Capturing the attention of the nation with Olivia Colman’s new ‘drama’
    • Partner: Amnesty International UK
    • Sector: Human Rights



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Amnesty International is the backbone of the global human rights movement. Still, their work in the UK is relatively unknown, with most of the British public not making the link between crises on their doorstep and the deterioration of human rights. To capture the attention of this colder audience, they came to Shape History with the golden ticket of creative briefs: launching a campaign with AIUK ambassador and household name, Olivia Colman.

Starring Olivia Colman and Adrian Lester
Trailer showing in cinemas nationwide
Featured across local and national media

The challenge

The British public cares about humanity. But human rights abuses are seen by many as a distant problem, not something that is going on before their eyes, right here in the UK.

Still, access to safe housing, healthcare, food, and an adequate standard of living are deteriorating. These are basic human rights, under threat in our communities. Since 2019, at least 34 homeless children have died in temporary accommodation – since launching the campaign, the original figure of 34 child deaths in temporary housing since 2019 has now risen to 55 in the same period according to the latest National Child Mortality Database figures released this week. Thousands more are admitted to hospital with conditions linked to their standard of living. Millions are living in poverty, unable to access fundamental necessities.

So how do we get people to pay attention?

The solution

One thing we Brits are tuning in to? Drama. The quintessentially English, gritty drama is a genre of its own, and millions tune in to watch the likes of Happy Valley, Whitechapel and Broadchurch. These shows, and the wider TV and film space, regularly feature storylines about human rights abuses in UK towns and cities.

So we created a trailer for our own drama, starring household names Olivia Colman and Adrian Lester. and newcomer Bea . Before Our Eyes told the tragic story of a young mother whose child dies in temporary accommodation. Only of course, there had to be a twist. Just when you think you’re about to find out where you can watch Before Our Eyes, you hear a jarring ‘cut,’ and Olivia Colman breaks the fourth wall to reveal that this isn’t drama, it’s real life.

Key Insights
Celebrity influence is in their talent.
Celebrity ambassadors are a well-trodden path for charities, but often they are relied on to deliver a message as themselves in an attempt to convince an audience they should care about something if celebs do. But audiences love them for a reason… because they’re talented storytellers. When we got this brief, we were determined to write a story Olivia Colman wanted to tell. 
Culture talks to people, advertising shouts at them.

Many people have said words to the effect of ‘become what people are interested in’ when it comes to marketing. It’s easier said than done, especially in social impact where no one wants to read your message about how terrible things are. Culture, however, can be a much softer, but more powerful tool. We made a trailer, in the hope of meeting our audiences where they were, and wanted to be.

Our secret to scale? Location, location, location.

When we realised that we weren’t making an ad anymore, but a tiny TV show, we all got a little nervous. We had a script with six or seven locations in it, and two days to film. And then, we got clever. Our production lead found one location in central London, which we could turn into a court, a food bank, two different offices, and a home. Without leaving the door (and with some great set dressing).

The best people make the best work.

Location was key to making a two-minute trailer look like a six-part series. But it was the cast and crew – borrowed from sets including Barbie, Paddington and Doctor Who – treating it like something big which really made it feel like something big. With a good idea and a good cause, we found that the kindness of creatives came in troves. And the talent showed! Special thanks to:

Catherine Morshead (director) Tat Radcliffe (DOP) Emma Friend (exec producer, camera op) etc.

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