem. It’s a very personal approach and relies upon building trust and the kind of rapport which allows the person being interviewed to simply be themselves.

Addiction from Annalisa Russell-Smith on Vimeo.

These topics are sobering. Did you need to prepare yourself mentally to work on this?

I agree, the topics are very sobering, but I’m not afraid to sit down and hear what someone has to say. Being able to simply listen to someone is often the most important part of the work I do.

The kind of preparation I do is much more about research to gain a better understanding of the subject so I can find ways to tell the story that needs to be told. For example, I learned all I could about paranoid schizophrenia by reading and talking with experts in the field in order to ask the kind of questions that would enable me to explain things through the eyes of someone living with paranoid schizophrenia. I researched addiction in the same way.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project?

As with anything filmed in documentary style, nothing is guaranteed because you’re filming real life as it happens rather than actors with a script! So the most challenging aspect of this project was ensuring I had enough material to truly give the viewer an understanding of not just of the company but of the people who shared their stories with me.

What do you hope viewers of your videos walk away with?

I hope viewers walk away with a little more understanding of why our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Once that starts to happen, perhaps the whole subject will be a little less scary to people.

View all of Annalisa’s videos on Vimeo.


Communitas Awards Spotlight: Alliance Data

Communitas Awards Individual: Alliance Data
Title: “2014 Excellence in Community Services”
Location: Plano, Texas
Category: 1. Leadership in Community Service

Alliance Data Systems

When designing and implementing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan, professionals must look outward at community initiatives as well as inward if they want to create an all-inclusive strategy. Few companies have broad plans that address CSR at every level; however, Alliance Data is one of the rare ones that does and it has its strategy laid out in a well-documented plan.

To learn why the company, recently named one of the world’s most admired companies by Fortune, decided to create a formal strategy, we spoke with Danielle Ricketts, external communications specialist for Alliance Data. Ricketts was also able to give us a glimpse at its results inside and outside the Texas-based business.

Q: Alliance Data’s approach to corporate responsibility is comprehensive, covering not only community service but also other efforts that result in positive change and improved business practices. Why did leadership decide to create a formal strategy, and how has it affected Alliance Data overall?


2014 MarCom Awards Spotlight: Vision Internet

While the winners for the 2014 MarCom Awards won’t be announced for a while, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted. Organization: Vision Internet Location: Santa Monica, California Title of Entry: “City of Reno, NV Website” Category: 178. Government What’s front and center on most municipal websites? Most […]


2014 MarCom Awards Spotlight: La Salle University

While the winners for the 2014 MarCom Awards won’t be announced for a while, we’re showcasing select entries that stand out. Keep checking back to see if your work will be highlighted. Organization: La Salle University Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Title of Entry: “Lasallian Day of Giving Microsite” Category: 189. Microsite Microsites are handy for communicators if you want to […]


Communitas Awards Spotlight: Genesis Health System

Individual: Genesis Health System Title: “Meeting Community Health Needs” Location: Davenport, Iowa Category: 3. Leadership in Skills-Based Community Service Good health should not be taken for granted when trying to create a strong, prosperous community, according to the team at Genesis Health System based in Davenport, Iowa. Leveraging their expertise and resources to enrich the lives of people in […]


Texas NICUSA’s Community Efforts Sparkle Year-round – Rain or Shine

Communitas Awards Company: Texas NICUSA
Title: “Texas NICUSA Gives Back”
Location: Austin, Texas
Category: 1. Leadership in Community Service

Texas.govGiving back to the community is something many companies do, but how many businesses serve their local citizens every week? And how many have been doing that for more than four years?

The Lone Star State has at least one business with such a strong devotion to giving back, Texas NICUSA. The private company operates, the state’s official website. Beyond overseeing the site, Texas NICUSA’s 100+ professionals take a more active role in the Austin area, helping all sorts of organizations from Austin Children’s Shelter to Meals on Wheels and Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

To find out more about how the company fosters a culture of service and how it decides which organizations to help, we chatted with Lisa Carrell, senior marketing associate with Texas NICUSA.


Innovation & Creativity: The Heart of Pacific Technology Solutions’ Ingenuity

Pacific Technology SolutionsAMCP is constantly getting calls and emails from people volunteering to be judges. Everybody wants to see what the great innovators and creators are doing. In recent years, it has especially been exciting to see the progression of digital development and interactivity. For years, we have enjoyed the groundbreaking work of Pacific Technology Solutions (PTS). Based in Irvine, California, PTS is a pioneer in developing learning technology for the automotive industry.

It wasn’t that long ago that automotive training was revolutionized through the use of video. A mechanic at a local dealership could just pop the tape in the VCR and learn how to fix something. Today, Pacific Technology Solutions is developing web-based applications for eBusiness and eLearning software that can be experienced anywhere on a personal digital assistant.  And by the way, their training courseware and business systems are designed to incorporate in to and extend previous investments in IT and operational infrastructure. While the judges may not know what any of this is, they do know that the current training methods are far more graphic and easier to understand than the old ones.

In addition to being honored as one of the most prolific winners in MarCom Awards history, PTS’ software applications and training courses have been used by global, Tier 1 OEMs such as Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Audi and Volkswagen.

To learn more about Pacific Technology Solutions, we asked one of PTS’ principals and owners, Tony Rotundo, how his company is always prepared for technological advances and what’s ahead.


Behind the Scenes of PR Firm Copernio’s 55 Years of Success

CopernioWith rapidly changing technology, public relations and marketing firms have to constantly evolve to achieve effective results for their clients. Adapting is the only way a company can ensure future success.

Serving a variety of business from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, Copernio, a full-service public relations firm, has found a way to continue to creatively and effectively tell their clients’ stories through traditional and digital media.

In the company’s 55-year history, its team has launched many critical technologies including carbon composites, the first commercial satellites, the DVD standard, the first consumer MP3 player and many more.

To find out how the company has remained an industry leader throughout the years, we picked the brain of Copernio president Susan van Barneveld, APR.


Educate & Motivate: The Story Behind the Save Salt River Bay Website Created By Eclipse Marketing Services

Company: Eclipse Marketing Services Title: “Save Salt River Bay Website” Location: Morristown, New Jersey Category: 3.1 Pro Bono After experiencing the natural phenomenon of a “Bio Bay” in St. Croix and learning of a plan that would permanently affect the area, Eclipse Marketing Services president Margaret Boller and her team launched the website to help inform […]