Along with Atlanta-based production company Splendidvid, GCDD won a national Telly Award for “Voices Beyond The Mirror,” a 10-part online video series portraying candid reflections and personal stories from people with disabilities.
How did it happen?
The original intention was to celebrate the 40 years since the passing of the DD Act of 1971 by developing a video that would also satisfy the objectives outlined in GCDD’s five-year strategic public relations plan (2006-2011). The PR Plan called for an awareness campaign that would spark conversation with the general public and harder to reach audiences, and it would draw to a close at the same time as the historic anniversary of the legislation. The timing was a lucky coincidence. The legislation that created GCDD and all of the DD councils in every state and US territory would be commemorated and we could implement the culminating activity of the five-year PR plan together on video in one fell swoop. In the interim, we fulfilled the other goals of the PR Plan, which required that we undertake a process for developing a new brand identity, design a new website and commission a statewide research study to determine public perceptions about people with disabilities. The PR Plan I presented to GCDD members back in 2006 was titled, “GCDD Turns Forty,” which served as the working title for the public awareness campaign that would eventually become the award winning video series now known as “Voices Beyond The Mirror.”
The goal was to use the story-telling form to portray the changes that occurred and chart the progress made over the 40-year chunk of time. We wanted to shape the historic perspective in a package that those outside the disability community would “line up” for while still resonating with those within the community. Plus, we wanted to reach out digitally across the Internet to the general public and engage the YouTube audience.
To do this, we figured the content had to be interesting and short, authentic and short, relevant and short, funny in places and engaging and short. It needed to be all of these things in addition to being very informative. And, we did not want to lose the sense of the formidable road traveled by so many in the disability movement. We knew we had to capture rhythms of everyday life.
The more I brainstormed at GCDD with Eric Jacobson, Pat Nobbie and Dottie Adams, and subsequently with others like my co-producer David Bernknopf and my associate Becky Peterson, the bigger and bigger the project grew. But, as it turned out, we were successful in hitting our targets and prevailed in this year’s Telly competition with our partners at Splendidvid.
We ended up producing 10 videos. Many self advocates, family members and supporters gave their time generously to speak frankly and openly about living with disabilities. Some shared personal stories, while others provided candid reflections. Issues related to where we’ve been, where we are today and where we are going began to surface, and a theme of many voices began to thread itself throughout the 10-part video series. We asked everyone a set of questions, thoughtful questions, measured questions, and then we followed their train of thought as we let them talk and talk.
The centerpiece video, the longest and just shy of 11 minutes, was the first to be completed and we went on location. Eleanor Smith, Charlie Miller and Angad and Aarti Sahgal invited us into their homes, places of business and schools to offer a slice of their lives. Angad even let us bring a camera to his Karate class. Eric Jacobson’s remarks at Disability Day at the Capitol on the DD Act 40th anniversary were wrapped around the collection of stories from “Voices” to provide a context for them and an overview. Additionally, Bernard Baker and Charlie’s father, Sen. Butch Miller, were also a part of the centerpiece video that kicked off the series at the annual Making a Difference Appreciation Ceremony that year.
In the second video, we covered the historic and policy aspects, as well as speculated about the future by asking our Federal Partners and council members to weigh in. Tom Seegmueller, Ruby Moore, Dan Crimmins, Zolinda Stonemen and Randall Grayson presented different angles of the big picture after we cornered them with a camera and a mike at GCDD’s quarterly council meeting in Carrollton last year.
Throughout the eight remaining individual vignettes, we invited participants to think deeply and share their voice on one thing or topic, whether it caused them to smile or frown, that they would like people to be aware of about living with disabilities. In these short videos, we heard from Anisio and Agnes Correia, Ken Mitchell, Juan Posada, Tameeka Hunter, Carmine Vara, Mia and Patricia Nobbie, Bethany Stephens and Pete and Vincent Anziano.
Thanks to all of those friends who participated. You shared the gift of your time, insights and perspective. Your participation helped achieve the prestigious Telly Award, but more importantly, now that thousands have viewed “Voices Beyond The Mirror,” you have served the greater community by supporting GCDD to tell the stories of people with disabilities and make the case that the more we get to know each other and the more common ground we find, the greater the possibility for achieving real community.
To see the video series, click here and to read more here on the “Voices Beyond the Mirror” winning a Telly Award, click here.
- Valerie Suber, GCDD Public Information Director