How To Tackle Sensitive Topics in a Public Awareness Film

Public awareness films produced by government agencies or charities, for example, are usually serious in topic and tone, with a strong message. The risk here is that the wrong balance of content can quickly make a film fear-inducing or depressing for the audience, which may detract from its purpose.

While most people acknowledge that these films save lives and improve outcomes, there’s a fine line between producing compelling or repelling content. Audiences might avoid viewing them simply because they fear an uncomfortable watch.

Your organisation’s message must engage viewers effectively, no matter how tough the subject, so your films need to be handled carefully. There are many factors involved that can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed with what to include and how best to tackle it. 

We’ve put together some handy tips to help you plan an effective and informative film that will compel – and not repel – your audience.

The right tone is key

While you may have a delicate subject to tackle, you must focus primarily on the main objective of the video – what do you want people to know?

You may want to encourage people to be more careful in the sea, or maybe your charity is trying to raise money for refugees from a war-torn region. 

Whatever the information or the call to action that you are hoping to convey, if the tone of the video is overly distressing from the start, this can cause people to disengage altogether. It’s simply human nature to shut ourselves off from things that cause us stress or anxiety.

Even with the darkest subject, it’s important to introduce an encouraging and positive tone – while balancing that with sensitivity to the topic you are covering. Include footage of people thriving after the intervention of your services or following the advice given in the film. A happy ending is what the viewer instinctively hopes for.

Using an experienced film crew always pays off

A film crew well versed in producing content for your sector will be aware of specific issues and pitfalls, so will help you achieve your objectives and get your message across clearly. Wildwood Media is a leading London videographer company. We support our clients with as much of the film-making process as they need for a specific project, including scripting and even casting the right actors if necessary. 

The right balance of content 

Public awareness films must always convey the necessary facts while remaining balanced and avoiding too much shock value. Here are a few ways this can be achieved, with examples:

  1. Use a clear script that is informative but also compassionate and human.
  2. Include appropriate aesthetics such as lighting and music
  3. Encourage viewers to take the right action compellingly. For example, to make sure that they have working smoke detectors throughout their home – this should be conveyed in a way that calls viewers to urgent action but without being too graphic. 
  4. Reiterate critical information, so viewers are completely clear about what to look out for, for example, in a terrorist threat, and how to act quickly, safely, and appropriately
  5. Avoid too much extreme or potentially traumatic content or images. These may make a viewer turn off.
  6. Add animation/diagrams and subtitles/captions where appropriate to make it easier for viewers to follow, engage with and recall your content.
  7. Feature people with a sense of authority to voice/present in the video. Ideally, this would be a representative from your organisation who is deemed ‘camera-ready,’ for example, an individual who has received media training. Featuring real staff members adds authenticity to your film and gives viewers a sense of comfort, safety, and approachability.
  8. Include a clear and urgent call to action – what should a viewer do as a result of watching your film? Make sure they know.

We can help

We know there’s a lot to consider when it comes to organising your film but hiring an experienced team can help to take the pressure off. We work closely with organisations to ensure that their messages are received positively, even when the message is challenging to view. If you’re producing a public awareness film and you’d like ideas on planning your project, then schedule a call with us – we’re here to help.