Reaching new audiences and blossoming with Volunteer Films and BUD

Posted 14 December 2022

MindFood believe that mental health support should be accessible for all. In the wake of the pandemic, their gardens have acted as a haven for those struggling with depression and anxiety. MindFood wanted to reach new audiences by taking part in our Volunteer Films’ Programme – to spread a simple message of hope, positivity and veggies.

Research shows that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some sort of mental health difficulty in their lives. Despite the increased awareness and more people speaking up, the topic of mental health is still difficult to broach. Ealing-based charity MindFood believe better mental health should be accessible for all. To achieve this, they support people with depression, anxiety and stress to improve their wellbeing through gardening, mindfulness and creativity. They have two gorgeous gardens, which offer food-growing and creative sessions in natural, calming green settings.  

However, for MindFood to succeed, they need to spread their vital message to more Londoners. Looking to grow, expand and reach more people who needed their support, MindFood wanted to engage with audiences over social media and beyond, to create positivity, empowerment and hope for people feeling alone and depressed. This is where our Volunteer Films programme stepped in!

A young person and a yellow plant with a human's face looking at each other.

Volunteer Films is an innovative, award-winning initiative that matches great skills with great causes. We mobilise the creative expertise of our volunteer directors, producers, camera operators and editors to produce short, impactful films for charities doing important work. Our team were struck by MindFood’s cutting-edge yet simple concept: empower people to nurture their mental health by reconnecting with nature. As they are a beneficiary of City Bridge Trust, the charity was eligible to take part in the programme – a short film was exactly what they needed to grow and blossom like the plants in their gardens! 

The process began with our team matching MindFood with the brilliant director Claire Norowzian. After discussions between the two, the amazing idea of BUD was solidified – the story of a talking Calendula plant encouraging a lonely young man to leave his bedroom, embrace nature and to start to reconnect with the outside world. 

Lucy from MindFood was so on board with our unexpected approach and when she told me about her initial wild creative thoughts for the campaign, I knew we were a good match.

Claire Norowzian, Filmmaker

The scheme includes £1500 for production, and like most small charities MindFood had very limited resources for marketing. To help, Media Trust provided training and support in these areas, working closely with Claire and the charity to ensure that the brief, treatment and final film were fine-tuned to achieve their aims. Claire also managed to recruit an intern with VFX experience to help bring the project to life!

A young person holding a yellow potted plant looking at a watering can.

The team faced many production hurdles and challenges, including COVID restrictions, the limited budget and rain on day one (which meant they had to switch from shooting on location at MindFood and rush to their interior shoot, at Claire’s house!). Furthermore, the sound engineer withdrew on day two and production had to be halted whilst they scrambled around to gather a new full team for the following week. The whole project relied heavily on kindness, favours and generosity of everyone involved.

MindFood were so easy to work with, gave feedback with reason and were truly grateful for the effort we put in, as were we with them. They even spruced up the allotments for the shoot which looked great!

Claire Norowzian, Filmmaker

And we are so thankful for this kindness, as the final piece is a beautiful and funny short film; which truly met the narrative that MindFood was hoping to tell – a sense of hope and positivity for people struggling with depression and loneliness. Claire did this quite literally within the film’s aspect ratios, which start with a closed-in narrow 4:3, widening to 16:9 when the young man opens his dark curtains and allows the sunshine in, and finally to a wide screen when he reaches the MindFood gardens, and his horizons expand! 

A young person walking down a street, in front of shops, holding a potted plant.

The filming process was not only impactful but also enjoyable, despite the struggles, with Claire stating that, “I loved the hybrid approach of shooting a fictional film, mixed with the real-life world of MindFood and their participants.” 

From its launch in January 2022, BUD has already hit all of MindFood’s goals. On social media, the film has been a huge win – with it reaching over 10 times the organisations usual reach, and still growing!

We’ve used the video to reach out to pioneers in social & therapeutic horticulture all over the world, including attendees of RHS’s Health & Horticulture Conference. Having a professionally made film has really added to our credibility.

Lucy Clark, MindFood Programme Director

Furthermore, BUD has been a critical success, being selected by Aesthetica Film Festival for Best Advertising Film and in the running for Smiley’s Charity Film Awards 2023! 

Lucy from MindFood, discussed BUD’s impact, “The film has been an invaluable way to grab people’s attention and show them what we’re about in a memorable way: promoting mental health recovery through a gentle connection to nature in a safe non-judgemental space. It shows that humour and zero pressure are two of our key selling points and we value creativity, open-mindedness, and are proud to be a bit different”.  

There was such a positive response, especially from the screening at Curzon cinema. I believe it had a positive impact for MindFood, which is the reason why we made it.

Claire Norowzian, Filmmaker
A young person shaking another person's hand in a large garden. There are houses in the back.

Another success from BUD has been how it can be enjoyed by everyone in the diverse borough of Ealing – where over 170 languages are spoken, this film can be understood and appreciated by all! 

MindFood were also shortlisted by Sustainable City as a trailblazing community organisation, no doubt in part to the impact of BUD. 

Working with Media Trust was a great way to create a novel film for a meaningful charity. It was hard graft, and we got in some tricky situations because of COVID, weather and crew pulling out, but knowing it was for a positive outcome was well worth it. I also had true support from the Media Trust team, in particular Michaela Lowe who even stepped in as First Assistant Director for one of the scenes!

Claire Norowzian, Filmmaker

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