Niki May Young reviews the film that fronts the Scout Association's latest perception-shifting digital campaign, Expect More.
**Spoiler alert - if you don't want to know what the twist is, click here to go straight to the film**
It's not every film that will prompt such an alert, but 'What do you expect?', produced by the Cell Productions for the Scout Association, is quite the exception. As a play on its title, expectations are turned on their heads in this high-calibre narrative portraying life for young people in London's east end.
The scene is set in an all-too-familiar grey concrete council estate to the sound of Bell X1's haunting 'Hey Anna Lena'. "Hey Anna Lena, let's get out of here, let's get out of this place, just take all you can carry," chimes frontman Paul Noonan. The journey of the teenage lead and his friends progresses, seemingly setting up for a gang-related brawl. The young man toys with a pen knife and intimidation tactics ensue in an apparent escalation of the situation, until...
Well I'm not actually going to tell you. You should watch it yourself, and as my headline would suggest, watch it twice. Needless to say, not all is as it seems.
It's clear from the starting gun that this film is no amateur production - from the talented cast, sourced from local agencies Sylvia Young and Bodens, to the skillful editing that allows the subtleties of the story to shift your perceptions.
At first glance it's easy to dismiss as a big-budget film from a gargantuan multi-national charity, but in reality it's not a bank-buster. Working on the film was a mixture of paid and pro-bono contributors. The film was seeded through the Guardian, Mumsnet, Netmums, Gransnet, Google and Dadzclub and marketed via social media. And the production crew from Cell Productions was headed up by Tony Lundon who co-wrote, directed, produced, shot and edited the production. All-in the total cost of production was £7,500.
Civilsociety.co.uk asked Lundon what convinced him to get involved:
“The opportunity to tell a different story about young people, one with a bit of hope, was what interested me about the Scout’s campaign. I support and respect the work of the Scout Association of course, but that they were willing to make a film with this type of message made me develop a new respect for what they do.
"Essentially, what I tried to say was that young people, whatever their background, will make both good and bad decisions - there is no getting away from that. But the context within which they make them can be what makes or breaks a young person's future. Which is why I consider Scouting and other youth organisations to be so important. It was a thoroughly rewarding experience to try to put that out there.”
And Lundon's reaction is exactly what the Scouts hope to achieve. The film is being used as the main driver towards a dedicated website for the Expect More campaign which hopes to both raise funds for and change perceptions of the age-old institution. It's not all about the woggles and funny salutes, says Jenni Anderson, assistant director of fundraising and marketing, the Scouts make a real difference:
"Last year The Scout Association commissioned an independent report to measure the impact of Scouting on young people in the UK. This assessment found that Scouting can help young people to make a real and long-lasting commitment to their communities and develop a wide range of valuable skills through adventurous activities," she said.
The report added to evidence from another study by NfP Synergy that suggests that young people who have participated in a youth or sport club such as Scouting are "less likely to drink or smoke, more likely to participate in physical activity, more likely to have a good relationship with other adults in their community, more likely to have parents who trust them and more likely to be engaged in their schooling," added Anderson.
What impact has the film made so far?
Since launching on 10 June the film has already seen over 32,000 hits on YouTube, and looking deeper, has received 313 likes compared to just 6 dislikes on the film channel's rating system.
It has been viewed in 115 different countries, with around half of all views coming from the UK.
Anderson advised that around 50 per cent of views have been generated via Facebook and Twitter.
But the impact can be measured in more than just figures, says Anderson:
"We have had some interesting anecdotes. Where the film has been shared by our members, it’s been used in school assemblies by our youth members to show their peers what Scouting is and the activities you can take part in.
"One leader has told us they shared via facebook, and a work colleague who watched it then asked how they could volunteer with her Scout Group. We’ve inspired debate across the globe with regards to our presentation of modern Scouting, and whether our approach can be replicated by Scouting organisations in other countries," she said.
So take a look at what the fuss is about...
Every week civilsociety.co.uk features a new film as an example of best practice in film production by charities. If you have a film that you would like to share with the charity community send an email to [email protected] for the chance to be showcased as Friday's featured film.