How to Make an Environmental PSA

Oct 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Make a Difference!, Youth Blog

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Like many others who visit Action for Nature, you likely want to spread the word about some environmental issue you are ardently passionate about. It’s a great idea to take initiative and raise awareness about water pollution, recycling, or an endangered species. Only problem is, you may live in a small rural town where the only inhabitant willing to listen to your cause is the neighbor’s dog.

So, what do you do? Well, the Internet, or World Wide Web, is a great way to get your word across. And creating a video PSA, or or Public Service Announcement, is a fantastic, low-experience-necessary, project to attempt this. What are public service announcements? Messages in the public interest raising awareness or changing attitudes about a cause. You’ve heard those announcements about buckling up in the car during commercial breaks, or campaigns to stop child obesity, right? That’s a PSA. So here is a clear, step by step method on creating and promoting a video.

 1. Find a cause. 

This should be fairly straightforward, but for those who are unsure what exactly they want  to  promote,  find a cause immediately. You need to convey a clear message in your video,  otherwise the person  watching it will walk away confused and bewildered. Don’t use an  umbrella or blanket to cover everything  you care about, either — if you generalize  ‘endangered  species’ instead of targeting one animal, like  pandas, pikas, or polar bears, your  video won’t be  very memorable.

2. Do your research and cite your sources.

By sources, I do mean do your research. You don’t have to have a PhD in your subject matter, but make sure you’re informed so you can give accurate information to your viewers.

Another kind of research is how you want to convey your message. Is it going to be animated, stop-motion, or live-action? Will it have scenery and/or live actors? Where will the setting be? Will you be using footage from other cameras, or are you going to film it all yourself?

3. Plan out your video: Storyboard and Script.

Here comes the intellectual heavyweight. In step 2, you determined what your setting and characters would be. Now, here comes, as we all know from English class, the plot. If you’re targeting a visible issue like pollution, it might be a good idea to start with a rhetorical question. If you’re talking about an invasive or endangered species, maybe have some clips of the animal in question to start off.  Then, segue into the facts of your video. Remember if you’re using research, to credit sources. Write a clear script for this part. You can intersperse or incorporate scenery, or maybe use a voice-over with cartoon, animated, or actual footage of the activity in question.

4. Film!

Gather your equipment — anything from a camera phone to a Canon works fine — your friends, and head out to the scenery, whether it be the beach or your living room. Alternatively, set up your scene if you’re using stop-motion animation. Bring your storyboard and script along for reference, even if you’ve memorized both.

 5. Editing Time

Load all those clips that you’ve just recorded into your computer. You don’t need an  expensive editing program to put your video together. Macs and PCs both come with free  video editing programs like Windows Movie Maker, which is more than capable of  splicing clips together. If you want to use a different program, there are also free  downloadable ones on the Internet.

While editing, keep your original message in mind. It’s easy to get distracted by the sheer  content of how much you recorded, but keep it concise and meaningful. Too long of a  video  and you lose your audience’s interest. Keep the material focused on the environment and your actual cause by using a lot of visuals — images of sea otters are definitely a lot more compelling than a Powerpoint-like list of facts.

6. Spread the Word

Now that you’ve assembled your video, you need to put it to good use by informing others. How do you do this? A great place to start is at your very own school. If you have an Earth Day event in your community, ask if you can screen the video there. An environmental or student film festival is always open to newcomers in film. Try asking if your video can be screened as an intro or short to a documentary-length film. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could also ask the local news to broadcast your PSA. Alternatively, post it on Youtube or Vimeo and tell everyone you know to watch your video. Enjoy!

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